Numbers are in for the first full week of national sports channel Fox Sports 1, and the net has left plenty of room for improvement.
Nielsen estimates that FS1 averaged 161,000 viewers in primetime, a little more than the 158,000 that Speed (the former motorsports channel it replaced) opened in the same frame a year ago. The top draws for the net were NASCAR racing events on Wednesday (540,000) and Saturday (428,000).
By comparison, ESPN, which has established a cable sports dynasty after more than 30 years on the air, averaged 2.17 million viewers in primetime last week with a lineup anchored by Major League Baseball action. Among sports nets, FS1 also trailed ESPN2 (473,000), NFL Network (383,000) and MLB Network (193.000) while outdrawing Golf Channel (137,000), NBC Sports Network (104,000), ESPNU (65,000) and NBA TV (58,000).
In total day, Fox Sports 1 averaged 81,000 viewers — down from the 100,000 of Speed last year.
“Fox Sports Live,” the FS1 equivalent of ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” averaged about 75,000 for its three episodes that aired in the vicinity of its target 11 p.m. timeslot — just a fraction of the roughly 1.5 million that “SportsCenter” did on those same nights.
Its late-afternoon discussion show “Crowd Goes Wild,” whose panelists include Regis Philbin, opened to 74,000 viewers on Monday of last week, but dropped to as low as 29,000 on Thursday. It closed strong, spiking to 179,000 on Friday and then drawing 84,000 with a Saturday afternoon edition.
Certainly, nobody expected FS1 to open to huge numbers, and the net’s profile is sure to be raised this fall when it airs college football. It will add MLB games next year, and FS1’s roster down the road will also include NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series and United States Golf Association championship events.
FS1 is currently in about 75% of the nation’s homes, compared with ESPN in roughly 85%,