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A Shot at The Champ

March 18, 2013
March 18, 2013

Table of Contents
March 18, 2013

GOLF PLUS
LEADING OFF
THE MAIL
CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
  • THE BLACKHAWKS' RECORD START—THEY TORE THROUGH THE FIRST HALF OF THEIR SCHEDULE WITHOUT LOSING A GAME IN REGULATION—CAPTIVATED A CITY AND REINVIGORATED THE BELEAGUERED NHL

OLYMPIC SPORTS
  • LINDSEY VONN'S HORRIFIC FEBRUARY CRASH PUT HER CAREER ON HOLD AND FURTHER SHOOK UP HER ALREADY HECTIC LIFE. NOW, 11 MONTHS FROM SOCHI, SHE'S LASER-FOCUSED ON GETTING BACK ON THE MOUNTAIN AND RECLAIMING HER POSITION ATOP THE SKI WORLD

MARCH MADNESS
Departments

A Shot at The Champ

Fox promises to come out swinging with a new 24/7 sports channel, but can FS1 really challenge ESPN?

The MEDIA Circus

This is an article from the March 18, 2013 issue

The worst-kept secret in sports broadcasting finally revealed itself on March 5 with a presentation worthy of its Broadway locale. Inside a theater at the Marriott Marquis hotel in Times Square, in front of potential advertisers and such bold-face sports names as Gary Bettman, Adam Silver and Hope Solo, Fox Sports executives declared the company's new 24/7 cable sports network, Fox Sports 1, open for business with a drunk-on-bravado sizzle reel that went directly after ESPN. "Fox Sports 1 will become the national sports network that fans choose first," a narrator intoned, as highlights of the Fox network's debut in 1986 and the Fox News launch a decade later played for the crowd.

Why launch a national cable sports network? For profit, of course, but Fox Sports executives believe they have the live-game inventory to be considered a viable challenger to ESPN. Fox Sports 1's programming will revolve around seven pillars: college basketball, college football, MLB, NASCAR, NFL, UFC and world soccer. "We're not expecting to knock ESPN off in the first week or two," said News Corp. senior executive vice president David Hill. "It's going to take two to three years. It will be a solid slog."

Privately, Hill and company know it will take longer, and there are other players in the game, including CBS Sports Network and NBC Sports Network, both of which launched in the last two years. Of course, the $42 billion gorilla is ESPN, which costs cable providers an average of $5.54 per household per month, according to research firm SNL Kagan—more than any other cable channel. Most analysts predict Fox Sports 1 will command between 75 cents and one dollar per household at launch. (NBC and CBS sports networks cost 33 cents and 24 cents, respectively.) As ESPN president John Skipper told Ad Week: "We'll be hard to displace."

Fox will convert its motor-sports channel, Speed, into FS1 on Aug. 17 and launch in about 90 million homes nationwide. (ESPN is in 98.5 million.) But how will it differentiate itself from its competitors? Fox Sports execs claim their on-air personalities (Erin Andrews, Terry Bradshaw, and yes, Regis Philbin, etc.) are popular and appealing, but every sports network says the same about its talent. For an early indication of whether Fox Sports 1 is serious about competing with ESPN, pay attention to Fox Sports Live, a three-hour news and highlight show that will air nightly from Los Angeles and attempt to siphon viewers from SportsCenter. Fox execs say they'll invest heavily in the news-gathering process and promise the show won't simply regurgitate the debate topics of the day. It's paramount for FS1's credibility that its signature daily show have editorial chops, something Fox Sports has struggled with on its live events.

Asked what would be a mark of success a year from now, Fox Sports co-president Eric Shanks is realistic: "If you walk up to a friend and ask what channel Fox Sports 1 is on, we've become a big enough and credible enough voice where people will remember the channel number."

SPRING TRAINING should be a time of hope ... and fear! Already the Cactus and the Grapefruit leagues have seen a handful of the type of odd injuries that pop up each year. But is any club more, er, snakebit than the Brewers?

1994

After motivational seminar, righty Steve Sparks dislocates left shoulder trying to rip phone book in half.

2010

Righty Jeff Suppan goes on DL with neck pain after, unhappy with pillows in condo, he sleeps on rolled-up towel.

2013

G.M. Doug Melvin hospitalized with numbness in left arm after being stung by Arizona bark scorpion.

Tale of the Tape

How sports TV's upstart challenger stacks up against the reigning heavyweight champ

View this article in the original magazine

Sept. 7, 1979DebutAug. 17, 2014
98.5 millionNumber of homesApproximately 90 million at launch
SportsCenterFlagship nightly showFox Sports Live
WatchESPNTopline appFOX Sports GO (coming in August)
Trent Dilfer, Steve YoungSuper--Bowl--winning quarterbacksTroy Aikman, Terry Bradshaw
Brent Musburger, Dick VitaleSexy senior citizensRegis Philbin, Jimmy Johnson
Skip BaylessAnnoying cartoon characterCleatus the Robot
NBC Sports NetworkSworn enemyNBC Sports Network
PHOTOBRAND X PICTURES/GETTY IMAGES (PHONE BOOK)PHOTOAFRICA STUDIO/FOTOLIA.COM (PILLOWS)PHOTOJARED HOBBS/ALL CANADA PHOTOS/GETTY IMAGES (SCORPION)PHOTOCHARLES SYKES/INVISION/AP (PHILBIN AND STRAHAN)THEY'VE GOT PERSONALITIES Fox Sports executives believe on-air talent such as Philbin (left, with Michael Strahan) will draw in viewers.PHOTOESPN, INC./REUTERS (ESPN LOGO)TWO PHOTOS