Fox's sports channel to reach 90 million homes on Saturday

Thu Aug 15, 2013 11:21am EDT

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Aug 15 (Reuters) - Fox Sports 1, 21st Century Fox Inc's new sports cable channel that goes live on Saturday, will reach 90 million homes and be carried by all major TV operators, the media company said.

Former holdouts DirecTV, Dish Network Corp and Time Warner Cable Inc will carry the new network, a Fox spokesman said in a statement on Thursday.

While Time Warner Cable and DirecTV will make the channel available to viewers on Saturday, two sources familiar with the matter said the companies are not paying more for the network and do not have a long-term programming deal with Fox Sports 1.

Fox Sports 1 replaces the Speed channel, which focused on motor sports, and it has been asking for higher fees for when the channel makes the switch to cover sports more broadly.

Operators on average pay Fox 22 cents per subscriber per month for the Speed channel, according to research firm SNL Kagan. Time Warner Cable and DirecTV have not yet agreed to pay more than they do for the Speed channel, the sources said.

A Fox spokesman declined to comment on terms of its deals with operators. Dish was not immediately available to confirm it would carry the channel.

Rupert Murdoch's media company is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in the channel, which will feature Nascar, college football and basketball, mixed martial arts and a new show starring Regis Philbin. It aims to take on ESPN, the highly profitable cable sports leader owned by Disney.

Fox has to compete with a powerful lineup at ESPN, which has multiyear rights to many highly watched programs, including the NFL's "Monday Night Football," college football's national championship, pro basketball games and the Wimbledon tennis tournament.

Shares of 21st Century Fox were down 1.2 percent at $31.89 in morning trading.

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