MUMBAI: News Corp is planning to launch a national US sports network on cable television to take on Walt Disney-owned network ESPN, the dominant player in that market.
According to Bloomberg News, the company is considering converting its action-sports network Fuel to the new channel that would compete not just with ESPN but with NBC's and CBS's sports networks.
Fox Sports chairman David Hill is spearheading the new channel which could begin service by the end of this year.
The implications of this could also be felt in Asia where the two companies run the ESPN Star Sports join venture, which according to recent media reports is on the verge of splitting. This development will only add fuel to that speculation.
The company is also in the process of assembling the required rights from pay-TV carriers and sports organisations for the yet-to-be-launched channel.
News Corp had recently snapped up various sports rights prominent among them being the US TV rights to Fifa World Cup in 2018 and 2022, beating competition ESPN. It had also secured rights to the Pac-12 Conference and Big-12 Conference games and is in the running to secure an exclusive deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
According to Miller Tabak & Co analyst David Joyce, "The success of all these networks will depend on the quality of their sports rights. There’s been a lot of competition for those rights and that’s driven up costs."
Joyce also opined that ESPN is well-positioned to withstand competition because of its rights for Monday Night Football and national baseball and basketball games.
A national sports channel can capture higher affiliate fees from pay-TV providers such as Comcast and DirecTV, according to research firm SNL Kagan. ESPN will command $5.06 per subscriber per month this year, the most of any cable channel, it estimates.