The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Lifestyle

March 6, 2013

New Fox sports network to debut in August

(Continued)

Still to be determined is whether the NFL sells some Thursday night games separately from its NFL Network package. If it does, everyone will try to buy a piece of the action.

That will be the case for any rights deals that come along soon; there aren't many, with long-term pacts now the norm. NBC and CBS already have their own cable sports networks, and Turner is also a factor. Fox Sports co-President Eric Shanks mentioned the NBA, Big Ten and U.S. Open tennis as appealing properties whose contracts expire in the next several years.

FS1 has two main challenges, he said. One is producing enough alluring live events to draw viewers, and he thinks the network is already in good shape to do that. The other is inertia: Fans accustomed to tuning to ESPN must be persuaded to switch to a different network.

"People need to over time feel like there's a channel number in their head that they can go to as an alternative to one of the more powerful sports channels out there," he said.

Will they watch nightly highlights on something other than "SportsCenter"? FS1 will try to find out with its own news show, which will look more like Fox's NFL pregame coverage than ESPN's cornerstone program.

"We like our position," ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz said. "We have always had vigorous competition so there is really nothing substantially new here. Others are, however, beginning to recognize what we have long known: The power of live sports, especially in light of technological advances, is substantial and brings tremendous value in today's entertainment landscape."

ESPN has eight cable networks that combine for almost 30,000 hours of live coverage.

FS1 will be converted from Speed, a motorsports network, and will be available in 90 million homes, compared with 98 million for ESPN and ESPN2.

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