ESPN may get a new cable challenger

News Corp is thinking about turning one of its cable channels into a national sports network.

By Kim Peterson May 31, 2012 2:52PM
Image: Man changing TV channels with remote control (© Flying Colours/Digital Vision/Getty Images)ESPN has enjoyed a long ride at the top of the cable sports heap. But a well-funded rival may be making a run at the business, and is looking at ways to steal ESPN's viewers.

Media giant News Corp (NWS) is considering turning one of its cable channels into a national sports network that would compete with ESPN, reports Bloomberg. News Corp is targeting its Speed channel, which is currently devoted to Nascar auto racing.

The Speed channel is already available in 78 million homes in North America, according to its website, and is one of the fastest growing cable networks. News Corp could easily change the channel's format, keep the name that already has broader sports appeal, and start selling it as an alternative to ESPN.

"There's a lot of optionality with Speed, and it could be turned into a broader sports network," Fox Networks' chief operating officer, David Haslingden, said at an investor conference Thursday, according to Bloomberg. "We haven't decided yet whether we’ll do that, but it’s a great option we have."

The move is undoubtedly generating some heartburn at Disney (DIS), which owns ESPN. The sports network is the biggest driver of Disney profits, and has been able to keep and attract new viewers even after raising subscriber fees. ESPN's programming costs have risen as well, but the network has countered that with higher subscriber fees and ad sales.

Cable and other pay-TV companies hand Disney fistfuls of cash for the right to offer ESPN. One research firm estimates that ESPN gets $5.06 per subscriber per month, Bloomberg reports.

ESPN's kingdom will be tough for News Corp to crack. ESPN has long-term contracts with the National Football League, the SEC and the Pac-12, The New York Times reports. And Disney recently signed a deal with Comcast (CMCSA) that gives Comcast's 40 million subscribers online access to an ESPN video app.

Is there room for a second major sports network? The ESPN watchers I know are addicted to the channel and its various programs. Can News Corp turn the Speed channel into a viable competitor?

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45Comments
May 31, 2012 5:39PM
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ESPN is the anti-Christ of sports!  They are just as much to blame, if not more to blame, for the "me, me, me" attitude of athletes today as the agents and the athletes themselves!
May 31, 2012 3:28PM
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ESPN has been able to "keep" subsctribers despite it's high cost? I wouldn't quite describe it that way.

 

ESPN is dug in like a tick on basic cable pretty much everywhere, forcing people to pay for it whether they want it or not. I also think the majority of cable subscribers are ignorant of the fact the ESPN costs several times what most other channels cost.

 

It bothers me that ESPN and it's fans are subsidized by millions of viewers who don't want or need it.

May 31, 2012 4:19PM
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You mean we'll get another option than from what Tim Tebow and LeBron James are doing? I'm all for it.
May 31, 2012 6:12PM
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competition is always good.  ESPN is getting way too righteous and opinionated.
May 31, 2012 6:39PM
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A competitor would be great if it was actually different, which is NOT too promising. ESPN is a cesspool of obnoxious, know-it-all, left-wing, third-rate, jock-sniffing, wannabe comedians. They don't seem to grasp that fame / celebrity in and of themselves, are not virtues.

May 31, 2012 3:51PM
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Except for Monday Night Football I never watch ESPN.  The ego's of the hosts are waaaaay too big and they always talk down to the viewers.  Screw them!  I watch NHL/MLB and NFL Networks instead

 

May 31, 2012 4:13PM
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hopefully they won't show every yankee and red sox game.  that's always fun for the rest of the country.

May 31, 2012 4:00PM
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competition for espn would be refreshing.i dont even watch it anymore its just the same old same old,boring..and those mike and mike idiots,i would rather watch static on the tube then listen to those new york homers..lets go newscorp

May 31, 2012 4:56PM
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I think people would be willing to look at an alternative. Their programming is not new and fresh.  I don't like a lot of the new anchor personalties.  They might get cable companies to bundle with other channels if price was lower.  I would watch anoter channel for sure.
May 31, 2012 5:17PM
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i'd watch another sports channel in a heartbeat--------ESPN as been the neighborhood bully for far too long already-----in that they are drunk wilh power---they have some people who are utterly disgusting to look at----Hannah Storm is enough to gag you and they seem to just keep pushing her in your face---they even disicplined Tony Kornhieser for his totally honest and accurate discription of how she looked on camera---ESPN doens't want to be policed or to tell the truth if it is not in their opinion---but this is america----what woud you expect----- fairness ? ? ? ?

 

yeah---right-------------------the whole media is disgusting

May 31, 2012 7:19PM
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One of the most disturbing things about trying to watch ESPN, especially Sports Center are the inane hosts...I get off work late and trying to watch Sports Center after midnight is torturous at best...That moron Neil Evert is a complete buffoon!  He makes some stupid remark and then spends the next segment laughing at his own lame excuse of a joke!  And PLEASE don't get me started on chris berman!!  Dear Lord..Please give us an alternative!!!
May 31, 2012 5:04PM
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Don't take the Speed Channel away!  That's one of my favorite one's!!
May 31, 2012 4:09PM
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ya know, Fox tried to compete with ESPN several years ago, when they tried to tie together all the regional Fox channels.  It failed.  Badly.  Why?  Fox Sports doesn't generate their own news content, they tried to make chicken salad out of chicken squat, and they didn't seem interested in going after actual sports content to fill 24 hours.  Even Speed has an overinflated opinion of it's actual desirability--most of their weekday programming is filled by useless reality type shows and inane drivel.  If they didn't have F1, I'd never watch it.   I could give Fox Sports a big piece of advice right now--scrap this idea.  Or, if you really want to throw $250 million away a year, at least fill up time with castoff stuff from Sky Sports.
May 31, 2012 5:43PM
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The games are played different nowadays because players have to play for the cameras with ridiculously easy slam dunks (really, what's so hard about a 6'8" player slamming a basketball 3 feet above him?,  to touchdown dances that require a choreographer, just so ESPN will feature them on the nightly Sportscenter show with their "I'm so hip" smug hosts. I'm sick of it and don't watch Sportscenter.  It's not about sports anymore but showmanship.
May 31, 2012 4:49PM
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DO NOT CHANGE THE SPEED CHANNEL!!

 

 I ALWAYS FEEL THE NEED.. FOR.. SPEED....

May 31, 2012 3:58PM
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Just how much poker can you wach?

Give me Fox Sports or CBS Sports or anything other than ESPN on 93

 channels no less.

May 31, 2012 5:34PM
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only ESPN would insult its viewers by selling POKER as a sport----those idiots even call mike and mike a sports show----Chris  Berman is likely the most looked up to broadcaster on their channel (at least by the others on that idiot channel) and he sucks big time----any other network that brings footbal anouncers have better ones with the exception of Buck and McCarver---but I dont' really know which channel those two are on

 

guess they can't all have Madden and Sumerall---trhe greatest -EVER

May 31, 2012 4:30PM
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nooooo!!!!!! speed is fine the way it is.
May 31, 2012 4:16PM
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An unseasoned listener hearing Chris Burman's voice for the first time must wonder if he's:

a)  being strangled

b)  having a heart attack

c)  attempting to speak for the first time after spending years in a coma

d)  choking on his 4th helping of Pasta Taglierini

 

Hacking his way through a broadcast this guy covers more octaves than an opera singer.  

May 31, 2012 6:36PM
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its baseball season ESPN shows 1 hr of baseball and 5 hrs of football..then again its yankees or red soxs.
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