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Volume 21 No. 31
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‘NFL Kickoff’ moving from FS1 to Fox

Competition among NFL pregame shows will ramp up this fall as Fox plans to start its broadcast coverage an hour earlier.
The “Fox NFL Kickoff” studio show will move from Fox Sports 1 to Fox, where it will lead into the network’s highly rated “Fox NFL Sunday.”

Network affiliates have been asked to clear an extra hour on Sunday mornings so that Fox’s NFL programming can start at 11 a.m. ET. Fox has started shopping the show to advertisers and is in discussions with several clients about a presenting sponsorship to the show, a Fox executive said.

Randy Moss (second from left) is likely to remain a “Fox NFL Kickoff” analyst.
Photo by: FOX SPORTS
Last year, the 2-year-old “Fox NFL Kickoff” featured Joel Klatt as host, along with Randy Moss, Donovan McNabb (currently serving an indefinite suspension after a DUI arrest) and Dave Wannstedt serving as analysts. Fox executives have not made any decisions about the show’s cast or format except that it will be separate talent from its well-known “Fox NFL Sunday” team. Any new talent could include a name personality, and at deadline, Fox was talking with Colin Cowherd about a possible role in the show, sources said. ESPN announced last week that it was not renewing Cowherd’s deal.

“It makes more sense to put that show on Fox, turn it into a really good show and make us more of a football destination earlier in the day,” said Bill Wanger, Fox Sports’ executive vice president of programming, research and content strategy. “We just felt that we could utilize the asset that we created moreso on Fox versus FS1.”

The extra hour on Fox will add to an already crowded Sunday morning field that has ESPN, NFL Network and CBS Sports Network producing NFL pregame shows in the 11 a.m. ET hour.

Fox’s affiliates appear to welcome the move, happy to add another hour of highly rated NFL programming to their schedule, Wanger said. Some Fox affiliates have aired “Fox News Sunday” in the 11 a.m. ET hour; others have informercials leading into “Fox NFL Sunday.”

“We’re working with our station group to figure out where everything would be placed,” Wanger said.

The main reason for the move is to provide a better lead-in for “Fox NFL Sunday,” which has been the highest-rated NFL pregame show for two decades running. Last season, the hourlong pregame show averaged 4.9 million viewers (up 2 percent from 2013), which was its 21st consecutive year as the most viewed NFL pregame show.

Fox Sports executives believe a dedicated football show will increase viewership for “Fox NFL Sunday,” and could result in higher initial tune-in ratings for the network’s early afternoon slate of games.

“Fox NFL Sunday” personalities, such as Terry Bradshaw, Jimmy Johnson and Howie Long, will make more appearances on “Fox NFL Kickoff” than they have in the past, and sources said Moss is likely to remain as an analyst. Fox executives say they will tweak the show’s format, though it will keep segments where Fox Sports’ on-site game announcers give pregame reports.

“In a lot of ways, the show will be similar to what we’ve been doing on FS1 with some tweaks,” Wanger said.

“Fox NFL Kickoff” launched two years ago but never caught on with viewers. During last year’s regular season, for example, the show averaged fewer the 100,000 viewers, slipping to as low as 28,000 viewers Nov. 30. Those audience numbers are well behind NFL shows on ESPN and NFL Network. CBS Sports Network, which produces “That Other Pregame Show,” is not Nielsen-rated.

In moving its NFL coverage to Fox, FS1 will stay away from NFL programming on Sunday mornings, most likely opting for NASCAR studio programming even though it does not carry NASCAR races in the fall. Fox also could schedule live Bundesliga matches during that time slot.