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Jim Williams: Fox gets in the game with a new 24-hour sports network

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Starting in August, Fox will join ESPN, NBC Sports Network and CBS Sports Network in the 24-hour sports cable business. Get ready to welcome Fox Sports 1 to your cable or satellite service. It starts August 17.

Our 'secret,' admittedly a very poorly kept one, is now revealed," said Eric Shanks, Fox Sports Media Group co-president and chief operating officer. "Fans are ready for an alternative to the establishment, and our goal for FS1 is to provide the best in-game experience possible, complemented by informative news, entertaining studio shows and provocative original programming."

The network is a relaunch of the channel that is currently Speed, which puts it on the board with 90 million households nationwide. That puts it ahead of both CBS Sports Network and NBC Sports Network. It would trail only ESPN and ESPN2; both networks have around 100 million subscribers each.

Locally, Fox Sports 1 will be the home of Georgetown and the newly revamped Big East, but that is only a small part of the story. The network's portfolio has only the ESPN family of networks as a real challenger.

Fox Sports 1 has deals in place with the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and other college conferences that are part of its agreements with Fox's 22 regional sports networks around the country. It has NASCAR, UFC fights, UEFA Champions League soccer and the World Cup in 2018 and 2022. Major League Baseball will start in 2014. That is a very impressive start for any network.

As we have seen in the past, Fox Sports Media Group has been aggressive in their efforts to gain sports rights. That means the network could challenge for the NBA and NFL cable packages currently owned by ESPN and Turner Sports.

Speaking to the New York Times last week, ESPN president John Skipper told said, "We view Fox as a formidable competitor. They've got the resources of News Corp., and the willingness that Fox has shown in the past to take big bets and to create a difference. We like our hand. We just have to play it well."

While Fox Sports 1 has plenty of live content to choose from, it did make a good pick up by hiring popular talk show host Regis Philbin to host a daily show.

So Fox enters the all sports business, and that really is good news because it means more national coverage of all sports. Don't forget we also have the MLB Network, NFL Network, NBA TV, NHL Network, Comcast SportsNet and MASN. For sports fans, the options have never been better.

Examiner columnist Jim Williams is a seven-time Emmy Award-winning TV producer, director and writer. Follow him on Twitter @wordmandc.

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