Former daytime television talk show host Regis Philbin is gearing up for his appearance on Fox Sports 1, which launches Saturday.
"I think it's time for ESPN to get a little competition, don't you?" Philbin said.
The longtime Notre Dame football and New York Yankees fan has been taking a crash course to prepare for the show, which will be a drastic turn from talking gossip with housewives. Philbin is also twice the age of the targeted viewership of Fox Sports 1.
Even Philbin was surprised when he got the offer.
"I never thought I would be on an hour-long sports show," he said, adding he wasn't even aware Fox was launching the channel when he was asked to meet with Fox Sports co-president Eric Shanks.
The competition is steep. ESPN has a more than 30-year head start, and there are more than 20 other sports networks outside of the giant. The NFL, Major League Baseball, the NHL and the NBA each have their own channels. Tennis and golf have their own networks. Even college conferences, including the Big 12 and Pac-10, have launched their own channels.
"It is not a hill they have to climb; it's the Grand Canyon," said Mark Shapiro, a former ESPN executive. "ESPN has built such a big moat around itself the Russian army of the Cold War couldn't get in."
The spectrum of sports networks is what David Hill, senior executive vice president of Fox Sports 1 parent company 21st Century Fox, is motivating Fox.
"In the shaky swampy world of television programming, the one solid granite-like area is sports," Hill said. Dozens of non-sports networks have picked up sports programming as the one surefire plan to keep viewers watching TV off the Internet.
Fox already has the rights to NASCAR, a good deal of college football, ultimate fighting, a chunk of soccer and, starting next year, the MLB.
"We're starting from a pretty strong position," Hill said. He hopes to obtain NBA and NFL programming in the future.
"Would you pick this point in time to go into a business that people think is mature and people think, 'Gosh, do you need another national multi-sport network?' and the question is, did people think there was enough news when CNN was giving people 24 hours of news every day?" Shanks asked.