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FOX Sports 1 Viewership Continues to Rise

“I think we’re making great progress and we just want to continue that trend.”

Derek Futterman

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FS1 August 2023 Studio
Courtesy: FOX Sports

Over the last calendar year, FOX Sports has broadcast its fair share of marquee events and attained viewership records within several of its properties. Standing out from the rest of the pack is Super Bowl LVII, which garnered accolades for the most-watched television program in American history with an adjusted average final viewership of 115.1 million households. While FOX Sports draws high ratings and various revenue streams from these flagship sports properties, it has a deep daily studio lineup to enhance the network’s comprehensive portfolio and bring viewers informative and entertaining discussion.

Entering last fall, FOX Sports 1 (FS1) Executive Vice President of Content Charlie Dixon unveiled a new studio lineup with the revamped edition of Speak and a change in time slot for First Things First. Combined with The Herd featuring Colin Cowherd, along with Undisputed with Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe, the programming slate experienced aggregate growth and is continuing to bolster its reach as the new football season begins.

That is not to say, however, that there have not been embedded permutations therein, specifically pertaining to Undisputed introducing a new cast to debate Bayless, which includes former National Football League stars Richard Sherman, Keyshawn Johnson and Michael Irvin. Furthermore, after months of deliberation, Craig Carton made the decision to leave WFAN to ink an exclusive deal with the company to host The Carton Show on television each morning, hopeful the product sustains its proliferation in audience.

“I guess my concern was just in discovery and viewers finding the show and understanding the new lineup,” Michael Mulvihill, FOX Sports president of insights and analytics, told Barrett Sports Media. “I think a lot of weekday TV and daytime TV is about habits that are formed over years, and in some cases decades in the case of really long-running shows.”

The disquietude, however, was ephemeral upon accumulated growth according to the traditional Nielsen Media Research numbers. Combined with traffic on social media and other sources of viewership, FOX Sports feels confident that its offerings will reach its fans despite hastened levels of cord cutting. The latest Nielsen Gauge report divulges that streaming is responsible for 38.7% of television viewership, marking a ninth straight month of leading in share percentage over broadcast, cable and other unmeasured data sources.

This past August represented the 12th consecutive month of growth for First Things First, featuring Nick Wright, Chris Broussard and Kevin Wildes. The early afternoon program concluded the 31-day stretch with a 77% increase in year-over-year (YoY) viewership, marking its best August ever. In addition, Speak with Joy Taylor, Emmanuel Acho and LeSean McCoy continues to garner double-digit growth, marking the tenth consecutive month of elevated viewership levels and a 39% rise YoY. As a whole, FS1 is up 10% on a total-day ratings basis for the year and has attained its best audiences since 2019. Dixon oversees these programs and is positioning them to stay relevant amid a dynamic media ecosystem, which, in part, is based off market analytics.

“I think the health of these shows suggests a larger story about the resilience of sports in this environment of cord cutting and declining pay TV subscriptions,” Mulvihill said. “Everybody recognizes that cord cutting is real – pay TV [subscribers] are going down – and yet these shows are doing their best viewership ever.”

Show NameStart Time (EST)End Time (EST)
The Carton Show7 a.m.9:30 a.m.
Undisputed9:30 a.m.12 p.m.
The Herd12 p.m.3 p.m.
First Things First3 p.m.4:30 p.m.
Speak4:30 p.m.6 p.m.

As of last measurement, FOX Sports 1 reaches more households with cable television than ESPN, marking the first time that occurrence has come to fruition since the network’s launch in 2013. While the difference between the two outlets is slim, FS1 is now the most carried television network in the country. Moreover, it believes that it will be able to withstand and adapt to threats posed by the declining reach of cable television. At the same time though, it will not maintain false equivalencies that the model is in a state of inertia and will persist in adapting and ideating to stay competitive with ESPN.

“I think we’re coming to an opinion that cord cutting is something that’s mostly a choice being made by non-sports fans,” Mulvihill said, “and that sports fans are staying in the bundle and continuing to watch shows like this. It’s not just us – I think the ESPN trend is pretty good; the ESPN2 trend is pretty good. There’s a dynamic here that’s happening around sports more than it’s happening to sports.”

ESPN recently introduced a new daytime programming lineup ahead of the NFL season, headlined by the addition of The Pat McAfee Show to its linear and digital platforms. McAfee inked a multiyear, multi-million dollar licensing deal that permits ESPN to distribute 235 episodes of his program each year. Competing in the slot against McAfee on FS1 is Colin Cowherd’s simulcast radio program, The Herd, which has been televised by the network since 2015.

Cowherd and co-host Jason McIntyre have propelled the show up 39% YoY and nine consecutive months of growth, in addition to generating consistent engagement on social media. While McAfee’s show has only been on ESPN for just over a week and was partially impacted by the Charter dispute with The Walt Disney Company, Mulvihill is encouraged by the lack of disparity between the early metrics.

“There’s not a lot of daylight between McAfee’s show and Cowherd’s show,” Mulvihill said, “and we just want to do everything we can to make it even more competitive.”

Similar to McAfee’s show being broadcast on ESPN, the new Undisputed is in its incipient days, having only been on the air for two weeks since returning from a two-month hiatus. The network is utilizing its deep pool of talent, along with new voices Rachel Nichols, Josina Anderson and Lil’ Wayne, to enhance discussions and present a variety of perspectives.

Each one of the studio programs televised on FS1 are meant to appeal to different characteristics of the sports audience, discussing similar topics in unique ways. At the same time, these programs can be one vehicle to drive audiences to watch live game telecasts, such as head coach Deion Sanders and the Colorado Buffaloes. Big Noon Saturday has televised the first two Colorado matchups of the regular season and disseminated one of the most followed stories in the world of sports. Studio shows of late have been encouraged to lean into the story as much as possible, even though they probably would be doing so anyway, and understand that they can contribute to the larger conversation about given topics.

“The interest that we see in a game tends not to come from our own promos; it comes from just the chatter and buzz that’s created by this whole industry of sports coverage and sports talk,” Mulvihill articulated. “I think our shows are a significant part of it, but they’re only part of it. We need that industry of sports talk and sports journalism to thrive to drive interest in our games.”

FOX Sports knows that it has a formidable opponent in ESPN, which refers to itself as “The Worldwide Leader in Sports” and possesses a bevy of live game rights. The company is optimistic that it will be able to keep competing with ESPN and other sources of sports media content to maintain its emergence as one of the premier networks in the landscape.

“I think we’re making great progress and we just want to continue that trend,” Mulvihill said. “We want to get more and more competitive all the time, so we’re encouraged by what we’re seeing and we’ve got sort of a mandate to try to keep it going in a positive direction.”

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MLB at Rickwood Field Game Averages 2.346 Million Viewers on FOX

The telecast of the game peaked with 2.559 million viewers in the quarter-hour spanning from 8:45 to 9 p.m. EST.

Barrett Sports Media

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MLB at Rickwood Field Logo
Courtesy: Major League Baseball

The San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals played from Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Ala. on Thursday night, marking the first time that the ballpark hosted a regular-season Major League Baseball game. The historic event paid tribute to the Negro Leagues and the life of Hall of Fame outfielder Willie Mays, who passed away peacefully on Tuesday at the age of 93. FOX Sports broadcast the game and attained its best performance for a Thursday night MLB regular season telecast since September 2022, averaging 2.346 million viewers for the event. Viewership data for the game is provided by Nielsen Media Research and Adobe Analytics.

The telecast of the game peaked with 2.559 million viewers in the quarter-hour spanning from 8:45 to 9 p.m. EST. Compared to last year’s regular season average for MLB telecasts on FOX, the contest was up 25%. Thursday night games on FOX averaged 1.665 million viewers last year, rendering the game from Rickwood Field an increase of 41%. The San Francisco, Calif. designated market area posted a 3.9 rating and 18 share for the game, the best for an MLB telecast on any network in the 2024 season in the area. Additionally, the St. Louis, Mo. designated market area had a 9.4 rating and 29 share for the game, also its best performance for an MLB telecast on any network amid the current season.

The broadcast of the game on FOX Sports featured play-by-play announcer Joe Davis, analyst John Smoltz and reporters Ken Rosenthal and Tom Verducci. During the FOX MLB pregame show, various special guests joined host Kevin Burkhardt and analysts Álex Rodríguez, David Ortiz and Derek Jeter, including Reggie Jackson, Barry Bonds and Ken Griffey Jr. Within the game, Rosenthal interviewed former Birmingham Black Barons pitcher Rev. Bill Greason, along with former Indianapolis Clowns second baseman Reggie Howard. FOX Sports broadcast half an inning of the game in black and white as well, replicating how baseball telecasts looked in 1954.

FOX Sports is currently in the third year of its seven-year media rights deal with Major League Baseball and will broadcast the MLB All-Star Game next month from Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. The network will also present the World Series for the 25th consecutive year this October featuring the American League and National League Champions.

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ESPN Announces Coverage Plans for Inaugural Two-Day NBA Draft

The ESPN team will feature Malika Andrews, Andraya Carter, Jay Bilas and Richard Jefferson. ABC will have Kevin Negandhi hosting alongside Stephen A. Smith and Bob Myers.

Barrett Sports Media

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Logo for ESPN and the 2024 NBA Draft

The NBA is set to debut a new format for its draft. Instead of doing both rounds in one night, this year will be the first time the league has used a two-day format with night one coming up on Wednesday, June 26 followed by night two on Thursday June 27. Television coverage will be provided by ESPN and ABC.

On Wednesday, ESPN will begin with NBA Today starting at 3 p.m. ET, which will be hosted by Christine Williamson, Kendrick Perkins, Austin Rivers and CJ McCollum. They will be followed by a Red Carpet Special at 5 p.m. ET with Cassidy Hubbarth, Kendrick Perkins and Richard Jefferson. Coverage of the draft begins at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN and at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

The ESPN team will feature Malika Andrews, Andraya Carter, Jay Bilas and Richard Jefferson. ABC will have Kevin Negandhi hosting alongside Stephen A. Smith and Bob Myers.

ESPN reporters and insiders Monica McNutt, Adrian Wojnarowski, Bobby Marks and Jonathan Givony are set to appear on both broadcasts.

For Round 2 on Thursday, ESPN will again start with NBA Today at 3 p.m. ET with Christine Williamson, Kendrick Perkins, Austin Rivers and Tim Legler. That will be followed by coverage of the draft beginning at 4 p.m. ET with Malika Andrews, Stephen A. Smith, Bob Myers, Adrian Wojnarowski, Bobby Marks and Jonathan Givony.

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Michael Phelps Joining NBCUniversal Coverage of Olympic Games Paris 2024

“With his ability to analyze and entertain, our viewers are in for another gold-medal performance.”

Barrett Sports Media

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Michael Phelps
Courtesy: NBC Olympics & Paralympics on X

Michael Phelps, the 23-time Olympic gold medalist who is the most-decorated Olympic athlete of all time, will be joining NBCUniversal for coverage of the Olympic Games Paris 2024 this summer. Phelps returns to the coverage after being part of the broadcast during the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 and will provide his commentary and analysis on prime time and daytime shows in Paris on NBC and Peacock.

Additionally, he will join Dan Hicks and Rowdy Gaines in the broadcast booth for select swimming competition telecasts from the París La Défense Arena, along with correspondent/analyst Elizabeth Beisel and reporter Melissa Stark. Phelps will return to NBC and Peacock on Friday night broadcasting coverage of the U.S. Olympic Trials-Swimming from Indianapolis, Ind. beginning at 8 p.m. EST/PST.

“We are excited to have Michael return to our coverage across both daytime and primetime, and of course, the place where no one knows more about winning – at the pool,” Molly Solomon, executive producer and president of NBC Olympics Production, said in a statement. “With his ability to analyze and entertain, our viewers are in for another gold-medal performance.”

NBC has been televising coverage throughout the week live in prime time leading up to the Olympic games. The swimming trials are averaging 3.2 million viewers in prime time across NBC and Peacock, which is up 20% from the trials for the Olympic Games three years ago. The event is taking place from Lucas Oil Stadium, the home of the Indianapolis Colts, and has featured accomplished swimmers such as Katie Ledecky, Gretchen Walsh and Regan Smith. Moreover, the prime time broadcast of the diving competition on Monday and Tuesday from Knoxville, Tenn. is averaging 2.9 million viewers, a 39% rise from three years ago.

The International Olympic Committee granted NBCUniversal the U.S. media rights for the Olympic Games through 2032 for $7.65 billion. NBCUniversal has been the exclusive broadcast home of the Summer Olympic Games in the United States since 1988 when it produced 179.5 hours of broadcast coverage. The company is scheduled to broadcast the Olympic Games from Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy in 2026, Los Angeles, Calif. in 2028 and Brisbane, Australia in 2032, along with the 2030 Winter Olympic Games from a location to be determined.

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