Fox sports channel will offer choices for viewers, competition for ESPN

Daily News wire reportsAugust 16, 2013 

Something big is coming Saturday, the debut of a new 24-hour sports network called Fox Sports 1. It won't completely change the sports broadcasting game like ESPN once did, but it will institute some major rules changes.

Last week, for instance, on the eve of the PGA Championship, the U.S. Golf Association dropped the bomb that Fox and Fox Sports 1 will televise the U.S. Open beginning in 2015 and all the way through 2026.

"Bummer," said Johnny Miller, who along with NBC and ESPN has shared the U.S. Open with America for so long.

Every week is Shark Week in the television industry, however.

Truth is, it's about time somebody took a swipe at ESPN, and somebody with enough money and resources to make it interesting. Competition will make "the worldwide leader" better, not just increasingly wider.

Already, ESPN has added an extra hour to the Saturday morning staple of "College Football GameDay." That could be good or, if it's simply an earlier dose of Lee Corso's comedy stylings, it may not. Either way, the big shots at Bristol are holding extra meetings and pushing for brighter ideas than Skip Bayless howling at the moon.

Starting Saturday, you'll find Fox Sports 1 wherever Speed, a motorsports channel, has been showing up on your TV. Once you find it -- on channel 41, for GCI subscribers -- you'll be rewarded right off the bat with a steady dose of UFC.

Don't get snooty, though, if that's not exactly your idea of major-league programming. Soon we'll all be switching over for a look at Fox Sports 1, where Big 12 and Pac 12 college football will be found in the fall, with Big East basketball, NASCAR and more to come, including baseball in 2014.

Already Fox has a multitude of regional sports networks working around the country. Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2 (taking over Fuel TV's spot) will tie it all together with a nightly wrap-up show on the order of ESPN's "SportsCenter," plus various other talk shows featuring Erin Andrews, Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long, former tennis star Andy Roddick and basketball Hall of Famer Gary Payton, who personally promises to bring plenty of "trash talk" to every discussion.

Some of it may be a little tough to stomach at times. Regis Philbin, for instance, will be the host of his own hour-long gabfest every weeknight on Fox Sports 1. This is a nice, quiet spot on the sports calendar, however, to take some risks and shuffle through a few discards.

But the key for Fox Sports 1 is the chemistry of O'Toole and Onrait catching on. Fox wants them to continue doing what they do in Canada, and hired longtime producer Tim Moriarty to help make it happen.

"(It) is going to deviate from existing sports news formulas, and we expect Jay, Dan and Tim to use their unique brand of humor to make the show fun for fans to watch," Ackerson said.

Fun has been a buzz word in all of Fox's promotion for the new network's programming, which includes "The Jones and Moseley Show" that will focus on extreme challenges, toughest records and impossible feats. Then there is Regis, and isn't he synonymous with fun?

Fox has at least provided enough appetizers to give FS1 a look. Chris Taylor, telecommunications instructor at Ball State (David Letterman's alma mater) is among those who think it will succeed.

"There is an insatiable appetite for sports on all platforms and devices. It's true reality TV, true DVR-proof programming," Taylor said.

"Fox Sports 1 will be in about 90 million U.S. homes, which is the largest cable channel startup, by audience size, in history. And startup is a wrong label for FS1, it's an established brand with secure and established funding."

 

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