News Corp. may convert Fox Soccer into entertainment network
News Corp. is considering revamping its Fox Soccer cable channel into a general entertainment network, according to people briefed on the matter.
The plans are in a preliminary stage and are not definite, these people said.
With News Corp. planning to convert its Speed channel into a national sports cable network later this year and Fox Soccer recently losing some marquee events to rival outlets, the long-term viability of the network is uncertain. The remaining Fox Soccer fare could easily find its home on Fox Sports 1, which is the tentative name of the new national network.
The idea floating around News Corp. is to turn Fox Soccer into a sister channel of FX, its popular channel behind such critically acclaimed shows as “Justified” and “Sons of Anarchy.” The new network may even be called FX2.
Because Fox Soccer is in almost 50 million homes, News Corp. does not want to lose that valuable real estate. However, going ahead as a soccer-only channel is unlikely given that it recently lost the rights to the English Premiere League to Comcast’s NBC Sports Network.
Another upstart sports channel, beIN Sports, has also been aggressively going after soccer rights. beIn is operated by Al Jazeera, which is backed by the government of Qatar. In other words, beIN Sports has some deep pockets.
The challenge for News Corp. with Fox Soccer will be convincing cable and satellite distributors to let it rebrand the channel. Such a move may be met with resistance because many big pay-TV distributors are looking to cut costs and drop under-performing channels.
Typically, contracts between pay-TV distributors and networks can be voided if the network plans to make substantial programming changes. That’s what happened earlier this month when Time Warner Cable said it would no longer carry Current TV after it was sold to Al Jazeera, which announced a new programming strategy.
Follow Joe Flint on Twitter @JBFlint.
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