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News Corp. Takes on ESPN With Fox Sports 1

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NewsCorp.'s long-anticipated plans to launch a national sports network have finally come together. On August 17, the company will convert Speed TV to Fox Sports 1, launching it in 90 million U.S. homes.

The new channel will take advantage of News Corp.'s rights to college basketball and football, along with NASCAR, soccer, and UFC. The news comes as the media giant prepares to spin off its publishing business from the entertainment businesses this summer.

Earlier Tuesday at the Deutsche Bank investor conference, News Corp's COO Chase Carey called sports are a "natural fit," and said they've been a "driving force" of growth at the company. Carey also noted that sports must be watched in real time, which gives the company a rare ability to draw ratings in an increasingly time-shifted world.

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There's no question that Fox's new sports venture is taking aim at Walt Disney's sports juggernaut ESPN, as well as NBC Sports. (Like NBC, CNBC is a unit of Comcast's NBC Universal unit.)

"We're not trying to beat ESPN. Sports is a huge arena," Carey insisted. "We've proven over the years that we can do interesting and exciting things. We think we'll enlarge the category. I think there's plenty of room for us to create an exciting business."

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Carey may not be looking to cannibalize ESPN, but he'd certainly like to recreate its ability to grow subscription fees from cable and satellite TV operators to the highest in the industry.

The fact that News Corp is launching its channel with such widespread distribution means the media conglomerate doesn't need to worry about securing pay TV deals. But Carey does need to worry about growing those subscriber fees and growing advertising revenue. Sports may be valuable for drawing viewers, but sports costs are also on the rise.

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—By CNBC's Julia Boorstin; Follow her on Twitter: @JBoorstin

  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.