By now it’s no secret that ESPN is pretty much the vortex of suck. Hell, Deadspin was virtually built on lampooning the “worldwide leader in sports” and dutifully chronicling its demise, in addition to posting pics of athlete dong, of course. Because of this, industry observers have for some time speculated over when a serious challenge to the increasingly terrible Disney-owned network would arise, but to date it has gone unchallenged (sorry, NBC Sports Network, you just haven’t cut it). Well, those days will soon be over.
Reports the New York Times:
On Tuesday, Fox will announce its intention to start Fox Sports 1, an all-sports network, in August.
The channel will carry Nascar races, Major League Baseball games, college basketball and football, soccer and U.F.C. fights. It will also broadcast studio shows, including one that is to be hosted by Regis Philbin, a celebrated Notre Dame fan.
Still, Fox and its parent, News Corporation, have a companywide faith in sports as a DVR-proof way to attract viewers — especially young men — and a belief that their new sports channel will differentiate itself from the competition, as the Fox News channel has demonstrated in its successful challenge to CNN and then MSNBC. To ensure that Fox Sports 1 has some of the style and attitude that Fox Sports has had since it began in the mid-1990s, (Rupert) Murdoch and Chase Carey, News Corporation’s president and chief operating officer, brought back one of their favorite executives, David Hill, for its creation and launch. Hill, the former head of the Fox Sports Media Group, left the division last year for another job within News Corporation.
“We think sports is a huge arena that has room in it to build a really attractive businesses,” Carey told analysts on an earnings call last month. He said that the company recognizes the escalating costs of sports rights but “in a world of increasing fragmentation, we think sports continues to be a more and more important and unique part of that overall landscape.”
While I’m personally less than thrilled that Rupert Murdoch is the wizard behind the curtain on this, I’m overjoyed that a very real challenge is being mounted, as ESPN has become virtually unwatchable for me and most of the people I associate with outside of live sporting events. The Fox braintrust seems to recognize that “it’s especially important for Fox Sports to create compelling shows around the games,” and I’ll gladly welcome any alternative that doesn’t involve Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith shouting at each other and/or all day on-air birthday parties for Tim Tebow.