SBJ/January 9-15, 2012/Media

Fox Sports aims for ‘personality’ with original programming division

Fox Sports Media Group has launched an original programming division to develop TV series similar to HBO’s “Hard Knocks” and Discovery Channel’s “American Chopper.”

The group recently hired Michael Bloom to be the senior vice president overseeing the division. He is based in Los Angeles and reports to Fox Sports co-presidents and COOs Randy Freer and Eric Shanks.

“My gut is that there is a gap between shows with people sitting in a studio and the beautiful documentaries that Ross Greenburg used to do at HBO,” said Fox Sports Chairman David Hill. “We decided that we needed to step it up. We needed to develop more personality.”

Initially, Bloom’s focus will be on developing shows that would run in prime time for Speed, Fox Soccer and Fuel TV.
“We’ve never had a development person here,” Hill said. “It’s about time that we did.”

The move to add Bloom comes amid several changes at the three channels. Last month, Speed’s longtime president, Hunter Nickell, resigned. He was replaced on an interim basis by Scott Ackerson. Meanwhile, rights deals for the FIFA World Cup and UFC added hundreds of hours of programming to Fox Soccer and Fuel TV, two channels that have a lot of room for growth. Fox Soccer is in 40 million homes; Fuel TV is in 36 million.

Bloom’s hiring also follows Fox’s move to hire John Entz from MLB Network to oversee studio and event production for channels that include Speed, Fox Soccer and Fuel TV.

Bloom’s first efforts to seed those channels with nonfiction programming will be ready by the summer. Bloom said Fox is negotiating with producers and athletes on new shows but has yet to sign anything concrete.

“We’re looking to create new programming to compete with other male-driven cable properties out there,” Bloom said, referring to shows like “Hard Knocks” and “24/7” on HBO along with Discovery’s “American Chopper.” “We can do it ourselves here at Fox and give it some of that Fox attitude.”

Hill said everything is being considered by the new group, suggesting that Fox could even decide to bring back its canceled daily show “Best Damn Sports Show Period.”

“If we’d done that show differently, would it still be alive?” Hill asked. “Those are questions we’re looking at Michael to answer.”

Bloom has worked for an eclectic group of channels — from AMC to Nickelodeon to MTV — and has worked on shows ranging from reality competition shows to one of Paris Hilton’s reality shows.

Bloom said that kind of varied experience has helped him learn how to tell stories.

“You learn how to tell real stories with characters that have fascinating lives,” he said. “Everyone is a potential nonfiction reality personality.”

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