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News Corp. Confirms It’s Considering National Sports Network

News Corp. confirmed it’s considering transforming one of its cable channels into a national sports network, challenging Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN.

The company’s Speed cable channel, which focuses on Nascar auto racing, could become a more general-interest sports network, Fox Networks Chief Operating Officer David Haslingden said today at an investor conference in New York. Speed is available in more than 80 million homes in North America, according to its website.

“There’s a lot of optionality with Speed, and it could be turned into a broader sports network,” he said. “We haven’t decided yet whether we’ll do that, but it’s a great option we have.”

News Corp. was taking steps to start a national U.S. sports network on cable TV, people with knowledge of the situation said in March. Fox would be able to pair the channel with its 20 regional networks, which broadcast professional and collegiate athletics to local U.S. markets.

Pay-TV companies such as Comcast Corp. and DirecTV pay more for sports networks than any other type of channel on basic cable packages, according to research firm SNL Kagan. ESPN will command $5.06 per subscriber per month this year, the most of any cable channel, SNL Kagan estimates.

News Corp., based in New York, fell 1 percent to $19.20 in New York at the close. The shares have gained 7.6 percent this year.

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