Fox Sports 1 still has work to do to get on the air nationally

Mike Stobe

The planned national all-sports network by Fox Sports will be working hard to achieve national distribution by launch.

Fox Sports 1 was touted as a national all-sports network with a reach deep into enough households to be a threat to the dominance of Disney's mega-network, ESPN, from day-one. To get there, however, Fox is still working on negotiating the carriage deals that will put their channel on the basic tier, regardless of cable or satellite provider. The new Big East Conference, featuring Villanova, Georgetown, St. John's, Marquette, Xavier, and Butler, will be a centerpiece of the network's live sports lineup.

With a month to go before launching Fox Sports 1, the network still hasn't negotiated deals to ensure the network will be carried on three major distributors, according to SportsBusinessDaily. The three distributors are DirecTV, Dish Network and Time Warner Cable (TWC). These services represent more than 46 million of the 90 million subscribers that Fox executives have been touting that FS1 would reach -- including a strong foothold in the important New York City Market.

SBD's report raises little alarm that the deals will get done, the only question remaining is whether or not they will be done in time for the August 17th launch date. In many cases, cable carriage deals don't go into effect until just after a channel's launch.

This news makes it less likely that the network will reach a full 90 million homes when they officially convert the SPEED network to a multi-sport channel.

Part of the hold-up is that Fox is hoping to change the subscriber fees that they will receive on the network, based on their belief that the viewer-base for FS1 will be much broader than the motorsports-only SPEED Network. Carriers reportedly believed they would be able to maintain the lower SPEED rates, which amount to approximately 23 cents per subscriber (monthly), while Fox is seeking an initial increase to 80 cents per subscriber and an eventual jump to $1.50 per subscriber.

Fox is also bundling negotiations for their switch of the Fox Soccer Channel (which is becoming a non-sports entertainment network) into the same discussions.

Launching with 90 million homes in tow was part of Fox's efforts to promote their new all-sports network as an equal to ESPN. They have arranged over 5,000 hours of live-event coverage for the first year of the network, to include the Big East Conference's basketball season and tournament.

AAC cuts Paquette loose

Former Big East (now American Athletic Conference) associate commissioner John Paquette was sent packing by AAC commissioner Mike Aresco last month, according to a report from AJerseyGuy.com. Paquette had worked for the conference since 1990, helping to lead media relations for the organization through a litany of changes that ensued.

Aresco's move was reportedly driven by a meeting of conference presidents where they instructed the commissioner to let his media chief go. According to the report:

Word has it that a group of Presidents-and the buzz is that Susan Herbst at UConn and Gerald Turner at SMU, told Aresco they think the league should go in another direction in its promotion.

The removal of Paquette arrives just as the new Big East conference is in the process of opening new offices in New York and hiring a staff to fill those offices. The league named former WNBA executive Val Ackerman its commissioner last month. If he were willing to relocate from Providence, Paquette might be a welcome addition to the new conference -- and a familiar face for many.

The new Big East would welcome Paquette's rolodex of media contacts and his familiarity with the contingent of national and local reporters who flocked to Madison Square Garden every Spring for the old Big East's tournament.

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