On Tuesday afternoon, it was announced to the surprise of no one that FOX Sports Media Group will launch a new national sports network in the United States called Fox Sports 1. As the embedded quote in the news release from FSMG Co-President Eric Shanks indicates, the network has been introduced with the purpose of eventually competing with ESPN.
Fans are ready for an alternative to the establishment, and our goal for FS1 is to provide the best in-game experience possible, complemented by informative news, entertaining studio shows and provocative original programming.
The order in which Shanks lists the network’s content is not an accident. Live sports has increasingly become the only reliable source of appointment viewing for television networks scrambling to compete in a shifting environment where technology, seen most notably through online and DVR viewing, has left executives to scrap their tired business models from the past.
FS1, as one of the largest channel launches in television history thanks to its replacing the already established SPEED network, will immediately supplant NBC Sports Network as America’s second largest national sports network with estimated availability in 90 million homes. However, despite an ability to offer live Major League Baseball, NASCAR, college football and basketball, soccer from Europe, the UFC and other events, there are no delusions of grandeur among those in charge.
News Corp. Sr. Vice President David Hill believes that it will take multiple years before the new network is a viable competitor to ESPN. Before that day comes, it seems as though ESPN and FOX are content to work together to shut out the competition offered by NBC and to a lesser extent, given their small share of the market, CBS Sports.
While competing with the stranglehold of a sports network that has almost associated its brand with sports itself will not be an easy task, one has to imagine that the network’s existing distribution base combined with the live content rights it already holds puts FS1 in a better place to succeed than any previous startup. We also shouldn’t forget how FOX has been able to implement its content and increase its competitiveness on network television and in cable news. Trying new things is the key to penetrating markets that appear saturated, and FOX has a record of success when it comes to television innovation.
However, with the speed at which technology evolves, especially as it pertains to entertainment, that innovation in a medium that is quickly appearing dated will be put to the test. Imagining a multiple year plan for increasing television competitiveness could possibly be overshooting the medium’s shelf life, at least as far as the importance of broadcasting live sports goes.
At least they’ll have Regis.
It is not yet clear whether FS1 or FS2, which will replace FuelTV, will be available in Canada. The CRTC, a regulatory agency for broadcasting and telecommunications in the country had previously authorized SPEED to be carried by cable and satellite providers. However, such a licence for broadcast can be revoked due to a format change, especially when the new format means a foreign channel will be directly competing with a domestic one, as would be the case with FS1′s relationship to TSN and Rogers Sportsnet. Even if FS1 and FS2 become available in Canada, rights for many of the live events the networks intend on broadcasting have already been sold to Canadian interests.