NEW YORK — At 6 a.m. on a Saturday in mid-August, the newest entry into the sports network competition will do what American fans love: talk football.
Fox Sports 1 debuts this weekend with a hint of the sort of programming it will offer up in its bid to lure viewers — from every other form of entertainment, in general, and from ESPN, in particular.
For now, the pro and college football coverage is just chatting, though the NCAA games will come soon enough; any possibility of NFL action is still a ways off. Major League Baseball, NASCAR Sprint Cup races and U.S. Open golf are lined up for future years. The first week of FS1 will feature a NASCAR Truck Series race, UFC fights and UEFA Champions League soccer games.
Big 12 and Pac-12 football will anchor the network in the fall, and those conferences will be joined by the new Big East come basketball season. Those are the kind of regular, high-profile live events that will attract viewers to the channel, after which they might stick around for its sports network staples of commentary, interview and documentary shows.
A Baylor-West Virginia football game on a Saturday afternoon last fall, for example, averaged 1.3 million viewers on FX, which the company previously used to air some sports events on cable. A prime-time basketball game between old and new Big East members Marquette and Georgetown last winter on ESPN was watched by 884,000 people, according to Nielsen.
The benchmark of sports network success right now is 1.2 million homes tuned in each night during prime time; that's ESPN's average this year through late July, according to Nielsen. Speed, which FS1 is replacing, averaged 155,000. NBC Sports Network was at 273,000, ESPN2 at 317,000.
FS1 hits the air at 6 a.m. EDT on Saturday, available in about 90 million homes, with a college football preview show. Along with the live events, the day's programming includes Michael Strahan interviewing Tom Brady — the former New York Giants defensive lineman beat the quarterback's New England Patriots in the Super Bowl in 2008. "Fox Sports Live," the channel's answer to ESPN's "SportsCenter," premieres in its regular 11 p.m. slot.
Analysts on "Fox Sports Live" will include a lineup of retired sports stars: the NBA's Gary Payton, the NFL's Donovan McNabb and Ephraim Salaam, tennis' Andy Roddick.
More ex-football players will appear on the network's entries into the crowded NFL talk field: "Fox Football Daily" and a one-hour Sunday morning pregame show. Joining other Fox analysts are Randy Moss, Brian Urlacher, Ronde Barber and Scott Fujita.