It’s been a rather dark period at Fox Sports. We told you a couple of weeks ago that Fox Sports was looking to cut costs either through buyouts and layoffs. Last week, over 20 employees at Fox Sports’ digital operation including Jimmy Traina were given their exit orders as a company reorganization is now well underway.
To make matters worse, SI’s Richard Deitsch reports that a number of feature and news producers at FS1 will be cut “over the next few weeks” meaning even more people will be losing their jobs. Deitsch writes that morale at the network is very low.
The job cuts at Fox have been on going since last year. Since launching Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2 in 2013, the networks have not grown as much as company officials have hoped plus rising sports rights fees have not helped the bottom line. Dating back to last year, we’ve seen cuts at its regional network websites, its news operation, and a dramatic cut at Fox Sports Live to the point it has been streamlined from a full highlights show to a late night entertainment program. Last year, FS1 had its announcers call a college football game off a monitor as a way to save travel and production costs.
When Fox launched FS1 and FS2, it was hoping to give ESPN a run for its money, but three years later, the euphoria of the launch has met the wall of reality. Live sports programming like UFC, soccer and NASCAR have brought eyeballs to the network, but the studio programming has been another story. The only original studio program that remains from the 2013 launch is NASCAR Race Hub. The others like Crowd Goes Wild, America’s Pregame, Fox Football Daily and others have been canceled.
While Fox is in this for the long run, it mirrors what happened to its efforts to elevate its Fox Sports Net regional networks into a national network to compete with ESPN. Back in the 1990’s, Fox bought several regional sports networks and rebranded them to Fox Sports Net. Fox then developed various studio programs including the Fox Sports Report which had both local and a national edition, hiring Keith Olbermann as one of its main anchors.
Eventually, that effort went by the wayside when Fox realized that viewers weren’t flocking to the national programming, plus there were many pre-emptions dup to the local teams’ games. So Fox re-shifted the focus to local programming and that’s where it has remained.
With FS1 and FS2, Fox has to program both networks 24/7 and it will have to decide what their focus will be. The job cuts have left the staff who are still left wondering when their time will be up. That’s not a good feeling to have.