Fox Sports 1 Turns 2: Network Sees Major Growth In Sophomore Campaign

They grow up so fast.

On August 17, Fox Sports 1 celebrated two years since its launch and, thanks to an influx of new rights packages and some high-performing tent pole events, the latest Nielsen numbers show that Year 2 has been very good to the industry’s newest national cable sports channel.

FoxSports1In its second year, Fox Sports 1 viewership increased 48% on total day ratings and up 41% in primetime, according the Nielsen. During that span, no other national sports network has seen positive growth. In terms of live events, FS1 is up 56% over the same span and has taken its place as the No. 2 network for live events (behind ESPN).

“The growth of Year 2 over Year 1 really jumps off the page,” says Mike Mulvihill, SVP, Programming, Research, Content Strategy for Fox Sports. “After two years, we are pretty much where we expected to be. The route that we’ve taken to get here, though, is a little different than we expected. I think maybe we expected to come out a little stronger in Year 1 and then show some growth in Year 2. Instead we were a little softer in the first year, and we grew by more than expected in the first year. That’s a function of the new properties that have come on line but also just people figuring out where to find us and what we have to offer.”

Many in the industry were quick to jump on some early returns that were sluggish in network’s first year. However, now that the network has really filled out its live programming menu, FS1 is finding its legs.

When the network first launch in 2013, it did so with rights to UFC, NASCAR Trucks, college football, and college basketball. Year 2 saw the addition of some big properties that including Major League Baseball (including the Postseason), the NASCAR Xfinity series (and three Sprint Cup races), the CONCACAF Gold Cup soccer, and, of course, the FIFA Women’s World Cup and USGA events including the US Open.

“Ratings follow rights and revenue follows ratings,” says Mulvihill. “You have to have those special event rights to get those people to your channel and get them to discover what else might be there. It’s hard to overstate those tent pole events.”

The network’s self-billed “Summer of Soccer” has also boosted the network during these past summer months. In the window of June 1 to July 26 (which included the Women’s World Cup, Gold Cup, as well as regular season MLB games), Fox Sports 1 is up a whopping 132% of where it was during the same span in 2014.

Patience has certainly paid off for those at Fox that held strong during the network’s slow first year. Now the network is gaining ground on even the likes of ESPN.

“The thing that makes it easier to be patient is that Fox Sports 1 is not the entirety of our business,” says Mulvihill. “We are a broadcast sports division, a national cable business, and a regional cable business. We are the highest-rated network in broadcast sports, we’re the dominant leader in regional cable. I think that we sometimes suffer from the fact that observers of the industry tend to look at our marketplace as just a national cable battle.”