To accentuate its affiliates' regional appeal, Fox Sports Net will shift its regional newscasts to a slot that directly follows coverage of local games.
Under the new scheduling format, which took effect last week (April 2), the Regional Sports Report— a customized version of which runs on each Fox Sports Net outlet — will shift an hour earlier, to 10 p.m. or immediately following a local game telecast.
In each coverage area, the show's title incorporates the regional sports network's name and the phrase "Sports Report." The half-hour National Sports Report, which focuses on action from around the country, follows the local program.
When Fox launched the regional news effort, it needed to work out some wrinkles, admitted Fox Sports Net president Tracy Dolgin. Now that the concept has six months under its belt, Dolgin said, the shows are polished enough for a more prominent slot.
"The regional sports reports were following the national news shows because they weren't ready for primetime after a local game," Dolgin said. "I think it was more important to get it off the ground early, but now we believe that local news shows coming off a game can be a powerful ratings combination."
Fox's move is a positive one, said Neal Pilson, president of sports-TV consultancy Pilson Communications.
"The biggest ratings you get are from the live game coverage," he said. "Following with the regional sports news is more important than the continuity of running those shows at 11 p.m."
The switch will also bolster the National Sports Report
, said Dolgin, because once a fan gets his fix of local sports news, he can then get the national spin on his team's performance.
"I think the whole flow from live game to local news to national news will improve the consumer's experience," he said.
That's not to say that the local sports reports are perfect. Dolgin said he'd like to see the shows offer more perspective, along with the local scores and statistics.
"We cover the games well," said Dolgin. "Now the key is getting the editorial voice. Having that unique perspective can differentiate you from the rest of the industry."
The early-evening regional news reports will also move up a half-hour, from 7 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. As most professional games now start at 7 p.m., the earlier Sports Tonight
shows will lead directly into game coverage.