News Corp.'s Fox Sports will launch not one, but two new national sports cable channels in August, according to people familiar with the plan.
In March, Fox Sports said it would debut Fox Sports 1 on Aug. 17. At the time, the company downplayed talk that it had plans for a second national service -- Fox Sports 2 -- as well.
But now insiders say Fox Sports 2 will launch around the same time and perhaps even the same day as Fox Sports 1. The new channel will take the place of Fuel TV, a News Corp.-owned network that currently carries a heavy load of Ultimate Fighting Championship programming.
While Fox Sports 1 is getting a big marketing push behind it, Fox Sports 2 will have a much softer launch. It is unclear what sports will be on the new channel initially besides mixed martial arts. Fox Sports 1 already has an impressive lineup for a start-up that includes NASCAR, college football and basketball, with regular-season and postseason Major League Baseball coming in 2014.
Sports channels have a top priority at News Corp. as the company prepares to spin off its entertainment assets into a new stand-alone entity. The new entity -- 21st Century Fox -- will house the cable channels including the sports networks, FX and Fox News as well as Fox Broadcasting and 20th Century Fox. News Corp. will be home to the company’s newspaper and book publishing operations.
Besides the two national sports networks, Fox also owns almost two dozen regional sports channels including Prime Ticket and Fox Sports West in Los Angeles. It recently acquired a 49% stake in New York’s YES, the Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network, with an option to buy the rest down the road. It also recently bought a sports channel in Cleveland.
Fox is also increasing its entertainment presence in cable. In September, it is launching FXX, a sister channel to its popular FX network.
Follow Joe Flint on Twitter @JBFlint.