Report: Fox Launching National Sports Network to Challenge ESPN

Fox will create an all-sports national cable television network--Fox Sports 1--in August to challenge ESPN.

According to the New York Times, Fox will make the announcement on Tuesday and will try to replicate on the sports side what Fox News has done in news to dominate its competition like CNN and MSNBC. Fox Sports 2 will be a "companion service," much like ESPN 2 is to ESPN.

Creating a sports network, the Times notes, has been Rupert Murdoch's "white whale" and has been "one of the few fields that his media empire has not conquered."

Fox Sports 1 "will carry NASCAR races, Major League Baseball games, college basketball and football, soccer and U.F.C. fights" and will also broadcast studio shows including one "that is to be hosted by Regis Philbin, a celebrated Notre Dame fan."

Fox believes "that their new sports channel will differentiate itself from the competition, as the Fox News channel has demonstrated in its successful challenge to CNN and then MSNBC."

Chase Carey, News Corporation’s president and COO, said in a world of fragmentation, "sports continues to be a more and more important and unique part of that overall landscape.”

The Times notes that when News Corporation splits into two publicly traded companies this summer, sports will be more valuable than ever, according to Fox executives, and they will make "live sports programming central to the Fox Group."

Murdoch has tried at least twice to start a national sports network. In 2004, Murdoch's efforts never got off the ground. 

And, as the Times notes, in the late 1990s, "Fox tied a package of MLB games and a news operation with Keith Olbermann as the star anchor on its regional sports channels. It failed."

But Fox may be better positioned this time around to succeed in its efforts. 


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