News Corp. to Develop ESPN Rival: Report

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - The Walt Disney ( DIS) owned sports-empire ESPN may soon have a rivalry as big as Yankees-Red Sox to talk about. Media giant News Corp ( NWSA) is said to be planning a sports channel of its own.

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. is in talks to develop an all-sports network to challenge the ESPN empire, according to Bloomberg, citing sources with knowledge of the situation.

News Corp. is currently assembling the rights from pay-TV carriers and sports teams, although nothing is final, Bloomberg reported. The media giant may decide to rebrand its Fuel network, which already caters towards action sports, as a competitor to ESPN. Fuel is available to 36 million homes currently. News Corp. is said to have clearance from DirecTV ( DTV), according to two people close to the matter.

ESPN has been a juggernaut for Disney since it acquired Capital Cities/ABC Television in 1996. In the most recent quarter, ESPN drove an increase of $196 million in operating income for the Cable Network segment of Disney, bringing the quarterly total to $967 million.

Both News Corp. and ESPN did not immediately return calls regarding the matter.

Disney shares closed down 64 cents, or 1.45%, at $43.51 on Wednesday. News Corp.'s stock ended the day down 51 cents, or 2.52%, at $19.74.

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-- Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York

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>To submit a news tip, send an email to: Bloomberg reports that News Corp. is in the planning stages to develop an all sports network, and compete with ESPN.