Cable channel Fox Sports 1 existed during last year's Major League Baseball Playoffs, but it didn't have the rights. This season it will exclusively air the Division Series and League Championship Series.
But before the postseason arrives, the former Speed channel is helping its parent network smother Tuesday's MLB All-Star Game with coverage.
Combined, Fox Sports is boasting more than 25 hours of All-Star Game coverage across multiple platforms, which it claims to be the most ever. TheWrap spoke with Fox Broadcasting senior vice president of programming and research Michael Mulvihill about the current status of the re-branded cable channel, with a focus on America's pastime.
Mulvihill had previously pointed to baseball season as a good measuring stick for Fox Sports 1. He believes that the evolution is still on track, though admits to hiccups along the way.
“I think that there have been some real successes, and there have been some lessons learned as well,” he told TheWrap. “I think we're really pleased with where we are in primetime. You know, we've grown our primetime numbers by about 50 percent over what this pipe was doing when it was Speed.”
He continued, “You know that in the first year of an undertaking like this, you're going to learn a lot and you're not going to necessarily get everything right out of the box, but I think in terms of where we are in prime and where we are on Saturday afternoons — which I believe are our most important day parts — we're really pleased.”
Ratings-wise, in that Saturday afternoon day part — which Fox Sports defines as 1 p.m. to 1 a.m. — Mulvihill touted that FS1 is beating ESPN2 and NBC Sports Network by more than 50 percent.
“I think that's great news,” he said. “And look, there's still a sizable gap between us and ESPN. That doesn't come as any surprise. Again, that's a realistic take on where we should be.”
Mulvihill also touted continued sampling as a barometer for measuring FS1 growth. Since baseball debuted on the cable channel, 11 million additional viewers tuned in for the first time, bringing the total to 92 million, he said. ”I think that's really positive. I think that's really productive to have a property like that increase your circulation by an eight-figure number in a relatively short period of time.”
Clearly, the Fox Sports 1 success or failure story is still being written. In the meantime, FS1 is all-in on what its licensing allows.
Tuesday's pre-game coverage will include batting practice, the re-airing of classic All-Star Games and a documentary on the big leagues, as well as additional programming. The baseball-related programming starts at 10 a.m., the exhibition game will take place in Minneapolis, Minn.
Also new this year, Fox Sports Go will live-stream Tuesday's game, the first time the All-Star Game will be available via a live stream. The platform will also stream all playoff games and the World Series, the latter of which is otherwise on the main Fox network.
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