The impending launch of Fox Sports 1 is one of the major stories in sports media. Despite months and months of reporting, hints, indications, rumors, speculation, and more, Fox has still yet to officially announce the launch of Fox Sports 1. It's popular knowledge that Fox will at some point rebrand Speed Channel (in over 80 million homes) as their new national all sports cable channel.
But the grand Fox Sports reshuffling may not end at just one national cable channel. It's behind a paywall, but SBJ indicates Fox will also rebrand Fuel TV (in 37 million homes) as Fox Sports 2 in August.
More details are available at MMAweekly.com incluing all sports programming being removed from Fox's entertainment channel FX. FX has not only televised UFC and The Ultimate Fighter, but college football and NASCAR. In addition, the plans are still in place to abandon Fox Soccer and convert it into an all-entertainment channel. Fox Soccer is in a few more million homes than Fuel TV, which is currently one of the least distributed sports networks. It's unknown what may happen to the premium Fox Soccer Plus channel.
It's a rebranding effort the likes of which we've never seen in sports television. Here's a summary in case your head is spinning off the rest of your body…
*Speed Channel -> Fox Sports 1
*Fuel TV -> Fox Sports 2
*Fox Soccer -> Mystery entertainment channel
*FX -> no more sports
It's an interesting strategy from Fox. Take sports content from 4 different channels and funnel them into two brand new national sports channels to be their own versions of ESPN and ESPN2. The only difference is that both ESPN channels are in approximately 100 million homes. Fox Sports 1 would launch in over 80 million homes while Fox Sports 2 would come into being with less than 40% of ESPN2's reach.
Fox Sports 1 will definitely have a lineup of sports that would place it on that next tier in prestige behind ESPN with NASCAR, Champions League soccer, UFC, MLB, college football and more to fill airtime. But what will air on Fox Sports 2? Will it be the less attractive content of the R.I.P. channels Speed, Fuel, and Fox Soccer? NASCAR qualifying perhaps? Archived soccer footage? AMA Supercross? If so, it's difficult to imagine just how much of an impact Fox Sports 2 will make with such low distribution figures and a mish mash of secondary content.
Fox Sports 1 will get all the headlines, but watch carefully for what kind of programming News Corp. puts on FS2 because it will tell you plenty about Fox's true ambitions with this rebranding. Will Fox Sports 2 merely be leftover crumbs from channels gone by the wayside or will News Corp. try to build not one, but two challengers to the Bristol behemoth?