SBJ/October 16 - 22, 2006/This Weeks News

FSNY next up for rebranding

As MSG Network completed an on-air rebranding earlier this month, the network’s parent was quietly making plans to retool its other New York-area regional sports network, Fox Sports Net New York, early next year.

FSNY will be rebranded in the first quarter of 2007 with a heavier New York focus that is intended to counterbalance the rebranded MSG, which is billed as all things Madison Square Garden.

“They are distinctly different brands, and they need to stand on their own,” MSG Network President Mike Bair said.

The rebrand comes as four RSNs are battling for the New York market share, with each RSN claiming household distribution of 11 million. YES Network is the market leader in ratings, boosted by its Yankees coverage. But the newly launched Mets RSN, SNY, surprisingly has claimed the second position, thanks to the Mets’ playoff run this year. MSG held the rights to the Mets last year. With no baseball programming this year, MSG Entertainment’s two RSNs have been lost in the shuffle this summer.

“You have to very clearly define who you are and what your audience is and stick to it,” Bair said. “In the past, we may have gotten a little bit away from that.”

FSNY’s rebrand will include more localized programming that has a younger, more energetic feel. Though Fox no longer owns any part of the network, FSNY plans to use the Fox brand and Fox shows to attract younger viewers.

“The Fox brand is powerful enough that we can use that to grow the business,” Bair said.

FSNY plans to create local versions of Fox shows such as “Best Damn Sports Show Period” and “Focus” to give it more of a New York feel.

MSG launched a new, cleaner graphics package Oct. 5 and will now feature entertainment-based programming that include sound checks from artists using the Garden and, potentially, movies and TV shows that use the Garden as a backdrop. The day after its rebrand, it aired the Jammys, an awards show and concert that took place at Madison Square Garden.

“At MSG, we’re in complete control of all of the content,” said Lydia Murphy-Stephans, MSG’s executive vice president of programming and production. “We have much more flexibility.”

FSNY now broadcasts both the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers, and though it will have a heavier New York focus, it still plans to run Fox programming from areas far away from the Big Apple.

“People like the fact that we can get boxing or polo or soccer from all over the world in addition to their local sports,” Bair said.

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