Pruett Ready For Fox’s Saturday Night Sports

Steve Pruett, CEO of the CCA station group and chairman of the Fox affiliate board, says the network's plan to program Saturday nights this fall with live sports is another demonstration of its desire to excel. “Fox is not throwing any night away.”

Fox Sports’ move to own the otherwise weak Saturday primetime slot by offering a platter of sports programming is drawing praise from the chairman of the Fox affiliate board.

“This is typical and representative of Fox’s vision and commitment to live programming and sports on the broadcast platform,” says Steve Pruett, who is also president/CEO of Communications Corp. of America. “It is also consistent with their goal of building each and every night of primetime to success based on a foundation of programming, be it sports, comedy or live entertainment. Fox is not throwing any night away.”

Beginning Saturday and running through Dec. 8, Fox Sports is programming 28 of 32 Saturday nights with 100 hours of sports programming that includes NASCAR Sprint Cup racing, Major League Baseball, Ultimate Fighting Championship, PAC-12 college football and NFL games.

“We see Saturday nights as the perfect home for quality sports programming, especially in spring and fall,” said Eric Shanks, Co-President and COO, FOX Sports Media Group, in a press release.  “We’ve been working hand-in-hand with our entertainment division and partners, and we’ve put together a solid schedule that gives us a consistent Saturday night franchise for the first time ever.”

Saturday primetime draws few viewers as networks typically use it as a place to plug in reruns of popular weeknight shows. Fox is no stranger to the Saturday challenge. After only four weeks, it moved its Jennifer Lopez/Marc Anthony reality show, Q’Viva: The Chosen, from primetime to late night as ratings went from bad (.8) to worse (.5).

The Saturday night sport initiative is coincidental, but apparently unrelated, to speculation in the press that Fox may launch a national sports channel to rival ESPN.

BRAND CONNECTIONS

While the Fox Sports Saturday night move added fuel to the speculation, Wells Fargo analyst Marci Ryvicker downplayed the likelihood of such a move in a report entitled “NWSA: Fears of A National Sports Net Are Overblown.”

Ryvicker observes that investors in Fox parent News Corp. are concerned about the cost of acquiring sports rights for such a network and the potential impact on News Corp. stock. But while playing down the likelihood of such a move by Fox, she also notes that ESPN’s high per-sub cost of $4.69 in 2011 compared to an estimated $2 per-sub cost suggests ESPN could be vulnerable to competition.

Ryvicker also notes that Fox already is a major player in the sports rights arena and with 20 contracts due for renewal in the next few years, 17 of those would be incremental for Fox.

A bigger move notwithstanding, Fox affiliates like how the network’s stepping up on Saturday night.

“We the affiliate body are certain Fox Sports will continue to be the savvy forward thinking group it has proven to be over the years,” said Pruett. “The many successes it has achieved have literally changed the way television sports is approached at the major network level.”

FOX SPORTS 2012 SATURDAY NIGHT PRIMETIME SCHEDULE

April 14           NASCAR (Texas)

April 28           NASCAR (Richmond)

May 5             Ultimate Fighting Championship

May 12            NASCAR (Darlington)

May 19            Baseball Night in America

May 26            Baseball Night in America

June 2             Baseball Night in America

June 9             Baseball Night in America

June 16           Baseball Night in America

June 23           Baseball Night in America

June 30           Baseball Night in America

July 7              Baseball Night in America

Aug. 4             Ultimate Fighting Championship

Sept. 1            College football

Sept. 8            College football

Sept. 15          College football

Sept. 22          College football

Sept. 29          College football

Oct. 6              College football

Oct. 13            College football

Oct. 20            College football

Oct. 27            World Series Game 3

Nov. 3             College football

Nov. 10           College football


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