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Fox Sports 1 Goes Wide With 90M-Home Rollout

UPSTART POSITIONS ITSELF AS ESPN ALTERNATIVE 8/18/2013 8:00 PM Eastern

Fox Sports 1, armed with an impressive array of rights and a nascent news operation, launched on Aug. 17 almost everywhere in the multichannel universe.

Securing carriage with DirecTV, Dish Network, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks last week, Fox Sports 1 debuted to approximately 90 million subscribers. With the biggest bow in cable history, Fox Sports 1 — the converted Speed network — began its push to become an alternative to ESPN and compete with NBCSN and CBS Sports Network in the national cable sports space.

Fox Sports 2, rebranded from Fuel TV, also launched on Saturday in some 37 million homes.

The debuts, though, weren’t accompanied by Fox Sports Go, the mobile TV Everywhere product Fox Sports Media Group executives had said would flank FS1’s kickoff .

An authenticated mobile sports experience for iPhone, iPad, Android devices and the Web, Fox Sports Go will combine more than 230 feeds and offer live streaming from more than 1,000 games and events from Fox Sports, Fox Sports 1 and the 22 Fox Sports Net regional networks, plus scores, highlights, news, stats and analysis. It will also include, at some point, automotive content from broadband service Speed 2.

A Fox Sports spokesman said the product — which requires authentication for the national services, as well as for subscribers of the territorially restricted RSNs — was going through its paces.

“It’s a complicated app that will use one-of-a-kind authentication,” said a Fox Sports spokesman, noting the programmer didn’t want to rush matters merely to coincide with the linear launch. “It’s the first time anyone has tried to put broadcast, regional, and national cable feeds into a live streaming app.”

The spokesman did not specify a projected debut date. “We’ll launch Fox Sports Go when it’s ready and it’s everything we expect it to be,” he said.

As for Fox Sports 1, which will feature some 5,000 hours of live event and original programming during its rookie year, it kicked off on Aug. 17 at 6 a.m. (ET) with a college football preview show, and featured NASCAR and UFC action, plus Fox Sports Live, the ambitious three-hour nightly news program featuring a panel of experts and commentators, on its opening day.

Sources said Fox Sports 1 has been seeking a monthly subscriber license fee of 80 cents, up from Speed’s 22-cent fee, elevating to $1.50 over the course of multiyear contracts. However, sources said the four holdouts launched FS1 at Speed’s prior rate.

During Twenty-First Century Fox’s investor day in Los Angeles on Aug. 8, Fox Sports Media Group copresidents Eric Shanks and Randy Freer said they are targeting Fox Sports 1 to be profitable by 2016.

Sports media watchers expect FS1 to become a significant player. “They are not trying to take down ESPN at the outset. [Fox has] very smart business people who have launched many successful cable networks,” Chris Bevilacqua, co-founder of Bevilacqua Helfant Ventures, said. “They have amassed a great portfolio of rights that clearly put the network in position to be a very strong No. 2.”

TAKEAWAY

Fox Sports 1 kicked off its rivalry with ESPN this weekend with a launch to 90 million pay TV homes.

September