The new sports channel, which debuts Aug. 17, will have as its anchor a 14,000-square-foot soundstage on the 21st Century Fox lot off Pico Boulevard, not far from the studio where the NFL pregame shows are aired. Staffing has been limited so far - nothing like ESPN, which is based in Bristol, Conn. and has more than 6,000 people - but already there's talk about a Fox Sports 2 channel being prepped. In the early days, look for lots of Nascar, soccer and UFC, along with the debut of several talk/interview type shows. Football audiences will be arriving next month. They say that the vibe will be less stat-and-analysis-minded than ESPN, with a lot of "Fox attitude" (uh-oh). But the bigger issue is whether the world really needs another sports channel. In Southern California alone, you have Time Warner Cable, which carries the Lakers (and the Dodgers beginning next season), plus Fox Sports West and Prime Ticket (Angels, Clippers, Kings, and Ducks), plus the Pac-12 Network, plus separate channels for golf, tennis, hockey, baseball, football. Point is, sports represents the most expensive programming for cable companies and considering that only a certain percentage of the customer base is watching, you have to wonder how this plays out over the long term. From this week's Business Update on KPCC:
Mark Lacter: It's called Fox Sports 1, it debuts Aug. 17, and it'll be coming to you right off Pico Boulevard at the 21st Century Fox lot (note the change from 20th Century Fox - the new name is part of the restructuring at Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. that has all the broadcast and entertainment assets split off from the newspaper assets). Anyway, they've built a 14,000-square-foot sound stage for Fox Sports 1, where the new network will originate - not far from the studio where the NFL pregame shows are aired.
Steve Julian: Serious competition for ESPN?
Lacter: Well, that's what they're hoping. But ESPN is massive - it makes up about 40 percent of the value of the entire Walt Disney Co., in part because it charges cable operators about $5 per subscriber per month, which tops any other content provider by a long shot. Fox obviously wants some of that action, and Fox has the rights to lots of sports, mostly baseball and football. Now Steve, I know this doesn't apply to you, but the question is whether there's a limit to the amount of sports programming people will want to watch. Guess we'll find out.