Fox Sports 1's Launch Week: Lebron James, Mike Tyson and Plenty of Regis Philbin
TV Ratings: Fox Sports 1 Off to a Solid Start With UFC Programming
Get ready for the "Foxification" of cable sports.
Beginning Saturday, two new round the clock national sports channels, Fox Sports 1 and 2, are being launched. They aim to bring "Fox attitude" -- that edgy, show biz or no biz, let’s turn everything into an event mindset -- to a wide range of programs.
For opening day, one "event" is an interview on the signature daily show Fox Sports Live with LeBron James of the Miami Heat, who will be interviewed by columnist Bill Reiter. Mike Tyson will be a guest later in the week.
It remains to be seen whether the new Fox Sports national channels can ever command the same advertising rates, sub fees from cable systems or level of ratings enjoyed by ESPN. But 21st Century Fox’s newest venture arrives with a strong team (in front of and behind the camera), a lot of major sports rights and a cable subscriber count that rivals -- but still doesn’t equal -- the Disney/ABC sports powerhouse.
Fox Sports 1, which is a brand new channel, is available at launch in about 90 million homes. Fox Sports 2, taking the position on cable systems previously held by Fuel TV and in some cases the Speed network, is in about 37 million homes.
That compares to the 98 million basic cable TV homes ESPN says both ESPN and ESPN2 can be seen in at present. There are also three other smaller ESPN sports networks.
However, the Fox channels are available in more homes than other rivals from major broadcasters. CBS Sports Network is on air in about 49 million U.S. TV homes (but reaches into over 90 million, if those other customers would elect to see it); and NBC Sports Network, about to be renamed NBCSN, is in 80 million homes, according to the network.
If Fox Sports is successful, there is a huge upside. Fox was receiving about 20 cents per month per sub from cable operators, according to SNL Kagan statistics. The latest carriage deals are reportedly for about 80 cents per sub. And if FS1 meets even minimum goals, that could easily jump to $1.50 per sub in the future. ESPN reportedly gets over $5.54 per sub and brings in over $9 billion per year.
Fox Sports also has a much bigger footprint to offer advertisers seeking national exposure than the Fox regional sports networks. It has already brought aboard Ford, already the exclusive auto sponsor for the NFL Sunday Pregame. Ford also is a sponsor on FBC’s American Idol and on many other entertainment and sports shows.
Other advertisers on FS1 from day one include GEICO insurance and the Yum Brands fast food restaurants.
Fox is not a newcomer to sports, of course. Fox Broadcasting Company carries National Football League and Major League Baseball games, as well as many other sporting events. Fox also has the Fox Soccer Channel, Fox College Sports, BTN (co-venture with the Big 10), the FX Network, which has carried some sports, as well as its own sports statistics information provider STATS Inc.
In addition, Fox has FSN and 22 regional sports channels spread out from California to the Carolinas, from Wisconsin to Florida.
Fox is also ramping up its digital sports operations. On Aug. 15, Fox Sports Digital announced the acquisition of Fanhood, a digital sports start up, and the hiring of its team, including founder Brandon Ramsey. Ramsey will develop personalized products for Fox Sports, based in San Francisco at the Fox Sports Digital technology center.