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News Corp. Considers Launching U.S. Sports Network to Rival ESPN, Says Report

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.

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  1. olivert

    March 29, 2012 at 7:51 am

    The MLS ExtraTime Radio podcast in which Broadcasting and Cable Editor-in-Chief Ben Grossman (who was the former PR director for the MLS Colorado Rapids so he knows both soccer and TV industries inside out) mentioned the possible conversion of FOX Soccer into a multi-sports channel (i.e. FOX Sports 1, 2, 3, etc.) was recorded on October 24, 2011.

    Scroll down to the media player and select the October 24, 2011 podcast.

    The interview with Grossman starts at 37:20.

  2. Dust

    March 28, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    Damn iPhone, sorry for typos.

  3. Dust

    March 28, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    Fox could create 2 very good sports channels.

    Fox has NASCAR, F1, Baseball, the NFC exclusive coverage, the EPL, Champions league, international football, concacaf. Plus deals with the pac12 and big 10. Those are just a few sports, that spring to mind (i’m sure
    missing a few)The key would be quality shows / analysis. Which could wipe the floor with espn or NBC with a little thougt applied. (They could also easily provide the epl in 3D).

    I think it would be great for them to create a sports network to directly compete with espn. I personally can’t stand espn so any alternative would be great.

    Fox dead after 7pm? For those of us that work in the day the repeated games are a godsend i also appreciate the fox soccer reports globsl football product even if spme of the video abd production looks like youtube. The live skysports at 11pm and 11am are great.

    Espn just runs with a basic 3 sports (if ur lucky) and most of it is college versions basketball or nfl. This is interspersed with PTI, First take, around the crappy horn, all day or the radio shows on camera, and it’s the same content on 3 stations! how crap is that!

    Time for some fresh air!! Pick a lane epl! If needs be give sole premiership rights to fox with coverage requirements get it done!!!!

  4. Cantona

    March 28, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    and for those who dont remember Oliver is the one that “predicted” Fox Soccer would fold a few years back.. so put your belief in someone who is in a better position to make an “informed” decision… and side with Gaffer on this one… all indications… ALL INDICATIONS.. show FUEL as the sacrificial lamb..


  5. olivert

    March 28, 2012 at 8:27 pm

    Broadcasting and Cable Editor-in-Chief Ben Grossman was the one who mentioned in an audio interview at that NewsCorp (i.e. David Hill) was considering converting FOX Soccer into FOX Sports 1.

    The interview was conducted right after FOX Sports Media Group won the U.S. English-language rights to the FIFA events for 2015-2012.

  6. CTBlues

    March 28, 2012 at 7:19 pm

    Gotta wonder what Comcast is going to say about this since they are trying to make there own “ESPN Killer” in NBC Sports Network.

  7. olivert

    March 28, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    NewsCorp/FOX has been known to be a seat-of-the-pants organization that changes course on the dime.

    Some of that may be due to dysfunctional management below David Hill.


    FOX Deportes had gone through more name changes than former CNN talk show host Larry King had gone through wives. One particular name, La Cadena Deportiva Nacional, lasted only 3 months (January-March 1995) before it was removed in favor of Prime Deportiva, which lasted only 18 months before it was removed in favor of FOX Sports Americas (in October 1996.)

    The nightly news program on FOX Deportes has changed names (and graphical look/music) 3 times in less than 18 months, from Diario FOX Sports to Cronica FOX to Cronica to Central FOX.

    In particular, Cronica FOX lasted less than 3 months before all the female talent associated with that show were purged and the name of the show was shortened to just Cronica with a single male presenter. Cronica lasted only 9 months before it was replaced by Central FOX.


    I am not surprised to see John Ourand of Sports Business Journal hearing from one source that David Hill wants to convert FUEL TV into FOX Sports 1, and another source telling Ourand that David Hill wants to convert SPEED into FOX Sports 1.

    The former MLS Colorado Rapids PR guy mentioned several months ago in an interview that his source told him that David Hill wanted to convert FOX Soccer into FOX Sports 1.

    It is possible that David Hill has all 3 options in front of him and he still hasn’t decided which trigger to pull:

    Convert FUEL TV into FOX Sports 1

    Convert SPEED into FOX Sports 1

    Convert FOX Soccer into FOX Sports 1

    Each option has its pros and cons.

  8. olivert

    March 28, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    From John Ourand of Sports Business Journal via Twitter @Ourand_SBJ

    Sources: A Fox plan is to flip Speed, not Fuel, into an all-sports channel to compete with ESPN. Fox has talked with leagues & distributors.

    Sources: At one point, Fox was talking about converting Fuel into its motor racing channel. Way too early to say whether that will occur

    Fox Soccer Channel has not been part of any of these discussions. RT @beINSportsUSA What about converting Fox Soccer into multi-sports?

    The plot thickens…

    • NN

      March 28, 2012 at 6:53 pm

      Why exactly did you create that @beINSportsUSA twitter account and WordPress account? The twitter account is obviously you Olivert.

      • Paul

        March 29, 2012 at 12:13 pm

        Has their even been any official word on whether the Al Jazeera service will adopt the same name as its French cousin?

        • The Gaffer

          March 29, 2012 at 12:18 pm

          Nothing official. Al Jazeera is not talking, Imagina US is not returning requests and GolTV has banned their employees from talking to the press.

          We’re still working to see if we can uncover some details though.

          The Gaffer

  9. olivert

    March 28, 2012 at 4:32 pm

    From CNBC’s Darren Rovell via Twitter @darrenrovell

    The working title for possible News Corp rival to ESPN is called Fox Sports 1. Would be run by John Entz, Fox’s Sr. VP of Production.

    The numbering scheme is consistent with FOX Sports 1/2/3 in Australia, SKY Sports 1/2/3/4 in the UK, and J Sports 1/2/3/4 in Japan.

  10. Dave

    March 28, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    What are the chances that this move will end up putting the sword to Fox Soccer Plus?

    Right now, Fuel TV is in 36 million homes and makes $0.14/month per subscriber. That’s the equivalent of 336,000 FSP subscribers, and I suspect FSP doesn’t pull anything close to those kind of numbers. So theoretically, Fox could add a mere 7 or 8 cents per month to the asking price and make more money than it does currently with Fuel & FSP combined.

    Then the EPL would be good original programming for Saturday & Sunday mornings (before college football starts), the Champions League could easily slot into weekday afternoons, and any Aussie sports (AFL, NRL, SupeRugby) could work as late night programming.

    Or is all that just wishful thinking?

  11. olivert

    March 28, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    Disagree with you on this one, Gaffer.

    FOX has already converted FUEL TV from an action sports channel (skateboarding/freestyle cycling/surfing/snowboarding etc.) to a channel dominated by the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

    In contrast, FOX Soccer is basically DEAD after 7pm ET, with no live or first-run events other than CONCACAF Champions League, College soccer and 3rd division USL PRO (both of which are time buys.)

    NewsCorp cannot allow Time Warner Cable, Bright House, and DISH to move FOX Soccer from digital basic and expanded basic back to the sports tier prior to FIFA World Cup 2018.

    I believe that FOX Soccer, not FUEL TV, is the one that needs to be beefed up with live U.S. college sports in the evenings and late weekend afternoons.

    (DIRECTV promoted FUEL TV to “Choice Xtra”, which is the equivalent to “digital basic” on cable systems. DIRECTV still has FOX Soccer in the Sports Pack.)

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