As Fox News Channel Enters New Round of Carriage Negotiations, It Sets Its Sights on… ESPN?

By Alex Weprin 

Fox News has moved beyond CNN and MSNBC and has its sights set on a new target… ESPN.

Indeed, at the UBS Media and Communications Conference in New York today, News Corp. COO Chase Carey compared Fox News Channel to ESPN on a number of occasions, arguing that it is as much of a “must-carry” as the sports network.

Carey also confirmed that Fox News was entering into a new round of carriage negotiations with some cable operators. The network is believed to be seeking $1.25 per subscriber per month. At the moment it averages $0.58 per subscriber per month, according to SNL Kagan. Kagan tends to be conservative in its carriage estimates, so the most up-to-date numbers are likely higher.

Whether it gets that $1.25 figure remains to be seen, but Carey said that FNC was “as important a channel as exists” and that customers would switch to a different operator if it was not part of the lineup.

“We are starting to come around again on a round of Fox News distribution,” Carey said. “I would say it is right up there with ESPN in terms of being as important a channel that exists out there.”

ESPN is currently the most valuable cable network in the U.S., pulling in over $4 per subscriber per month in fees. The only non-sports network to regularly crack the $1 sub fee line has been TNT, which averages $0.99 per month, though Disney Channel is believed to have some deals worth more than $1 a month as well.

As we have reported before, CNN and HLN are sold as a package, and currently get $0.51 per month according to SNL Kagan, while MSNBC, the newest of the big three, receives $0.16 per month.