Fox Sports 1 has struck agreements with three major distributors that will ensure that the new cable network will be available in the majority of pay-TV homes when the network launches this Saturday, people familiar with the matter said.
The three carriers -- satellite broadcasters DirecTV and Dish and cable operator Time Warner Cable -- all have agreed to carry Fox Sports 1 when it launches. Those three distributors combined reach over 40 million homes.
A Time Warner Cable spokeswoman said it would have the channel on its systems when it launches. However, final distribution contracts are still being hammered out with all three companies.
Fox Sports 1 is using real estate previously held by the Speed Channel. Fox was seeking a big fee increase from distributors to carry the network. According to industry consulting firm SNL Kagan, Speed received about 23 cents per-subscriber, per-month. The price Fox Sports 1 is seeking in the first year is said to be in the neighborhood of 80 cents, which is a likely sticking point in negotiations.
The network will debut this Saturday with a NASCAR race and ultimate fighting. Fox Sports 1 also will have a heavy load of college football and soccer. Next year, it will add Major League Baseball. Fox is also launching a sister channel this Saturday called Fox Sports 2.
Fox Sports 1 parent 21st Century Fox has a lot riding on the new sports channel, which it hopes will eventually challenge Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN empire.
Follow Joe Flint on Twitter @JBFlint.