Bloomberg’s Andy Fixmer and Alex Sherman are reporting that News Corp., the parent company of Fox plans to launch an all-sports cable network to challenge ESPN. Now News Corp. tried this once before in the 1990′s through its Fox Sports Net affiliates, but after a brief, but failed rivalry, Fox decided to shift the focus of FSN from national to local even though some national programming is distributed on the FSN affiliates.
According to the story, Fox hopes to launch the new channel later this year by possibly converting its existing Fuel channel which focuses mostly on action sports and just began to air UFC programming this year, to the new sports network.
Fox has been accumulating inventory with the acquisition of the rights to Pac-12 basketball and football and reportedly is close to expanding its Big 12 rights. In addition, Fox won the rights for the World Cup starting in 2015 plus with the Fox Sports Net channels, could add more sports properties if it expands its current contracts with MLB and NASCAR.
While NBC has been the most visible as a potential competitor to ESPN with its relaunch of NBC Sports Network from Versus this year, the news of the Fox Sports cable network has come as a surprise.
Certainly News Corp. has the money and power to muster a challenge, but as we saw in the 1990′s, ESPN was able to win over Fox. However, with Fox Sports El Jefe del Mundo David Hill leading the new channel, one can never count him nor News Corp. out of any competition.
This will bear some watching.