Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of the launch of FOX Sports 1, which came out of the gate as the largest cable launch ever in audience reach. One year down, the combo of FS1 and FS2 added nearly 5,000 hours of live programming to the overall sports programming threshold, according to the company. While studio programming has continued to evolve (RIP Crowd Goes Wild), the overall investments have seen a rise of 48% in primetime over year-ago numbers, with 62% spikes in both A18-49 and M18-49.
Looking ahead to year two, the network is poised to see a slate of new deals kick in that will further flesh out its portfolio. The network lays claim to 150 key live events (including MLB playoffs, NASCAR, Women’s World Cup, MLS and USGA) which will all debut on FS1 in late 2014 and 2015. Cynopsis Sports spoke with David Nathanson, GM and COO of Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2, about the first year, the surprises and lessons learned along the way and what we can expect for its sophomore outing.
Nathanson on year one: Our first year was about building a successful foundation for this network. We obviously took some very successful channels and took some risk in bringing them together to launch a new brand in a crowded marketplace. In doing that, we ventured to establish a flagship show in FOX Sports Live, we launched programs, adjusted those programs and ultimately, it is something we are very proud of. The year ahead we are very bullish on. Obviously live events are key to driving ratings based on the success of getting people to find the channel. In year two, we are adding over 600 hours of new live events that never hit our air in year one. So our arsenal of rights has only just begun. Year two will be even more representative of our potential.
On integration: The biggest surprise has been the seamless integration between these three channels. We merged these staffs and hired hundreds of people who had never been part of the FOX Sports family. In the end, we got a world class cohesive team to work together. One of the things we need to work on is taking advantage of all the assets that FOX Sports has. The depth of championship broadcasts, the regional sports networks, the innovations being developed. We have some accomplishments that we are proud of, but we need to do it more consistently. We will also continue to work closely with the regional channels and out other partners to maximize the value of the FOX Sports brand.
On studio programming: Huge lessons were learned this past year. In year two, you can expect a much more streamlines programming slate. I think that we’ve really stabilized our fringe and primetime blocks and obviously late-night with FOX Sports Live, not only did the show evolve but the audience did as well. What you can expect is for the shows to get better and for the talent to have better opportunities to build their brand.
On the Women’s World Cup: Our coverage of the Women’s World Cup is going to be bigger than anything that’s been before for this event. ESPN did a fantastic job around the men’s, and it really raised the bar. I think we’re very excited to carry on that mantle. You will see that around the year on FOX Sports 1, starting with the qualifiers in October that will be on FOX Sports 1. We’ll cover it through a combination of original programming, studio shows, special features and more that you will see on our schedule.
On FOX Sports GO: The biggest takeaway, when you look at the numbers from something like the Super Bowl, is that people are finding it and using it. The Super Bowl at the time was the most successful streamed sport at the time. It showcased our ability to reach record audiences. The quality of those audiences is the low-hanging fruit for us. That’s the audience we want to tune in to FOX Sports 1 day in and day out.