News Corp. (Nasdaq: NWSA) will convert Speed Channel in August to a new national sports network called Fox Sports 1, the company said Tuesday.
Fox Sports 1 (FS 1) will be available in 90 million cable and satellite TV homes when it debuts on Aug. 17, making it the biggest sports network launch in U.S. history, Fox Sports Media Group boasted. The move drew criticism from American Cable Association CEO Matt Polka, who has complained about how the rising costs of sports programming impact cable operators and subscribers.
"How did they get to 90 million homes already, and who even asked them for Fox Sports 1? Which one of those 90 million people asked them for that sports programming? The answer is none, but those 90 million people are going to get it, and they are going to have to pay for it," Polka told FierceCable.
FS 1 will challenge ESPN's SportsCenter franchise with an 11 p.m. nightly news program, executives said Tuesday. It'll also carry live sporting events, including NASCAR races, college basketball and football games, soccer games and UFC cage fighting matches. Fox said FS 1 will carry some Major League Baseball playoff games beginning in 2014.
The bulk of FS 1's 90 million subscriber count will come from the distribution Fox has achieved for Speed, which is available in about 87 million homes.
Fox announced that it hired Regis Philbin to host a live, one-hour program called Rush Hour, which will run weekdays at 5 p.m. ET. It'll run Fox Football Daily weekdays at 6 p.m., which will feature NFL on Fox talent, including Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long and former ESPN reporter Erin Andrews.
News Corp. has increased its investment in sports programming in recent months. In November, it struck a deal with the New York Yankees which may allow it to take an 80 percent ownership stake in YES Network within three years.
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