The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show has been a yearly February tradition on USA Network dating back to 1984. After 2016, the yearly tradition will move to Fox Sports 1 which will air both nights of the event for ten years. In addition to airing the primetime, Fox Sports 1 and sister network Nat Geo Wild will air afternoon judging sessions plus Nat Geo Wild will air repeats of the primetime sessions.
Over the past few years, night one would air on CNBC with the second night being shown on USA. The owner of CNBC/USA, NBCUniversal would move the first night to CNBC so as not to pre-empt WWE Monday Night Raw which has a higher viewership than the dogs.
According to Sports Business Journal, the Westminster Kennel Club was irritated over the move to CNBC as well as NBC’s promotion of the National Dog Show, aired on Thanksgivng Day and averages over 10 million viewers (over the 4.1 million total viewers for both nights this year on CNBC/USA).
SBJ’s John Ourand and Terry Lefton says once NBC’s exclusive negotiating window expired, Fox pounced quickly to sign the dog show.
The 10-year deal is certain to come as a surprise to industry observers, as the NBC-owned USA Network has been closely affiliated with the event and has carried it since 1984.
NBC held an exclusive negotiating window that expired a few weeks ago. Fox held a second exclusive window, because of a deal it signed with Westminster two years ago to produce a smaller dog show called The Masters Agility Championship.
In its official announcement, Fox Sports says the Dog Show will make a natural partner on its networks:
Beginning in 2017, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show airs in primetime on FOX Sports 1 live from New York City’s Madison Square Garden as the seven Best In Group selections are made on Monday and Tuesday night, leading up to Tuesday night’s Best In Show announcement. Nat Geo WILD and FOX Sports digital platforms provide additional coverage, carrying daytime breed judging from Piers 92 and 94 in New York, and Nat Geo WILD also offers encore airings of each night’s programs.
The agreement also results in FOX Sports 1 remaining home to the Masters Agility Championship at Westminster, with encores on Nat Geo WILD. The Masters Agility Championship features dogs attacking an obstacle course of jumps, tunnels, weave poles and more in a timed competition. Taking place on Saturday before the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, the Masters Agility Championship made its debut on FOX Sports 1 in 2014, and now continues airing on the network and Nat Geo WILD through 2026.
SBJ adds that the Westminter Kennel Club was pleased over Fox’s pledge to promote the dog show and to air it on Fox Sports 1. And unless there’s something major that Fox obtains over the next decade, there should not be any pre-emotions in mid-February.
Overall, it’s about obtaining live events for Fox Sports 1 and bringing in eyeballs. With a viewership of 4 million over two nights, that’s something the network can look forward to starting in 2017.