FOX Sports Media Group (FSMG) has revealed plans to take on ESPN in the cable sports world with the launch of a national, multi-sport cable network called FOX Sports 1, going live on 17 August.
At launch the network will be available in over 90 million homes, making this the biggest sports cable network launch in history. FOX Sports 1 (FS1) execs say that it already has nearly 5,000 hours of live events, news and original programming lined up annually.
"Our 'secret,' admittedly a very poorly kept one, is now revealed," said FSMG president and co-founder Eric Shanks. "Fans are ready for an alternative to the establishment, and our goal for FS1 is to provide the best in-game experience possible, complemented by informative news, entertaining studio shows and provocative original programming."
Being a sports channel, live events will form the backbone of FOX Sports 1's programming, with college basketball, college football, NASCAR, soccer and UFC all on tap to launch by year's end. In 2014, FSMG's rights agreement with MLB takes effect, bringing regular and post-season games to FS1.
And, continuing FOX's quest to bolster a viewership for European football in the United States, it will become home to the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League football matches, along with the Americas-focused CONCACAF Champions League. It will also air the FA Cup; CONCACAF Gold Cup; CONCACAF Qualifiers; FIFA Women's World Cup coverage in 2015 and 2019; and FIFA Men's World Cup coverage in 2018 and 2022.
"As a company we haven't been afraid to innovate and take well-calculated risks," added co-president and COO Randy Freer. "We've devoted significant resources over the last few years to acquire and/or extend multi-platform rights with a wide variety of leagues and governing bodies well into the next decade, enough to give us a rich schedule right out of the box."
FSMG also said that the channel will continue FOX's experiment with the double-box commercial format, intended to keep viewers engaged throughout breaks. In the double-box approach, live video from an event continues to play in a small box in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. But the other two-thirds of the screen are taken up with a traditional 30-second ad.
To examine the effectiveness of the format, the company commissioned research from Innerscope in concert with FOX Sports advertisers, along with data from IAG and Nielsen. It found that IAG reported a 62% increase in brand recall in that format. Also, younger viewers are more likely to view double-box commercials, according to Nielsen minute-by-minute ratings; and Innerscope's engagement score for double-box commercials ranked +13% than average; also, viewers see advertiser logos more than three times longer in double box versus standard format.
FOX first showed a double-box ad during the Fox Sports 4 January telecast of the Cotton Bowl.
FSMG also is launching FOX Sports GO – a TV everywhere app for authenticated pay-TV subscribers available on iPhone, iPad, Android devices and the Web. FOX Sports GO will offer more than 1,000 live games and events from across FOX Sports, FOX Sports 1 and FOX Sports' 22 regional sports networks, as well as scores, highlights, news, stats and analysis.
In addition to MLB action, college football and baseball, and soccer, the channel will show UFC fights and NASCAR races, including the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races beginning in 2015.
Also, FOX SPORTS LIVE, a 24/7 news franchise providing around-the-clock coverage through regularly scheduled programmes, hourly updates and an information-rich ticker that provides a network-agnostic sports event television schedule will debut on the channel, presumably challenging ESPN Sports Center.
"Building credibility and trust with our audience is paramount, so naturally we'll provide the staples, like news, scores and highlights, but we'll do it in a FOX Sports way," said Shanks. "Just as FOX NFL SUNDAY reinvented the pregame show, FOX SPORTS LIVE breaks new ground in the way sports news is presented. We already have the home-team advantage of significant audiences watching local games on our 22 regional sports networks as a platform to launch our new national news."