SBJ/January 16-22, 2012/Media

Fox Sports joins with Republican pollster to develop competitor to ESPN Sports Poll

Fox Sports is teaming with Republican pollster Frank Luntz — a Fox News contributor — to develop a sports poll that will compete with the established ESPN Sports Poll.

Results from the first Fox Sports-Luntz Fan Pulse will be released this week and identify everything from fans’ favorite sports moments to whether the media attention around Tim Tebow has been fair. Each poll will include up to 50 questions, most of which will be made public.

Some early highlights

  
The initial Fox Sports-Luntz Fan Pulse found that while the NFL lockout didn’t affect fans’ views toward the league, the NBA’s lockout is hurting interest in the NBA.

The poll found that 39 percent of sports fans are less excited about the NBA this season. The poll found that only 15 percent said they were less excited about the NFL.

The NBA’s biggest problem is in the Midwest, where 51 percent of sports fans were less excited about this season. Only 13 percent of Midwestern sports fans were less excited about the NFL.

Fifty-nine percent of older fans — over age 50 — are less excited about the NBA this season, the poll finds. “It’s not that basketball is struggling,” Luntz said. “It’s that football is exceeding expectations.”

Predictably, the poll also finds that fans think ticket prices are too high: 35 percent of overall sports fans identified ticket prices as the biggest disappointment in sports over the past five years. More specifically, 41 percent of baseball fans called ticket prices the biggest disappointment.

    “It’s not just that ticket prices are annoying people more and more. It’s that the home experience is getting better and better,” Luntz said. “People can be more resentful of what they have to pay and still enjoy the games that they love and really look forward to.”

“We felt that there was a place for a poll that focused on big topics and tried to let the chips fall where they may,” said Pat Crakes, senior vice president of research and programming for the Fox Sports Media Group. “What does it mean for Fox Sports? What does that mean for our partners? And what does it mean for the sports industry as a whole?”

Fox Sports restricted their questions to sports fans, conducting 1,009 online polls from Dec. 20-22.

ESPN launched its Sports Poll in 1994 with Rich Luker. In the ensuing 17 years, the poll has developed into a steady business for ESPN, signing some of the country’s biggest sponsors as clients. Luker left Sports Poll in 1997, but early last year acquired exclusive rights to operate and market the poll on behalf of ESPN.

Historically, ESPN used most of the poll results to develop programming strategies and provide information for its top advertisers. The Fox Sports poll will use a different strategy, with most results being made public. Fox will hold back some questions for internal purposes and will share some data with its partners.

“The genesis of this poll from [Fox Sports Chairman] David Hill was that we need to have an outsider’s perspective of what we’re doing,” Crakes said. “Not just us, but the entire sports business.”

Fox Sports executives were familiar with Luntz’s work on Fox News, and Crakes said, “He also has a long and extensive list of corporate clients.”

In addition to helping its advertisers, Fox Sports expects the poll results to give it ideas about how to improve its sports broadcasts.

“By learning the truth, we’ll be able to construct better television programs, we’ll be able to acquire the properties that fans care about, we’ll be able to engage the conversation with other sports businesses and sports leaders and sports leagues,” Crakes said. “We want to be a better server of the fans’ interest.”

Crakes will be the liaison to Luntz.
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