SBJ/January 21-27, 2013/Media

With 1 not done, Fox goes for 2

Fuel would convert into Fox Sports 2

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Even though Fox Sports has not formally announced its planned national cable channel Fox Sports 1 yet, the company already has moved forward with plans to flip Fuel into Fox Sports 2 this August.

On Nov. 27, Fox filed a trademark application for a Fox Sports 2 logo with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The new channel’s logo essentially is the Fox Sports logo with the number 2 on the bottom right.

Fuel’s switch to Fox Sports 2 will be announced later this spring and completed in August, around the same time Fox rebrands Speed into Fox Sports 1, sources said.

Fox Sports 2 will be a national all-sports channel and will complement Fox Sports 1. The two channels will be aligned similar to ESPN and ESPN2, which share sports across both networks. Initially, the biggest sports events will air on Fox Sports 1, similar to how ESPN carries marquee games, like the BCS national championship game and “Monday Night Football.”

Fox Sports 1 will have more than double the distribution of Fox Sports 2 at launch, as Speed is in 81 million homes and Fuel is in just over 37 million homes.

Fox has spent much of the past year acquiring sports rights for these channels. Overall, Fox will continue to have its broadcast channel carry its largest events, but it will produce complementary programming around those events on the two cable channels.

The reason for the surprise launch of a second all-sports channel is that Fox executives think they need a second outlet to handle the rights they’ve been acquiring.

Fox’s FIFA World Cup rights in 2018 and 2022 may have the most significant impact in driving distribution around these channels, as it’s clearly one of the largest events in Fox’s programming inventory and will be spread across several Fox channels.

Fox Sports 2 will be run alongside Fox Sports 1, with offices in Los Angeles, New York and Charlotte, where Speed operates.

The changes at Fox don’t stop there. FX, which has carried college football games in recent years, will no longer feature any sports. Also, sources said Fox is looking to rebrand Fox Soccer Channel as an entertainment channel called FX2, a move first reported by the Los Angeles Times.

The transformations would continue Fox’s strategy of shutting down smaller networks unable to gain traction.

Fox has had trouble growing both Fuel and Fox Soccer Channel, which is in 42 million homes.

In 2012, Fuel and Fox Soccer were two of the three lowest Nielsen-rated cable networks in prime time. They both averaged a 0.0 rating (rounded) for the year in prime time. Fuel averaged 40,000 viewers; Fox Soccer averaged 31,000 viewers. Only the Viacom-owned Spanish music channel TR3S, which averaged 23,000, was lower.

Fox thinks converting these channels from niche networks to ones with broader programming will help drive distribution.

Outside of live sports event programming, Fox is planning to launch a sports news operation on both Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2, though initial details of those plans are scant.
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