Buoyant after buying a major fishing outfit, ESPN is considering launching a
new outdoor-sports-oriented channel in the near future.
ESPN executives floated the idea after announcing its purchase of B.A.S.S.
Inc., the largest fishing organization in the world. B.A.S.S. either sanctions
or runs more than 25,000 fishing tournaments per year, and it publishes several
of the top fishing magazines in the country.
ESPN senior vice president of programming Mark Quenzel said the deal --
estimated at $30 million to $40 million, according to sources -- provided the
impetus to potentially launch a new channel that would directly compete with
Outdoor Life Network and The Outdoor Channel.
'I think [the deal] makes us the perennial player in the outdoor category,'
'We have compatible assets, and they have a great business. Combined, there's
a lot of programming available' for a new service.
ESPN and ESPN2 run weekend-morning blocks of outdoor-related programming.
ESPN's The Fishin' Hole has been the staple of its Saturday-morning
lineup since it launched in 1980.
ESPN2 televises ESPN Outdoors Saturday and Sunday morning, as well as
Outdoor Channel CEO Andrew Dale said last week that he thought the market was
large enough to support a potential ESPN outdoor-sports service.
'We think it's a validation of the popularity of fishing as a sport,' Dale
said. 'We have a big pond to play in, and there's enough room for a lot of
Outdoor Channel claims about 15 million subscribers. Representatives from
Outdoor Life, with 35 million subscribers, could not be reached for