SBJ/July 27-Aug. 2, 2015/Media

Westminster moving dog show to Fox’s FS1

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The Westminster Kennel Club is ending its 32-year relationship with USA Network.

Fox Sports has picked up the rights to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, which takes place every February in New York. It will start producing the event for Fox Sports 1 in 2017.

The 10-year deal is certain to come as a surprise to industry observers, as the NBC-owned USA Network has been closely affiliated with the event and has carried it since 1984.

The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show has been on NBC-owned USA Network since 1984.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
NBC held an exclusive negotiating window that expired a few weeks ago. Fox held a second exclusive window, because of a deal it signed with Westminster two years ago to produce a smaller dog show called The Masters Agility Championship.

“It’s always been our long-term goal to have those two properties under one roof,” Westminster Kennel Club Chairman Sean McCarthy said.

Larry Jones, Fox Sports executive vice president led the network’s negotiations. Sports Media Advisors founder Doug Perlman was the lead negotiator for the kennel club, working with McCarthy.

“This was a fun process with a good property,” Perlman said. “People love this show. Whenever I told people that I was working with the Westminster Kennel Club, their reactions were universally positive.”

For Fox, the move underscores the value TV networks place on live rights, regardless of whether it’s an NFL game or a dog show competition. Earlier this month, it signed a deal to bring the NHRA drag racing series over to the network.

The dog show will provide the network two nights of live programming every February. This year, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show averaged 2.6 million viewers Feb. 17, a Tuesday, on USA and 1.5 million viewers Feb. 16 on CNBC — viewer numbers that would make the dog show one of FS1’s most viewed properties.

But sources said that NBC’s decision to move the dog show to CNBC irritated some at the Westminster Kennel Club. NBC moved the show to CNBC so that it would not interrupt its highly rated “WWE Raw” block on USA. That three-hour block averaged more than 4 million viewers opposite the dog show.

The club also was seeking more promotion of and emphasis for the event, as one gripe was with the amount of promotion NBC gave to another dog show. The broadcast network produces the National Dog Show in a much more favorable time slot — just after coverage of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. As a result, the National Dog Show generally averages four to five times more viewers than the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. In 2013, it averaged a record 10.7 million viewers; last year, it posted 10.3 million.

McCarthy said the Westminster Kennel Club had a good relationship with NBC that spanned more than three decades. “But Fox looks like the partner for the future,” he said.

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