Football Americas

Fox Soccer set to wind down as News Corp backs new Fox Sports 1

fox soccer channelBy Paul Nicholson
March 6 – Fox Soccer channel looks set for closure as News Corp announced it will launch  a new cable sports network in August taking ESPN head on in the national sports broadcast marketplace. Fox Sports 1 be available to more than 90 million pay- TV homes.

The channel will launch just before the college football season starts and will incorporate the premium football (soccer) rights from Fox Soccer. The new network will also feature Nascar auto racing, Major League Baseball games, soccer, and basketball.

The entry of Fox Sports 1 into the premium sports rights bidding marketplace will spice things up in the US as TV companies target rights contracts held by Disney's ESPN.

They will be competing alongside new sports networks from NBC and CBS as well as regional sports networks and a fledgling Al Jazeera beIN sport network which is using soccer to break into the marketplace.

ESPN recently announced it was pulling out of its loss-making UK channels, and with the threat of fierce domestic competition on the near-horizon, it can now be seen why.

Fox Soccer looks certain to be the casualty for US soccer fans with the best of its content being moved across to the new network. Current inventory includes UEFA Champions League and Europa Cup Games, and beginning in 2015, FIFA World Cup competitions. Fox Soccer has recently lost rights to some of the big European leagues, including the English Premier League, which were the drivers of its service and filled a lot of broadcast hours.

News Corp have said Fox Soccer will likely be rebranded into another kind of network, with announcement coming as soon as later this year, said Randy Freer, co-president of Fox Sports Media Group. One option being considered is to rebrand the niche Fox Soccer channel to an entertainment network, such as a second FX channel.

Meanwhile ESPN has extended their rights deal with Azteca América for Liga MX, Mexico's premier national soccer league, and Copa MX, the Mexican cup competition, to the end of 2015.

For the first time Mexican club matches will air on ESPN's English-language networks, reflecting the influence of the Mexican game and Mexicans on soccer in the US. There will also be more matches on the Spanish language channel ESPN Deportes. The deal includes extensive highlights rights across both English- and Spanish-language studio programming and digital platforms.

The English-language coverage kicks off this weekend. For ESPN Deportes, the extended deal allows the network to air more than 60 Liga MX games through the 2013 season. The multi-screen network ESPN3 will also carry select Liga MX games in English and Spanish and Copa MX games in Spanish.

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