So, I said I was going to lay out how a trio of all-sports Fox networks would work, only to find that for the most part, it works with plenty of space to preserve non-live programming, even if you kill FCS. There was one weekend with a multitude of college football games clashing with a UFC event, Premier League soccer, baseball, AND the NASCAR Truck Series, but that’s the exception.
On the other hand, it’s now looking very, very likely to happen, because the English Premier League bidding has attracted as many as five bidders, with a surprising sixth kicking the tires but dropping out. If any but Fox (or marketing firm IMG) win, that is probably the death knell for Fox Soccer. ESPN, NBC, and beIN Sport would all love to be the ones to drive a stake into Fox’s heart, even if they don’t actually pull it off. Oddly, reportedly Discovery Networks, the group mostly known for its networks filled with documentaries (even if verging into the sensationalistic or “reality” these days), was kicking the tires on adding games to its Velocity network, the former HD Theater, one of a number of former HD channels from when HD was a novelty (existing more to show off the technology and lump together several networks’ programming for HD simulcasts than anything else) that now have very little reason to exist, but apparently decided against it.
I’m not surprised NBC didn’t put up much of a fight; I actually hadn’t considered them much of a player to begin with, and for all the pub the Premier League has gotten, F1 might actually net them comparable ratings. On the other hand, I don’t buy the argument that beIN Sport actually picked up too many rights to add the Premier League to that too; I think they’ve shown plenty of signs that they’re willing to launch a second network in each language if circumstances warrant. ESPN would love to get the rights but I think ultimately if they do, they sublicence a number of games to Fox or NBC. My hunch is that it’s a two-horse race between Fox and beIN Sport, with ESPN running a close third that might ultimately form a joint bid with one of the others (more likely Fox). Normally, I might call Fox the favorite, but as always, never underestimate the power of Arab oil money; at the very least, a Fox-ESPN joint bid might be necessary just to fend off beIN Sport.