There are only 32 days until the launch of FOX Sports 1, the new nationwide sports network that will battle for TV ratings and advertising dollars against ESPN. In the past several weeks, the number of TV spots FOX has been running to promote the network has been increasing at a feverish rate. However, FOX Sports is still trying to find its way on to the major TV providers in the United States.
As of press time, FOX Sports is still trying to negotiate to have FOX Sports 1 available to DirecTV, DISH Network and Time Warner customers. For those three TV providers, the number of subscribers nets 46 million, which means that if FOX is unable to negotiate deals between now and the launch date, the new network will fall well short of its 90 million subscribers goal by the time of the launch on August 17.
“The fact that so many deals are open a month before a network launch is not unusual in the cable industry,” said John Ourand of Sports Business Daily. “Typically, carriage deals like FS1’s get finalized in the days leading up to or just after a channel’s launch.
“One unanswered question is what will happen if a distributor fails to reach an agreement for FS1,” added Ourand. “Time Warner Cable, DirecTV and Dish Network have contracts that call for carriage of a Fox-produced motorsports channel. If Fox simply goes dark, it could be in violation of those deals, sources said (since SPEED is being converted into FOX Sports 1).”
For soccer fans who are already concerned about access to coverage of their favorite leagues on US television, FOX Sports 1 adds another headache. Many soccer fans in the United States and Canada still don’t have access to beIN SPORT, while Time Warner customers should be fretting that they haven’t reached a deal with NBC to carry NBC Sports Live Extra.
For FOX Sports 1, who will be carrying the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, FA Cup and many other tournaments, soccer fans should be concerned that the UEFA Champions League playoffs to quality for the Group Stage begin on August 20, just days after FOX Sports 1 launches. Teams that will be participating in the Play-Off Round include Arsenal, AC Milan, Schalke and Real Sociedad.
FOX still plans on showing soccer matches on FOX Soccer Plus and FOX Soccer 2Go, but both of those platforms have limited access to viewers nationwide.