SBJ/20100308/Forty Under 40
Published March 8, 2010
Bleary-eyed East Coasters should send Mike Mulvihill a thank-you note for his role in having Fox push World Series start times earlier last year. NASCAR fans excited by the circuit’s “Back to Basics” approach also should send kudos Mulvihill’s way.
It’s not that Mulvihill, Fox’s vice president of programming and research, made these decisions. But he provided the research that gave Fox’s top brass assurances that both moves would work.
Throughout his career at Fox, Mulvihill has proved to be a valued behind-the-scenes force who helps the network’s top executives figure out what events to air and when to air them. “Sometimes you need more than just a gut feeling,” Mulvihill said.
Fox Sports Chairman David Hill and President Ed Goren increasingly have come to rely on Mulvihill to put hard numbers behind the network’s sports schedule.
“Mike is always dead on in his forecasting,” said Tim Brosnan, MLB’s executive vice president of business. “He is a big contributor to the strength of our Fox partnership.”
Fox’s move to push up the start times of World Series games is emblematic of the value Mulvihill brings to the network.
Mulvihill always had been a staunch supporter of later start times, with decades’ worth of statistics demonstrating that later start times would lead to bigger television ratings. But as Mulvihill scoured the ratings reports from the 2008 World Series, he saw ratings drop off quickly after the traditional 11 p.m. ET bounce.
The key was 11 p.m. Typically, televised sports events would see a bump at that hour, when viewers click away from the end of prime time to sample a game. Mulvihill found that audiences stayed with games if they were in the seventh inning or later at 11 p.m. The problem with the 2008 Series was that the games were in the fifth or sixth inning at 11 p.m.
Mulvihill believed the time had come to start the games earlier. He sent an e-mail to Hill advocating the change. Hill contacted MLB and kept Mulvihill by his side for a series of meetings that led to earlier start times last fall.