Fox announced Thursday that its new national sports network — Fox Sports 1 — is set to debut Saturday with all major cable, satellite and telco TV operators, but while it will be carried by DirecTV, Dish Network and Time Warner Cable those three have not reached new deals for the network yet.
FS1 will be distributed to about 90 million U.S. households, according to Fox.
“We are thrilled that virtually all pay-television customers across America will have access to Fox Sports 1,” Mike Hopkins, Fox Networks distribution prexy, said in announcing the deals. “This network launch is a major milestone for Fox and will alter the sports television landscape. We are grateful to our distribution partners for making this all possible.”
The two sports channel are being converted from two predecessors, Speed and Fuel; according to the programmer, FS2 will be carried on systems that previously carried Fuel TV.
According to industry sources, DirecTV, Dish and Time Warner Cable have not negotiated new deals and are carrying FS1 under the previous Speed pacts (meaning they aren’t paying anything extra for it). It could “weeks or months” before Fox reaches new deals with the three operators, a source said. (Bright House Networks has an arrangement with Time Warner Cable under which it piggybacks on the larger operator’s programming deals.)
Fox has signed on Comcast, Charter Communications, Cox Communications, Cablevision Systems, Verizon FiOS, AT&T U-verse, Suddenlink Communications and Mediacom Communications to round out the roster of the largest operators. Hundreds of smaller operators are also in the mix, Fox rep said.
Fox had been getting less than 30 cents per subscriber each month for Speed and about 20 cents monthly per sub for Fuel. Analysts expect subscriber fees for FS1 to triple in the short term, which has been the prime mover behind Fox’s move to launch a national sports cabler.
At the same time, the soaring value of TV sports rights has raised fears among pay TV operators about the long-term health of the biz — as higher monthly bills potentially drive more consumers to cut the cord.
In its Saturday debut, the channel is skedded to carry a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race from Michigan and UFC Fight NIght: Shogun vs. Sonner” in primetime. In 2014, Fox Sport’s new rights agreement with MLB will kick in, bringing regular-season and postseason games to FS1.
(Jon Weisman contributed to this report.)