Can Rupert Murdoch Crush ESPN Like Fox Did CNN?

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Imagine you and I (yes, you!) sitting in a bar just off Wall Street -- maybe on Stone Street -- or we're at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park. Maybe we're enjoying a Molson Export in Toronto, a Guinness pint in Dublin or just a regular old Amstel Light in a suburban Phoenix strip mall-situated tavern.

That's the context from which this conversation spews. Sarcastic, but genuine. Even loving. I mean what I say, yet I mean no harm. The beer is reasonably flowing; we can be honest and leave it all on the ice.

Deep down I think that, by and large, social conservatives are maniacs. I count some great friends and family members in this group of nut cases. I reserve similar judgment (it's so wrong to judge, but all do!) for whacked-out Libertarians and self-righteous California Toyota Prius owners. So it's all good. Plus, I'm buying the next round.

With that said, Rupert Murdoch's Fox -- owned by his growing News Corp ( NWSA) empire -- just made it official. They're going after Disney's ( DIS) ESPN.

I'm not much of a fan of Fox's cable news channel, but I sure as heck respect what they have accomplished. Straight from Murdoch's involvement all the way "down" to the personalities and producers who drive the day-to-day. They are incredibly good at what they do -- agree or disagree with the network's prevailing political viewpoints.

Don't buy the soft talk from NWSA COO Chase Carey that "We're not trying to beat ESPN." Well played.

Fox Sports will not beat ESPN overnight. However, with an assist from Comcast's ( CMCSA) NBC Sports Network and CBS's ( CBS) CBS Sports Network, it will slowly ding away at ESPN's dominance. Don't be surprised if, one day, it establishes itself as a strong No. 2 or an equal to ESPN or even leapfrogs existing sports network.

Rupert Murdoch and his people don't fool around. They're no joke. If you don't think they play to win, you haven't been paying attention. Look at what Fox News did to CNN. It absolutely crushed it. No doubt, it had an assist from Twitter.

Back in the day, CNN was the go-to place for Breaking News. James Earl Jones, brother! But that's gone. There's no question Murdoch saw this trend developing.

While you can tout Breaking News like most organizations do, you can no longer -- thanks to the immediacy of Twitter and other platforms -- build a brand image around it. CNN had/has nothing but this to attract eyeballs and, now, it's gone.

Fox News -- love them or hate them -- came in and completely disrupted the cable news model. It opened the door for MSNBC, which leaves CNN struggling to stay ahead of CNBC ratings-wise in some time slots. CNBC, a relative niche network, should not be coming anywhere near CNN in the numbers.

While I don't expect such a swift downfall for ESPN, keep your eyes open. The suits at Disney will.

I have been bullish NWSA for months now. Fantastic stock to own given all of the moves Murdoch has made, including the sports push and plan to spin-off publishing by summer. And NWSA smashed its 52-week high today crossing the $30 mark.

The beauty of the News Corp story - and don't get me wrong, Disney, Comcast and CBS, among others are all worthy competitors - is that it only slightly involves names such as Netflix ( NFLX) and Apple ( AAPL). These companies -- in different ways -- play roles in the narrative, but the old guard media still holds the cards. They own and control the most desirable premium content, namely sports - the ultimate, last bastion of appointment viewing.

Murdoch didn't purchase a stake in (with plans to buy more) the YES network (Yankees Sports and Entertainment) for nothing. He hasn't been gobbling up regional and international entities and sports rights for nothing. And he's not anywhere near finished. He's empire building. And he's absolutely doing it with the not-so-long-term vision of annihilating ESPN.

In some ways, ESPN is ripe for the picking. Later this week and next, I will get into reasons why ESPN is vulnerable and offer ideas of different directions News Corp might take its forthcoming national sports network.

Now, it's your turn to buy a round. Just don't start talking politics!

-- Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.
Rocco Pendola is TheStreet's Director of Social Media. Pendola's daily contributions to TheStreet frequently appear on CNBC and at various top online properties, such as Forbes.