After struggling early to find their identity — and an audience — Fox Sports Net's regional sports-news shows have begun to enjoy some ratings success.
As FSN's concept approaches its first anniversary, the 15 regions that offer the local 30-minute sports shows have doubled and tripled their ratings since the program moved into the 10 p.m., post-game slot in April.
That scheduling change — coupled with what FSN believes is a desire among local fans to watch in-depth news coverage of their local teams — will help the various Regional Sports Reports
continue their ratings growth in the future, according to FSN executives.
In an effort to extend its brand within the local markets through its owned-and-operated or affiliated regional sports networks, FSN launched the first of its 15 local news shows last summer to complement its National Sports Report. FSN executives admit that early versions of the news reports — which aired immediately after the national news show at 11 p.m. — suffered from low ratings and reviews that criticized their lack of focus and commitment to local news.
"It was a new undertaking for us to deliver a new kind of news show with a regional emphasis and we needed to grow it over time," said FSN president Tracy Dolgin.
The concept didn't catch on with viewers until April, when FSN moved the shows from 11 p.m. to 10 p.m., the slot that typically follows live game telecasts. Since that time, cumulative ratings for the regional shows in the top 20 metered markets have increased 258 percent, from a 0.20 during the first quarter to a 0.72 rating in those same markets from April through June, according to Nielsen Media Research ratings provided by Fox.
And 17 of the 20 markets posted a minimum increase of 110 percent, Dolgin said, powered by an audience flowing mostly from the regional services' live Major League Baseball coverage.
Rainbow Sports Networks vice president of marketing Dan Ronayne said 30 to 50 percent of viewers from games telecast by the Rainbow-controlled regional sports networks in Chicago, Boston, Florida, Ohio and San Francisco are staying to watch the local news reports.
"Clearly the biggest change has been the move to 10 p.m.," Ronayne said. "Putting the news directly after our highest-rated programming has given the telecasts a real boost."
But in order to maintain its ratings success, both Dolgin and Ronayne said the Regional Sports Reports
have to offer compelling and informative news with a "home team" slant to keep viewers coming during non-game nights.
Dolgin said FSN will look to provide more local sports content and news to create an environment in which the Regional Sports Report
can become appointment viewing for sports fans. The shows may also include some interactive elements, including call-in segments, to enhance the viewing experience.
"What we need to do is create a show that provides more passion and more perspective for the local teams," he said.
Added Ronayne: "I think the real success will be when we are able to translate our very impressive ratings on a game nights to nights where there aren't any games."