On Saturday, FOX Sports 1, the new all sports channel backed by News Corp. and Rupert Murdoch, will launch in the United States with the (un)stated goal of challenging “the worldwide leader” a.k.a. ESPN.
As a result of three factors: desirable content, recognizable talent and seemingly bottomless pockets, this will not be the broadcast equivalent of the XFL taking on the NFL more than a decade ago. Rather, thanks to coming out of the gate with distribution into 90 million homes and plans to offer 5,000 hours of live events, news and original programming, the new network is poised for success.
And, the key to the likely success is the word “live.” In the time shift viewing culture we are now in, live sports events coverage is the one safe bet from a programming standpoint for advertisers. Initially, the sports programming on FS1 will lean heavily on college athletics, motor sports, international soccer and UFC. However, MLB, NASCAR and USGA golf are on deck to round out FS1’s portfolio, no doubt with more top tier programming announcements in the future.
FS1 executives have been measured in stating their goals for success, in spite of media trying to spark the rivalry with ESPN by attempting to bait either side into a war words.
The bet here is that FS1 will hit some bumps along the way, deliver some blows to both NBC Sports Network and CBS Sports Network in the near term and then settle into a nice, long rivalry with the broadcaster in Bristol.
And, the real winners, for once, will be the viewers who will now have a choice for their high-quality sports programming, news and analysis.