Since it went on the air in 1979, ESPN has been the king of cable sports programming.
There have been some challengers over the years. Remember SportsChannel America back in the early 1990s? Recently, NBC Sports Network and CBS Sports Network have tried, but are nowhere close to being in ESPN’s league.
But if I were ESPN, I would be seriously be concerned with what was announced on Tuesday.
In what had been one of the worst-kept secrets out there, FOX Sports Media Group officially announced it will launch its sports cable channel FOX Sports 1 on Saturday, Aug. 17.
FS1 will be available in over 90 million homes, making this the biggest sports cable network launch in history, and one of the largest network launches ever. At the outset, FS1 boasts nearly 5,000 hours of live event, news and original programming annually.
“Our ‘secret,’ admittedly a very poorly kept one, is now revealed,” FSMG co-president and COO Eric Shanks said. “Fans are ready for an alternative to the establishment, and our goal for FS1 is to provide the best in-game experience possible, complemented by informative news, entertaining studio shows and provocative original programming.”
FS1 will have college basketball, college football, NASCAR, soccer and UFC. On launch day, FS1 will have a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race from Michigan and “UFC on FS1 1” in prime time. In 2014, FSMG’s new rights agreement with MLB takes effect, bringing regular and postseason games to FS1.
FS1 will challenge ESPN’s “SportsCenter” when it introduces “FOX Sports Live.” It will also have a morning newscast is expected to launch in January 2014 in conjunction with FSMG’s Super Bowl XLVIII coverage.
Having a choice of what channel viewers will watch for their sports news, to me, is key. “SportsCenter” has gotten away, for the most part, from being a straight sports news program. There seems to be more and more debates on the show, and they can be embarrassing, at times. Earlier this week, when “SportsCenter” had a debate of which streak was more impressive, the Miami Heat’s NBA winning streak or the Chicago Blackhawks’ NHL points streak, ESPN NBA analyst and ESPN2 “First Take” debater Stephen A. Smith sided with the Heat because the Blackhawks had three ties. If Smith had a clue, he would have realized that the last time NHL games ended in ties was the 2003-04 season. The three “ties” were actually overtime or shootout losses.
If FS1 can stick to having a sports news program that sticks to reporting the news (a novel concept, don’t you think?), then it can lure viewers away from ESPN.
On Aug. 17, the battle begins. I can’t wait to watch.
There are plenty of college basketball games on TV today. Most of the games that are on TV are listed on the Scoreboard page.
However, because of space constraints, not all the games being televised could be listed. Here are other games that will be on TV and the Internet today.
ESPNU and ESPNU HD — Providence at Connecticut, noon; Texas A&M at Arkansas, 2 p.m.; SEC women’s tournament semifinals, 4 and 6 p.m.; Horizon League tournament second semifinal, 8:30 p.m.; Horizon League Tournament first semifinal, 10:30 p.m. (same-day tape).
ESPN3.com — America East Conference tournament quarterfinals, noon, 2:30, 6 and 8:30 p.m.; Southern Conference tournament quarterfinals, noon, 2:30, 6 and 8:30 p.m.; Big South Conference tournament semifinals, noon and 2 p.m.; MAAC tournament, 2:30, 4:30, 7:30 and 9:30 p.m.; Horizon League tournament first semifinal, 6 p.m.
CBS Sports Network and CBSSN HD — UAB at Memphis, noon; Patriot League tournament semifinals, 2 and 4:30 p.m.; Xavier at Butler, 6:30 p.m.; Nevada at Colorado State, 8:30 p.m.
Big Ten Network and BTN HD — Minnesota at Purdue, noon; Nebraska at Iowa, 2:15 p.m.; Big Ten women’s tournament semifinals, 5 and 7:30 p.m.
Pac-12 Network and Pac-12 HD — Oregon at Utah, 2:30 p.m.; Oregon State at Colorado, 4:30 p.m.; Southern California at Washington State, 6:30 p.m.; Pac-12 women’s tournament semifinals, 9 and 11:30 p.m.
CBS Sports and Turner Sports will provide live coverage of all 67 games from the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Coverage starts with the First Four on truTV March 19-20.
Turner Sports will televise 41 games across its three television networks (TBS, TNT and truTV).
CBS Sports will have 26 games, including the second round, third round, Sweet 16, Elite 8, Final Four semifinals and national championship. The semifinals are April 6, and the championship game is April 8.
School hoops, hockey
Time Warner Cable SportsChannel 50 (standard definition) and 1803 high definition) will have the New York State Class A boys’ regional high school basketball final between Scotia-Glenville and Bishop Ludden tonight at 8.
There will be two regional finals games today on TWCS-1. At noon, it’s the girls’ Class AA contest between Albany and Cicero-North Syracuse. That’s followed at 2 p.m. by the boys’ Class AA game between Troy and Henniger.
On Sunday, TWCS-50 and 1803 have the state high school hockey championship games. The Division 2 final is at 12:30 p.m., and the Division matchup is at 3:30 p.m.