SBD/December 26, 2013/Media

FS1 Experiencing Growing Pains In First Year, Looks To Build On Original Programming

Onrait (l) appreciates Fox allowing FS1 time to develop
FS1 has been on the air "only since August, making its debut amid considerable hype that included chatter about taking on cable giant ESPN," but the ratings, "improving but still minuscule, confirm it will be a long slog," according to Bob Cohn of the PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW. "Fox Sports Live" co-host Jay Onrait said, "We see this as a long-term thing. It is a business, and we need the ratings to improve, no question about it. We're lucky to be with a company that allows this to happen." Cohn notes UFC programming, along with college football and basketball, "have been the early staples" for FS1. Onrait said, "I see us slowly but surely adding more properties." Bevilacqua Helfant Ventures co-Founder & CEO Chris Bevilacqua said, "The core of the network is going to be built around live sports." FS1 GM & COO David Nathanson "appreciates the value of live programming but also touts the network's original content." Foremost in that category is the studio show "Fox Sports Live," which is "big on graphics and discussion panels of mostly ex-jocks who try to be loud and edgy and certain of their predictions." Nathanson: "Our goal is to take what works and do it with our own Fox attitude and bent. One of the advantages of being a new network is you can pivot quickly." With distribution in around 90 million U.S. homes and an array of live sports, "those inside the network and some outsiders are proclaiming early success." Bevliacqua: "I must say it's been one of the better launches I've seen in a sports network in the last decade" (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 12/26).

BUILDING A FOUNDATION: AD AGE's Jeanine Poggi examines several new networks that debuted during '13 and writes while FS1 "may not yet be a true challenger" to ESPN, it is "starting to build the foundation." The net is averaging "just 297,000 viewers in prime-time, a far cry" from ESPN's average audience during Q3 of more than 2 million. However, FS1's figure is an "improvement over last year, when Speed was averaging about 151,000 viewers." The net had its "biggest month in November, averaging 457,000 viewers in prime-time." Fox' broadcast of Super Bowl XLVIII in February presents an "opportunity to heavily promote FS1 on broadcast air, through events and with additional coverage on the cable channel." Poggi: "Advertisers seem willing to give the network time to grow, and in the interim, are pleased with the high-quality inventory they are getting when FS1's ratings fall short" (, 12/26).
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