The launch of Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2 is not as risky as it may seem, since the national networks will give Fox places to showcase major programming investments in baseball, NASCAR, soccer and college sports, analysts said. However, parent 21st Century Fox, just ahead of Saturday's launch, is still negotiating carriage rights with Time Warner Cable, DIRECTV and DISH Network.
News Corp. has set Aug. 17 as the start date for its Fox Sports 1 network, which will replace the current Speed channel in about 90 million homes. The new network will feature live college basketball, college football, NASCAR, UFC bouts, soccer and, as of next year, Major League Baseball. "We believe we have amassed enough live events ... where we have scale, where we can have significance and where we can become a major player in the market," said Randy Freer, co-president of Fox Sports Media Group.
News Corp., during its first-ever sports upfront early next month, will finally provide details about its plan to launch national sports channels to compete with ESPN, sources said. Fox Sports Media Group reportedly is working to create a pair of sports networks from its existing Speed Channel and Fuel network that will focus on Major League Baseball, college football, NASCAR, professional soccer and ultimate fighting. Former daytime talker Regis Philbin is in talks to join the main channel's lineup for an afternoon show, according to sources. Fox will also share details about programming for its 22 regional sports networks at the upfront.
Todd Siegel, the senior vice president of sales at Fox-owned Speed network since 2004, has been promoted to executive vice president at Fox Cable Sales. In the new position, Siegel will supervise ad sales at Speed, Fox Soccer Channel and Fuel as well as national sales for Fox's regional sports channels.
The Cartoon Network next spring is expected to unveil a block of original programming aimed at the preschool market. The block, which goes against similar programming by PBS, Playhouse Disney and a still-unnamed Comcast network in the works, reportedly will be "fun, funny and fearless" rather than purely educational.