While Fox Sports 1 hasn’t had too much to consistently cheer about in the ratings department in Year 1, the network has seen some periodic victories that should encourage executives in Los Angeles. One of those victories came Saturday night when Fox Sports Live set a new viewership record.
Fox Sports Live drew 2,584,000 viewers Saturday night at 11 PM ET, an audience that bests the previous high of 2,272,000 viewers on February 20th. Ironically enough, both record audiences have NASCAR to thank. While February’s FS Live owed its millions of new visitors to Daytona Speedweeks, this time it was the NASCAR All-Star Race from Charlotte that provided the massive lead-in audience for Fox Sports Live. The actual race drew 3.48 million viewers, a great audience for FS1… but an audience that wasn’t terrific news for NASCAR, which is having another season trending downward in ratings.
Fox Sports Live’s viewership is still wildly variable and totally dependent upon lead-in programming. The previous week, FS Live maxed out at 352,000 viewers after UFC Fight Night on Saturday drew over 650,000. The minimum viewership for a live episode was a paltry 11,000 viewers on Thursday. The lead-in that night was FS1’s new MLB Whiparound show that drew under 50k in viewership.
Still though, attracting that kind of massive audience is huge for Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports Live. It puts their show in front of an audience that’s exponentially larger than the viewers that stop by on a nightly basis. That’s just not a figure of speech either. 2.5 million viewers represents an audience 225 times bigger than when they barely draw over 10k. Even if a fraction of these NASCAR audiences see something they like with Fox Sports Live, it could double or triple the nightly audience over time.
Fox Sports Live is still in its infant stages and there’s no question the show has improved greatly from where it was in August. However, there’s still a long, long way to go for Fox Sports 1 and its flagship show. It has to convince some of these viewers from live sports lead-ins to see something they like and stick around for the long haul. That’s when FS1 can truly begin to compete with ESPN on a more level playing field – when a large audience like this doesn’t seem like such a statistical outlier.