Equipped from the start to provide some kind of competition to ESPN, L.A.-based Fox Sports officially unveiled the Fox Sports 1 network today with a strategy, in the words of network co-president Eric Shanks, of being an “alternative to the establishment.”
The essential rebranding of the Fox Network’s racing-centric Speed Channel to FS1 will automatically provide access to 90 million homes when it launches on Aug. 17.
The network told a group of advertisers at the so-called up-front presentations in New York about the channel that had been rumored to be in the works for nearly a year now.
But as sports channels do these days, it’ll come at a cost.
Industry estimates are that it will be offered to cable and dish providers at about $1.25 a month – more than the current Pac-12 Network that a company like DirecTV refuses to add, but far less than the $5-plus that ESPN seems to have no trouble getting from all providers.
The current Speed Channel costs about 25 cents a month.
FS1’s primary live programming may eventually include an NFL or NBA package, but it will initially be siphoning off deals it already has with the MLB, college football and college basketball.
The Pac-12, Big Ten and Conference USA provide most of the college content, and FS1 will likely have the Pac-12 football championship game that has been on the Fox over-the-air network the first two seasons to this channel.
The latest new Fox deal with Major League Baseball will also provide regular-season games in 2014, along with key post-season contests like a League Championship Series, leaving the World Series for its over-the-air coverage.
NASCAR, soccer and the UFC will also get heavy rotation.
The channel already has a schedule planned for its first day: a 9 a.m. NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race from Michigan, coming back to the “UFC on FS1 1” in prime time.
“As a company we haven’t been afraid to innovate and take well-calculated risks,” said Fox Sports co-president Randy Freer. “We’ve devoted significant resources over the last few years to acquire and/or extend multi-platform rights with a wide variety of leagues and governing bodies well into the next decade, enough to give us a rich schedule right out of the box.”
The live events will be tied together with news and studio shows – one of them hosted by Regis Philbin from 2-3 p.m. (PDT) weekdays called “Rush Hour,” which has already been pitched as a sports version of “The View.” Fox personalities such as Terry Bradshaw and Erin Andrews figure to be regular guests. Bradshaw will also host his own football-related show during the fall.
Other original programs will include a documentary series called “Being,” with Mike Tyson as the focus on a mult-part episode that is currently in production.
Reports of a second Fox Sports national channel – call it Fox Sports 2, a rebranding of the Fuel Channel – are also strong as FS1 moves forward into the sports TV landscape that already includes 22 Fox Sports regional channels, plus new entries from CBS and NBC vying for viewership. As the current Fox Soccer Chanel will also funnel programming into FS1, it will also likely be renamed down the road.
A phone app called Fox Sports GO will also launch with FS1 to provide access to live games on the network as well as events going on Fox Sports Net affiliates like FSWest and Prime Ticket.