Two big cable network launches are happening in the next few days: Fox Sports 1 and Al Jazeera America.
First up: Fox Sports 1, replacing Speed, the car-racing channel.
It debuts at 6 a.m. Saturday morning.
It's Fox's attempt to go after ESPN and it's massive audience and multi-billion dollar revenue. (If you're a cable or satellite subscriber, you are paying more than $60 a year to ESPN, whether you watch it or not.)
Rupert Murdoch was able to up-end CNN 17 years ago. We'll see how well they can take on another giant.
As the New York Times noted today, the station will attempt to be a looser, more "fun" version of ESPN with plenty of programming to start, including a sports talk panel show hosted by Regis Philbin.
It has Pacific-12 and Big 12 Conference football and basketball; Big East basketball; Nascar; the UFC; the UEFA Champions League; Major League Baseball (starting in 2014) and World Cup soccer coverage (starting with the women’s tournament in 2015). And last week, Fox added the United States Open golf championship, paying $1.2 billion over 12 years to outbid NBC and ESPN to broadcast a sport it has never carried.
Philbin mentioned that he is under contract for 20 weeks, which is oddly brief. His show "Crowd Goes Wild!" will compete with "Around the Horn" and "Pardon the Interruption" on ESPN.
Locally, you'll be able to pick up Fox Sports 1 on Comcast Channel 75, AT&T U-Verse Channel 652, DirecTV Channel 219, and Dish TV Channel 150.
Al Jazeera America will take over Al Gore's Current TV on Tuesday, promising to be more fact based and less celebrity oriented than its rivals.
"There will be less opinion, less yelling, said CEO Ehab Al Shihabi during a Thursday conference call.
The Qatar-based company is investing hundreds of millions of dollars into the launch, with 900 employees from the start, based out of New York City. (They purchased Current TV for $500 million last year.)
Al Jazeera America is starting with 12 U.S. bureaus but has chosen to skip over Atlanta, opting for Nashville and Miami as its Southeastern hubs.
An Al Jazeera spokesman provided this station: "Atlanta is a great city that was seriously considered for to be one of the first 12 bureaus. The decision to locate in the 12 cities we selected was based on a variety of solely editorial factors. Al Jazeera America has every intention of extensively covering what happens in and around Atlanta and the whole Southeastern United States from the moment it launches on August 20."
According to TVNewser, management acknowledges that Americans have a very high negative perception of Al Jazeera based on its Middle East coverage and converting people to viewers will be a slow slog.
As most newcomers promise, they will run fewer ads than their rivals at first - six minutes an hour vs. 15 to 18.
They hired a few well-known names, including CNN's chief business correspondent Ali Velshi, who will anchor the weeknight primetime show "Real Money." Former CNN morning host Soledad O'Brien will become a correspondent on "America Tonight," a nightly newsmagazine show, and produce documentaries for the network.
Joie Chen, who worked for a decade at CNN in the 1990s, will host "America Tonight."
You'll be able to find Al Jazeera America locally at:
- AT&T U-verse TVChannel 189
- Comcast CorporationChannel 107
- DIRECTVChannel 358
- DISH NetworkChannel 215