FS1, the new sports channel from Fox, is not only taking aim at its largest cable TV competitor, ESPN; the station, which will include action from sports like Major League Baseball, NASCAR, college football and college basketball, is also aiming to steal coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic games in Sochi, Russia from NBC.
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The latest: Fox will formally announce today that it will add Picabo Street, the Olympic gold medalist in the Super G in the 1998 Winter Olympics, as an analyst for its FS1 cable channel, which launches Aug. 17. FS1 has some advantages in that, like the CBS and NBC general-interest sports channels, it can get cross-promotion and various tie-ins from what airs on the broadcast networks.
Rick Jaffe, a Fox Sports senior vice president, seems pretty psyched: “Picabo’s personality is contagious.”
And even though NBC obviously has exclusive rights to interviewing athletes at Olympic event venues and at the international broadcast centers, Jaffe suggests the capability of drones today could help Fox make an end-run around traditional coverage: “We’ve got the Russians on our side and hope they can help us pull it off.” (We hope this isn’t
necessary: He’s joking.)
Fox will also formally announce the addition of David Neal, who spent more than three decades at NBC Sports and oversaw NBC’s coverage at nine Olympics until 2010.
Neal will head up Fox/FS1 coverage of next season’s Super Bowl in New York as well as coverage of soccer’s World Cup, which starts on Fox with the 2015 women’s tournament. He says of the 52 games in that event, the split will be pretty much even between Fox and FS1.
Neal, on the addition of Street, notes, “What we’re learning now is that just because NBC has the Olympic footage, that doesn’t preclude someone like Picabo Street offering her analysis — and entertaining analysis is something of value whether or not you own the TV rights.”
For the Super Bowl, Neal says Fox will follow what CBS did last season for the week leading up to the big game when it built studio sets in New Orleans for news shows, daytime talk and its CBS Sports Network cable channel. “Without question, that’s a (programming) trend that will continue and only grow,” Neal says.
Neal says in the week leading up to the Super Bowl for them next season, FS1 will have daily shows — which will include on-air names such as Terry Bradshaw, Michael Strahan and Howie Long — on sets constructed on Manhattan’s Broadway, which will be closed to traffic. And, says Neal, Fox will construct some sort of field so analysts can demonstrate what they’re talking about: “You have to have a field in the middle of Broadway.”
Any competition in the area of sports broadcasting is a good thing, as ESPN, partnered with ABC, has been dominant for too long.