What’s next for new Fox channel?
by Michael Hiestand, USA TODAY Sports
You had to have avoided the sports pages and web sites not to know what was finally announced Wednesday: Fox has TV rights to the new Big East. which it will largely feature on its upcoming Fox Sports 1 cable channel.
“If I don’t do the Big East, I’m going to have to take down (Fox executives) jujitsu style!,” Fox play-by-play announcer Gus Johnson told USA TODAY Sports days before Tuesday’s announcement. “That’s got me written all over it.”
There’s a viral video we’ll never see. As Johnson hosted Fox’s announcement in New York of its 12-year, $600 million deal with the Big East, he simply beamed. No wonder: He’ll be the lead announcer when Fox next year inherits a marquee event from ESPN — the Big East Conference tournament at Madison Square Garden.
But in mounting the largest frontal assault on ESPN in the 21st-century, even as broadcast networks NBC and CBS are now more aggressive with their general-interest sports cable channels, FS1 is still facing plenty of key questions.
What’s ahead for FS1, which launches Aug. 17?
The fine print
Fox says it will dish off some proven TV draws — like NASCAR Sprint Cup racing and MLB playoff action — from the broadcast network to FS1. But how much? Fox hasn’t said yet.
The flash point
The FS1-ESPN rivalry won’t be David vs. Goliath.
FS1, which will replace Fox’s Speed Channel, will start in at least 90 million TV households — not that far behind the 99 million for both ESPN and ESPN2.
And even before its Big East announcement Tuesday, FS1 had lined up some pretty high-profile college sports — such as Pac-12 and Big 12 football — as well as regular-season MLB games, the 2018 World Cup and of UFC mixed-martial arts. Fox figures it will start with about 55% live programming, including studio shows — which isn’t light years behind ESPN’s 73% live programming.
So think of the FS1-ESPN faceoff as more like trench warfare — Fox top executive David Hill suggests it will take 2-3 years of “a slog” to “knock off” ESPN. But there will be at least one obvious flashpoint: Highlight … [For more on With Big East in bag, what's next for new Fox channel?, click here.]