As 2013 draws near, more details are surfacing about Fox Sports 1, Fox's new all-sports network set to launch next August.
According to a SportsBusiness Journal report filed by John Ourand on Monday, Fox is already pitching the network to league and conference executives and it will feature live-game programming from Fox's rights deals with MLB, NASCAR, college football and basketball, soccer and other sports.
The network is planning a host of New York-based events the week prior to Super Bowl XLVIII, which is in New York and also on Fox.
To make this a reality, Fox will re-brand its Speed Channel and move most of its content to their Fuel TV channel. Fox executives have yet to make an official announcement, but the network will attempt to challenge ESPN as the nation's top sports network.
Fox plans a full rollout in February 2014 to coincide with Super Bowl XLVIII, which will be shown on Fox's main network. You can read more about the proposed features in the SBJ article here (it's free, thankfully).
This means that all four of the major networks will have a 24-hour sports channel, with CBS and NBC having launched theirs in 2011 and 2012. While NBC and CBS Sports Network don't look to be a threat to ESPN's sports empire, Fox's foray will be an intriguing one because of their reputation and financial commitment to obtaining sports rights.
Now we approach the issue of how to dethrone the sports broadcast giant. ESPN has been on the national sports scene since 1979 and running relatively untouched the entire time. The success of its main channel has spawned numerous sister channels and one of the strongest online communities on the Internet.
Fox has a history of finding its footing in one-sided, almost monopolized genres of television, from Fox's main station taking down the "big three" networks in primetime to Fox News overtaking CNN as the highest-rated cable news network.
In each case, Fox successfully found a niche audience for its programming—something that viewers couldn't find in other places. Coincidentally, the audience for Fox was outbidding CBS and acquiring the NFC rights to the NFL in 1994.
Looking at Fox's current rights, their most valuable sport in terms of exclusivity is the UFC, and a full move to Fox Sports 1 would be a great move for both Fox and the organization.
MMA has exploded during the 2000s and the Fox deal was supposed to help the sport achieve mainstream popularity. Though both the UFC and Fox executives are more concerned with long-term growth, the current direction is less than ideal for the organization.
It's been a little over a year since the first UFC broadcast on Fox, but the scattered UFC broadcasts across Fox's cable networks seem to be a negative thus far. The UFC's most popular TV show, Ultimate Fighter, is on FX (on Fridays, nonetheless) and drawing low ratings.
Meanwhile, most of the UFC library and events are on Fuel TV, which is only in 36 million homes. Fox's main network only shows four UFC events a year.
Having the main UFC package on one network, especially an all-sports network that's already in 81 million homes, would be great news for the organization and a good building block for Fox Sports 1 in its quest to break through the ESPN stronghold.
(For more MMA, including rankings, check out my blog).