Will it work? It depends on how much of a fight ESPN puts up. And the rumor is that it may not put up as much of one as you might think. As it turns out, apparently Disney is not as concerned about Fox as it is about NBC.
The reason? NBC is owned by Comcast. The dominant cable company, which has virtually every system here in the Bay Area, can control what channels subscribers can see and how much they pay for them. It's Comcast, and other MSOs (Multiple System Operators) like Time Warner Cable and Cox, who pay ESPN the aforementioned $5 per subscriber.
And that scares ESPN. What if Comcast threatened to move its networks out of the basic lineup and onto a more expensive sports tier if Disney didn't reduce the per sub cost?
With that kind of power, the last thing ESPN wants is to see the NBC Sports Network become popular enough to compete with it. If Comcast can't replace ESPN with its own sports outlet, and it can't, it most likely won't upset the status quo.
Fox can be aggressive. Fox Sports One and Two may give ESPN and ESPN2 a run for their money. But Fox doesn't own any cable systems. It can't control where these new outlets air. It can only try to make them as desirable as possible and hope you'll demand them from Comcast.
ESPN had the opportunity to strengthen its MLB contract, for more money of course, and grab some playoffs, but chose not to. And it knew when it didn't that Fox would.
So it appears that Disney is content to sit back and let Fox drop some cash for sports it thinks will allow these new networks to compete. Hey, a little competition never hurt anyone, did it?
By the way, Fox Sports One and Two are expected to launch softly in August, just in time for college football season. But the big push comes in February 2014 in conjunction with the next Super Bowl which, surprise, is on Fox.
And it wouldn't be like Fox to use the most popular sports event in the US to pound you over the head with the announcement of its new sports networks, would it?
Will ESPN then be content to sit back and watch? Time will tell. See you next year.