News Corp. Said to Plan U.S. Sports Network to Rival ESPN Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. (NWSA) is taking steps to start a national U.S. sports network on cable television aimed at challenging Walt Disney Co. (DIS)’s ESPN, according to people with knowledge of the situation.
News Corp. is assembling the required rights from pay-TV carriers and sports organizations, said the people, who requested anonymity because talks are private. While a final decision to move forward hasn’t been made, the company is considering converting its Fuel action-sports network to the new channel, two of the people said.
With a national network, Fox would join Comcast Corp. (CMCSA)’s NBC Sports Network and CBS Corp. (CBS)’s CBS Sports Network in taking on the dominant ESPN. News Corp. last year secured rights to the Pac-12 Conference and Big-12 Conference games and owns 20 regional sports networks. The company in October won TV rights to soccer’s World Cup in 2018 and 2022.
“The success of all these networks will depend on the quality of their sports rights,” David Joyce, an analyst at Miller Tabak & Co. in New York, said in an interview. “There’s been a lot of competition for those rights and that’s driven up costs.”
ESPN is well-positioned to withstand competition because of its rights for Monday Night Football and national baseball and basketball games, Joyce said.
A national sports channel can capture higher affiliate fees from pay-TV providers such as Comcast and DirecTV, according to research firm SNL Kagan. ESPN will command $5.06 per subscriber per month this year, the most of any cable channel, SNL Kagan estimates.
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