While Fox Sports 1 has discarded much of their original programming in the first 18 months of the nascent cable sports network, they have remained faithful to their flagship. FS1 has kept Fox Sports Live in the 11 PM ET timeslot as a direct competitor to SportsCenter in spite of some early ratings struggles and total lack of identity.
That patience and perseverance with Fox Sports Live appears to be paying off, whatever Mike Francesa thinks about the success of the show.
Fox is boasting a 73% viewership increase in the first quarter of 2015 over last year. The average audience is up to 149,000 viewers per night for the show’s first hour and FS Live has reached a third of their top audiences all-time.
FOX SPORTS LIVE, FOX Sports 1’s flagship highlight, news and opinion program, posted an impressive opening to the 2015 calendar year, according to figures released by Nielsen. The show’s first hour posted a +73% increase among all viewers in first quarter 2015 compared to the first three months of 2014 (149,000 vs. 86,000). In addition, the show showed a significant 48% gain in the key Adult 18-49 demographic (62,000 vs. 42,000).
From an audience standpoint, FOX SPORTS LIVE’s increases were highlighted by the delivery of four of the top 10 and nine of the top 30 highest-rated shows since launch, peaking with the Saturday, Feb. 21 edition that drew 2,485,000 viewers for the first hour, the second most-watched show since it premiered in 2013.
“The format of the show has evolved considerably in the past 18 months,” executive producer Michael Hughes said. “I’m proud of our willingness to try things, make adjustments when necessary and work tirelessly to find a formula that resonates with our audience.”
￼Among the format changes have been a renewed focus on extended blocks of uninterrupted highlights and news guided by unconventional anchors Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole. Those blocks have been supplemented by the integration of features and exclusive interviews from a creative group that recently received seven Sports Emmy nominations.
While it’s important for FS Live to get into the triple digit average audience numbers, consider that on average they are still quite a ways behind SportsCenter. The late evening edition of ESPN’s flagship show averaged 971k, 823k, and 672k throughout the first three weeks of March according to our Douglas Pucci. So while FS1 might be moving in the right direction, they’re still nowhere close to challenging ESPN on a nightly basis.
There’s also at least one caveat to be had with the FS Live ratings increase that is worth raising when you go inside the numbers. That audience on February 21st Fox touts came from 6:30-7 ET directly following a NASCAR Xfinity race, not at its regularly scheduled time. And that one episode of 2.4 million viewers is going to go a long way in artificially inflating numbers for a show that’s in the 70-80k range most nights at 11 ET.
Fox Sports Live is still at the point where they are totally dependent upon lead-in programming to draw good ratings. Why else would FS1 move the program to a de facto NASCAR postgame? (For the record, SportsCenter gets the same boost after Monday Night Football and other live events.) The network as a whole is totally dependent on live events to draw fans in, though. With that reality in mind, FS Live’s focus should be on continuing to improve editorially and finally settling into an identity. And then as more live events come to the network, hopefully more sports fans stick around for the station’s flagship program.