Tuesday afternoon marked a historic day for the FOX Sports Media Group (FSMG), which revealed “the worst kept secret in sports television” and officially unveiled its plans to launch a new, national, multi-sport network called FOX Sports 1. In FOX Sports’ 20th anniversary year, FS1 will launch Aug. 17 and will boast nearly 5,000 hours of live event, news and original programming in its first 12 months.
A 24-hour sports network that plans to use all of FOX Sports and News Corporation’s assets, personalities and resources — FS1 will be in 90 million homes from the very start. It’ll feature live college basketball, college football, Major League Baseball, NASCAR, soccer and UFC contests.
Additionally, it’ll feature Regis Philbin and Mike Tyson.
Yes, Regis and Iron Mike.
Make no mistake — this isn’t going to be your typical 24-hour sports network.
At a press event held at the Marriot Marquis, a Mount Rushmore of FOX Sports personalities lined the walls of a conference room as FSMG Co-Presidents and COOs Randy Freer and Eric Shanks, FSMG EVP of Programming and Research Bill Wanger and FOX Sports chairperson David Hill fielded questions from a pool of reporters.
Here are five questions and answers regarding the new network:
1. How is Regis involved?
Regis Philbin will host RUSH HOUR, which will air live 5-6 p.m. ET every weekday, on FS1. A diehard Notre Dame supporter and lifetime New York sports fanatic, Regis is as engaged as ever in the latest in sports and entertainment.
I asked him for his take on Manti Te’o, the controversial Notre Dame linebacker, and his response was spot on: “The media’s had a field day with him, huh? You’d think he’d done something to hurt the lives of others the way he got it. Fine player, but I’m concerned about Te’o. It has nothing to do with the girlfriend business. I’m concerned because of the way he performed against Alabama. I’m concerned because of the way he ran at the Combine last week. I’m very curious to see what team drafts him in April. He was a fine player at Notre Dame, but the pros could be a different story.”
RUSH HOUR, according to Philbin, will touch on the day’s most relevant sports news. It’ll feature multiple guests, and the plans are still fluid. “We want to have fun,” he said. “That’s what sports are all about.”
Shanks was introduced to Regis a few years back by a mutual friend, Rick Rosner. They kept in touch over the years, and when the news of FS1 came to surface, Shanks immediately thought of Regis. “I still honestly think, once this show goes on the air, people are going to think, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’ [Regis] really is an amazing sports fan.”
RUSH HOUR will be filmed in New York City and will premiere in August.
2. What about Mike Tyson?
Ah, Iron Mike. Earlier this year, FSMG unveiled a unique and groundbreaking documentary franchise titled BEING. An all-access deep dive into the lives of today’s biggest athletes and sports personalities, the BEING series started with BEING: LIVERPOOL, a behind-the-scenes look at Liverpool F.C. last fall. In the months that followed, BEING: GREG JENNINGS, BEING: BRIAN WILSON and BEING: CLINT BOWYER have all been well-received.
The first subject to appear this fall on FS1 is BEING: MIKE TYSON. Currently in production, the documentary will go behind-the-scenes with Tyson and touch upon his life today as a devoted husband and father in Nevada. BEING: MIKE TYSON will provide an all-access look at the prizefighter’s life after the lights have dimmed.
3. What does this mean for the UFC?
UFC president Dana White was in the crowd Tuesday, and his sport is going to be on full display on Wednesday nights on FS1. Twelve Fight Nights are already scheduled for the first 12 months of FS1 programming, and an hour-long studio show will precede a full card of UFC bouts on those nights. Even during weeks in which there is no UFC card, a program called UFC Tonight will serve as the weekly authority for UFC news and information. FS1 will carry UFC fights on Wednesdays and the preliminaries for pay-per-view events on Saturdays. Fans wanting more UFC programming than they usually receive will get it at FS1.
4. What about soccer?
No more watching reruns of the previous night’s games or listening to talking heads scream about what happened 12 hours earlier. One of the more intriguing aspects of the FS1 launch is the expansion of more live soccer on television screens in the United States. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons will feature live afternoon coverage of the UEFA Champions League, the UEFA Europa League and CONCACAF Champions League matches. Additionally, FOX has acquired the rights to the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2015 and 2019; as well as the FIFA Men’s World Cup in 2018 and 2022. Matches will be shown live and on delay, and there will be a full slate of weekly magazine and highlight shows to complement the matches. You don’t have to go to the one soccer pub in your city to find a television that has your team on. You can watch them live on FS1. And with Gus Johnson on the play-by-play.
5. What about news and highlights?
FS1 is not going to be just live events and original programming. News and highlights will play a vital role in the network, as well. FOX SPORTS LIVE will serve as the backbone of FS1, offering around-the-clock news coverage, highlights and an information-rich ticker that’ll guide your sports viewing needs.
Every night at 11 ET, there will be a news program immediately following the evening’s live events from a new studio in Los Angeles. A morning newscast is expected to launch in January 2014 in conjunction with Super Bowl XLVIII on FOX.
“Just as FOX NFL Sunday reinvented the pregame show, FOX SPORTS LIVE breaks new ground in the way sports news is presented,” Shanks said. “We already have the home-team advantage of significant audiences watching local games on our 22 regional sports networks as a platform to launch our new national news.”
Three additional notes worth passing along from Tuesday’s event:
• FOX Sports 1’s "Fox Football Daily" will feature Terry Bradshaw, Jay Glazer and Mike Pereira and will air nightly at 6 ET.
• FOX Sports 1 will have regular-season MLB games in 2014 and select League Championship Series and Division Series games.
• FOX Sports 1 will tap into FOX production studios in New York, Los Angeles, and Charlotte.
Back to Regis.
When asked what he thought of Michael Strahan’s work on Live with Kelly and Michael, the 81-year-old Philbin looked up and down at the 41-year-old former NFL great sitting beside him.
“He’s all right.”
Strahan responded with a nod and a smile.
It’s an exciting time for FOX Sports.
FS1 launches in August, but the wheels are already in motion.