SBD/April 10, 2012/Media

Fox Increasing Saturday Primetime Sports Lineup In Effort To Boost Audience Numbers

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Fox Sports has scheduled primetime sports broadcasts for 28 of 32 Saturday nights, beginning with this Saturday and running through December 8. The schedule is led by 12 college football regular-season games (to be announced), the Big Ten Football Championship game, eight regular-season MLB games and Game Four of the World Series. Fox will round out those events with three NASCAR Sprint Cup races and three UFC cards. In addition to the Saturday primetime schedule, Fox also has 20 other primetime sports nights scheduled in '12. Below is the complete list of Fox' Saturday primetime broadcasts through December 8 (Fox).

DATE
EVENT
DATE
EVENT
1/28
UFC
9/1
College football
2/18
NASCAR Sprint Cup (Bud Shootout)
9/8
College football
4/14
NASCAR Sprint Cup (Texas)
9/15
College football
4/28
NASCAR Sprint Cup (Richmond)
9/22
College football
5/5
UFC
9/29
College football
5/12
NASCAR Sprint Cup (Darlington)
10/6
College football
5/19
MLB
10/13
College football
5/26
MLB
10/20
College football
6/2
MLB
10/27
World Series
6/9
MLB
11/3
College football
6/16
MLB
11/10
College football
6/23
MLB
11/17
College football
6/30
MLB
11/24
College football
7/7
MLB
12/1
Big Ten Championship
8/4
UFC
12/8
UFC
 
 

CHANGING THE LINEUP: BROADCASTING & CABLE's John Consoli wrote Fox is "hoping to change the Saturday night broadcast network landscape in a major way" with its primetime lineup. The entire Saturday sports programming package "has been in the planning stages for more than a year." Fox Sports co-President & co-COO Eric Shanks said, "This is a collaborative effort between Fox Sports and Fox Entertainment. We decided to do it because the opportunity was there. Ratings continue to go down on Saturday nights and we thought we should take a swing at programming the night with sports each week." For Fox, the "biggest obstacle came from whether or not they'd be able to schedule the increased number of Saturday night MLB games." Shanks said, "Last year, we televised three or four Saturday night games, but there's a big difference between that number and eight. Scheduling these games was no easy feat. We had to have discussions with all 30 teams and they all had to sign off on the scheduling. Some teams don't like to play Saturday night games before Sunday day games. Some teams would rather play at one or four in the afternoon. We needed a consensus. It took almost all of last baseball season to come up with it" (BROADCASTINGCABLE.com, 4/9). MEDIA LIFE's Toni Fitzgerald wrote, "When you think about it, it seems like a no-brainer." The net's "Baseball Night in America" will be hosted by MLB Network's Matt Vasgersian, Kevin Millar and Harold Reynolds. The changes "should give an immediate boost to Fox' Saturday ratings." The net is averaging a 1.5 Nielsen rating among adults 18-49 "this season, tied for second with NBC behind CBS at 1.9" (MEDIALIFEMAGAZINE.com, 4/9). The L.A. TIMES' Joe Flint wrote on Twitter, "Silly me. I see Fox's move to turn Saturday over to sports as a good thing, not throwing in towel, which is what they were doing."

GEARING UP FOR NEGOTIATIONS: SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's John Ourand notes MLB's "move to prime time should help increase the package's TV ratings, which have been flat at a 1.8 rating for the last three years." It also comes as MLB "opens negotiations for new media rights deals." MLB's deals with ESPN, Fox and Turner Sports end after the '13 season. Shanks said, "What we saw last year with prime-time baseball and what we've seen with UFC and I think what ESPN has seen with college football, you can do good business on Saturday night" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 4/9 issue).
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