SBD/October 6, 2016/SMT Conference

Fox Execs Continue To Be Bullish About Bayless Addition, Say SB Ad Sales Going Well

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Horowitz said the addition of Skip Bayless to Fox has elevated ratings
Fox Sports is still taking swings at ESPN and doubters of its cable channel, FS1. Fox Sports President & COO Eric Shanks and Fox Sports National Networks President Jamie Horowitz during the opening day of the '16 NeuLion Sports Media & Technology Conference offered a vigorous defense of FS1, which has been beset with low ratings for several programs. Horowitz said, "October could be the best month in the history of FS1. I take issue with the idea of decline at FS1. We’re in growth mode.” Horowitz yesterday was not quite as brash as he was during April’s World Congress of Sports, when he said he would be "a little worried" if he was ESPN. However, Horowitz said Skip Bayless’ move from ESPN to Fox has elevated ratings for the morning time slot that Bayless' “Undisputed” show occupies and had boosted the lead-in for “The Herd.” It also has cut into ratings for ESPN2’s “First Take.” Horowitz: “One guy has had an impact on three different shows on two networks. It’s been incredible.”

STILL EARLY IN RATINGS GAME: Shanks said it is too early to make firm conclusions on the causes of declining NFL ratings so far this season. But he said the presidential race remains a significant factor. “Everybody that competes with news is feeling the impact,” Shanks said. He likened the current Clinton-Trump race and its impact upon the sports media landscape to something more akin to the '00 Gore-Bush race than anything else more recent. Among the more particular issues is viewership for broader national games, which are more reliant on out-of-market viewers that are not necessarily ardent fans of the competing teams. The '16 NFL season is also serving as a run-up for Super Bowl LI, which will be aired on Fox. Shanks said ad sales so far are pacing as expected. “If anybody has trouble selling the Super Bowl, that would be the story," he said." "Sales are going fine." Shanks added that demand and ad pricing for the digital stream of the game is “rivaling some of the top linear TV entertainment out there.”

QUICK HITS
* Horowitz has added oversight of Fox Sports’ digital properties following the departure of Pete Vlastelica to Activision Blizzard. Horowitz quipped that Fox Sports’ recent digital alliance with SI "fulfills a lifelong dream of being colleagues with Richard Deitsch.” Deitsch has been a frequent critic of the opinion-based programming that Horowitz oversees.

* Shanks is looking to renew rights with the UFC when they expire in ’18. “If you don’t renew, they kick the (expletive) out of you,” Shanks joked.

* Shanks also said expansion was not the best option for the Big 12 conference.
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