There is no denying that ESPN is the 800 pound gorilla of sports TV networks. Executives at Fox Sports know this.
“ESPN, quite frankly, is a machine,” says Billy Wanger, the head of programming for Fox Sports. “We are coming in trying to take on the establishment; it is no different than what happened with Fox News, or Fox Broadcasting back in the 80s. We are going to have to scratch and claw our way all the way to the top.”
Shanks was talking about Fox Sports 1, the upcoming national cable sports channel that News Corp. is launching in August. News Corp. COO Chase Carey called it “the worst kept secret in TV,” but it is no longer a secret. At a lavish upfront for media buyers in midtown yesterday afternoon and evening, executives at News Corp. formally unveiled the channel.
The beating heart of sports TV is live games, and FS1 will be coming out of the gate with the strongest lineup outside of Bristol, CT. Major League Baseball games–including playoff games–will be available on the channel, as will NASCAR races, UFC fights, college football and basketball and UEFA and World Cup soccer.
“We believe that right now the market for sports is–I don’t want to say vast–but it is,” News Corp. senior VP and Fox Sports founding president David Hill says. “There is a huge percentage of the population for whom sports is vitally important, for whom sports is the best entertainment there is.”