News Corp., the parent company of FOX Soccer, is considering an idea to launch a U.S. sports network to rival ESPN that could launch as early as 4Q 2012, according to reports in Bloomberg News.
“News Corp. is assembling the required rights from pay-TV carriers and sports organizations, said the people, who requested anonymity because talks are private. While a final decision hasn’t been made to move forward, the company is considering converting its Fuel action-sports network to the new channel, two of the people said.”
Bloomberg added that News Corp. last year secured rights to the Pac-12 Conference and Big-12 Conference games and owns 20 regional sports networks. The company in October won TV rights to soccer’s World Cup in 2018 and 2022. The effort is being led by David Hill, the chairman of Fox Sports, one person said. News Corp., based in New York, has clearance from some carriers, including DirecTV, the biggest U.S. satellite television provider, two people said.
The news of News Corp. considering the launch of a US sports network comes at an interesting time in the industry. Al Jazeera is being touted as a threat to News Corp.’s domination of Premier League coverage in the UK and Europe, where rights for the 2013-2016 seasons will be auctioned in the next one to two months. At the same time, Al Jazeera is ready to spend and spend big in the United States with the upcoming launch of a new sports network, as well as an expected bid on US rights to the Premier League later this summer. While Al Jazeera may be a threat to News Corp’s dominance, beating ESPN in the United States would be a lofty goal.
If and when News Corp. would launch a new sports network in the United States to replace Fuel, I don’t see the network competing or replacing FOX Soccer or FOX Soccer Plus. If anything, the new network would be another opportunity to show prominent Champions League and Premier League games, just as the free-to-air FOX network has been doing recently. Soccer may be a part of the new network’s programming, but it’s more likely that the big revenue generators of American football and traditional American sports would be centerstage.
What are your thoughts regarding the news? How realistic is it that News Corp. could create a network that would rival or beat ESPN? Share your opinions in the comments section below.