SBD/July 15, 2013/Media

FS1 Still Without Carriage Deals For DirecTV, Dish, Time Warner Cable

Fox has "yet to cut carriage deals with three of the country’s four biggest distributors, raising the possibility that its August launch of Fox Sports 1 will fall short of the 90 million homes the channel is expected to have," according to John Ourand in this week's SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. DirecTV, Dish Network and Time Warner Cable "still are negotiating to carry FS1 on Aug. 17." The fact that "so many deals are open a month before a network launch is not unusual in the cable industry." Though talks have been described as "amicable for the most part, news that some big deals aren’t done runs counter to the widespread belief in the sports industry that FS1 will flip a switch next month and launch to 90 million homes." SNL Kagan data shows that distributors currently "pay around 23 cents per subscriber per month for Speed." Sources said that FS1 is "being offered at 80 cents per subscriber per month at first, with increases that would push the fee to the $1.50 range over the life of a multiyear carriage deal." Distribution execs originally believed that they "would be able to carry FS1 at the same lower rate they pay for Speed until their Speed contracts end." But sources said that Fox has "not made that offer to any distributor that hasn’t signed new carriage deals." One of the main issues Fox is facing "concerns the atmosphere around the high cost of sports rights." Several distributors recently have "become emboldened by keeping sports channels off their systems." But FS1 "expects to be different, positioning itself as an alternative that could help distributors keep the high-priced ESPN in check" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 7/15 issue).

PLANNING A GRAND ENTRANCE: In St. Louis, Dan Caesar wrote Fox is "about to unleash a network to compete with ESPN, and it looks as if Fox won’t be outdone on the self-serving front." If the way Fox is "planning to introduce the network to the masses Tuesday night is any indication, the battle between it and ESPN will be waged as much in the hype department as in the ratings game." That Fox went "out of its way to announce how it will announce the start of Fox Sports 1 is in itself breathless." If Fox is "going to this extreme to merely set the stage, one can only imagine what the hype machine will spew out over the coming months and years" (STLTODAY.com, 7/12). In Ft. Lauderdale, Craig Davis writes FS1 will "signal its arrival with trumpets blaring." Even the "hype is being hyped, with videos about the making of the introductory commercial already available on Fox Sports' YouTube channel." Whether FS1 "emerges as a genuine alternative to ESPN or just another pretender remains to be seen." But it "won't be for lack of resources" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 7/15). In Dallas, Barry Horn reported Fox wanted Cowboys QB Tony Romo "to fly to Los Angeles in mid-June for a video shoot" at L.A. Memorial Coliseum, but he "declined because he didn't want anything to interfere with his rehab following back cyst surgery." Ravens QB Joe Flacco instead "appears in the Romo role." Fox Sports Senior VP & Head of Marketing Robert Gottlieb, when asked if Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones was considered, said, "We decided we wanted to focus on players. We thought about DeMarcus Ware, but he couldn't fit into our tight shooting window" (DALLASNEWS.com, 7/12). 

PINNING DOWN THE ISSUES: SI.com's Richard Deitsch notes Gottlieb in an interview with Cynopsis.com "highlighted the strategy and brand message of the upcoming network." Gottleib said, "It's not about steroids, Tim Tebow and other BS that keeps getting crammed down our throats." Deitsch wrote those on the "edit side of Fox Sports 1 have pledged they'll be creating a serious sports news unit for the channel." PED use in athletics "is a serious, important topic and an issue in every major sport Fox covers, so if Fox Sports 1 wants to be a respected editorial player, it would be wise not to think of that topic as BS, and follow the thoughtful path set by ESPN -- as well as its own lead baseball reporter -- on this issue" (SI.com 7/15).

GETTING FACE TIME: In DC, Liz Clarke noted retired tennis player Andy Roddick this week will "launch into rehearsals for 'Fox Sports Live,' a three-hour show that he will co-host" with Charissa Thompson each weeknight from 11:00pm-2:00am ET. Fox Sports Exec VP & Exec Producer Scott Ackerson said of Roddick, "It never seemed like he was trying to BS anybody. That's something I find refreshing." He added, "What Andy is going to bring to the show is somebody who has been in the arena a very short time ago, who is intelligent, never was afraid to say exactly what he thought. ... I don't believe Andy is going to be an athlete's apologist. If I thought that, I wouldn't have wanted him." NBC's Mary Carillo said of Roddick, "He has the heart and mind of a true jock and the smarts to translate that into an audience. All of which is to say, this guy will be a good listen" (WASHINGTON POST, 7/14). 
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