• Fox to launch 1, possibly 2 sports channels

    Seriously. I got this tip from several sources yesterday... Fox plans on converting its low-watched Speed channel to "Fox Sports 1" and there are rumors it's not going to stop there... Fuel might become "Fox Sports 2." These would be general purpose sports channels to compete with ESPN, not regional sports providers; the company has Fox Sports and Prime Ticket for that purpose.

    Stop, my head is going to explode.

    Let's say this wasn't the most welcome news at a time when pay-TV providers are struggling to pay for an increasingly expensive slate of local sports channels that, frankly, aren't as popular as they think they are. It costs close to $100 for the average person to get cable or satellite these days, and more high-end expensive programming isn't going to help that.

    So then, I stopped, had a little something (non-alcoholic) to drink, and I began to realize that I actually saw the good and the bad of this. It was almost like one of those cartoons where there was an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other.

    This is a copyrighted image but you know what? It's perfect, I'm talking about Fox and this show is on Fox.

    Angel:Calm down SS, it's all going to be fine.
    Devil:Right. Just hand over your paycheck to the cable company and we'll move on.

    A:Competition is good! A new sports channel might just get those ESPN folks to lower their prices!
    D:Or, this new sports channel might try to charge as much as ESPN.

    A:It's not really a new channel -- Speed is already out there, this is just a rebranding.
    D:Is it like when Ted Kaczynski started calling himself the Unabomber? I don't remember that going well.

    A:Sports fans who want a new perspective will finally have a choice.
    D:Like all those regional sports networks, sports, radio, web sites, etc. don't already give them a choice?

    A:Fox came into the news business and changed the way people see news.
    D:Yeah, I agree with that... sort of.

    OK, probably time to stop that morality play before it gets political.

    It's not clear whether Fox will try to demand massive pay increases for its new channels. Of course they are going to want more money if they succeed but will it be an organic thing, where prices go up if viewers go up? Will it be more like recent transactions with Time Warner Cable where major dollar commitments will be required before anything happens at all?

    One more sidebar, because the pressure is welling up inside:

    I'm a sports fan. Of course I'm a sports fan, mighty proud to say I'm always mighty proud to say it. I consider the hours I consider with a remote in my hand to be golden. Helps me cultivate horse sense, and cool head and a keen eye.

    But just as I say that nothing beats the sublime moment when your team clinches the division or when your driver (and everyone else) walks away from a spectacular crash unharmed, so I also say that watching sports is not and should not be the overconsuming passion of my life. I don't like the idea of spending more on sports programming than I do on gas to heat my home or water to wash my clothes. It burns me up to think of the billions of dollars spent on sports that could be spent on curing cancer or addressing any one of the pressing problems of our age.

    At the end of the day, our little blog isn't going to convince Fox and its massive machine to stop creating a sports network; it's not even going to convince you not to watch it. So all we can do is hope that Fox's long history with pay TV gives them a reasonable attitude. We don't need another ESPN-type deal costing subscribers up to $25 per month. We just want to sit down and watch the game.

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