|Launched||August 12, 1994|
|Division of||Fox Broadcasting Company|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Owner||Fox Sports Media Group
(21st Century Fox)
|Key people||Eric Shanks
(president, Fox Sports Media Group)
|Headquarters||Los Angeles, California|
|Major broadcasting contracts||NFL
Major League Baseball
Major League Soccer
UEFA Champions League
WeatherTech SportsCar Championship
Arena Football League
Fox Sports is the programming division of the Fox Broadcasting Company, owned by 21st Century Fox, that is responsible for sports broadcasts on the network, and its dedicated regional and national sports cable channels. The flagship entity of 21st Century Fox's Fox Sports Media Group division, it was formed in 1994 with Fox's acquisition of broadcast rights to National Football League (NFL) games. In subsequent years, it has televised the National Hockey League (1994–1999), Major League Baseball (1996–present), NASCAR (2001–present), Bowl Championship Series (2007–2010), Major League Soccer (2015–present), the USGA Championships (2015–present), NHRA (2016–present), the FIFA World Cup and the FIFA Women's World Cup (starting in 2015).
When the Fox Broadcasting Company launched in October 1986, the network's management, having seen how sports programming (in particular, soccer events) played a critical role in the growth of the British satellite service BSkyB, determined that sports would be the type of programming that would ascend Fox to a major network status the quickest; as a result, Fox tried to attract a professional football package to the network. In 1987, after ABC initially hedged on renewing its contract with the National Football League (NFL) for the television rights to Monday Night Football, Fox made an offer for the package at the same price that ABC had been paying at the time – about $13 million per game. However, partly due to the fact that Fox had yet to establish itself as a major network, the NFL decided to resume negotiations with ABC, with the two parties eventually agreeing to a new contract, keeping what was the crown jewel of the league's television broadcasts on that network (where it remained until 2006, when MNF moved to sister network ESPN as part of a contract that also saw NBC gain the Sunday Night Football package).
Six years later, as the league's television contracts for both the National Football Conference and American Football Conference divisions, and for the Sunday and Monday primetime football packages were up for renewal, Fox placed a bid for $1.58 billion to obtain the broadcast rights to the National Football Conference. On December 17, 1993, the NFL selected Fox's bid and signed a four-year contract with the network to award it the rights to televise regular season and playoff (as well as select preseason) games from the NFC, beginning with the 1994 season; the initial contract also included the exclusive U.S. television rights to broadcast Super Bowl XXXI in 1997. The deal stripped CBS of football telecasts for the first time since 1955.
Fox also lured commentators Pat Summerall, John Madden, Dick Stockton, Matt Millen, James Brown and Terry Bradshaw as well as many behind-the-scenes production personnel from CBS Sports to staff the network's NFL coverage. In order to bolster viewership for the NFL telecasts, Fox parent News Corporation (which would spin-off Fox and most of its other television properties, except for those based in Australia, to 21st Century Fox in July 2013) decided to strike affiliation deals with broadcasting companies that owned stations affiliated with ABC, NBC and CBS in order to raise the profile of Fox's affiliate body, which at the time mainly consisted of UHF stations that (with some exceptions) had little to no prior history as a major network affiliate, had weaker signals and largely did not carry as much value with advertisers as the Big Three's affiliates. During the late spring and summer of 1994, Fox reached separate agreements with New World Communications (a media company controlled by investor Ronald Perelman, which Fox's station group Fox Television Stations would purchase in July 1996) and SF Broadcasting (a joint venture between Fox and Savoy Pictures that purchased four stations from Burnham Broadcasting through separate deals in July and August 1994) to switch a total of sixteen stations to Fox between September 1994 and September 1996 as affiliation contracts with those stations' existing network partners expired. The NFL television rights and affiliation deals firmly established Fox as the nation's fourth major network. The network's relationship with the NFL would expand in 1997, when it began airing games from NFL Europe, an agreement which ended when the European league folded in 2005.
With a sports division now established, Fox decided to seek broadcast rights agreements with other major sports leagues. On September 9, 1994, Fox was awarded the broadcast television rights to the National Hockey League in a $155 million bid (amounting to $31 million annually); as a result, it became the first broadcast network to be awarded a national television contract to carry NHL games, which longtime NHL Commissioner John Ziegler had long thought to be unattainable (NHL games had not aired regularly on a national broadcast network – outside of select championship and All-Star games, and time buy basis airings of ESPN telecasts on ABC from 1992 to 1994 – since NBC's telecast of the 1975 Stanley Cup Finals, as networks were not willing to commit to broadcasting a large number of games due to low viewership). Again, Fox outbid CBS, which wanted to secure the rights as a result of losing the NFL to Fox, for the NHL package. Fox lost the NHL rights to ABC Sports and ESPN in 1999.
On November 7, 1995, Fox was awarded partial broadcast rights to Major League Baseball games, in a shared deal with NBC (which had carried the league's telecasts since 1947). Through the deal, which Fox paid a fraction of the amount ($115 million) that CBS paid to obtain the rights effective with the 1990 season, Fox would broadcast approximately 16 regular season Saturday afternoon games per season (unlike the previous Baseball Network deal between NBC and CBS) and offered different game broadcasts shown on a regionalized basis (usually up to three per week). As part of a six-year renewal of this deal – valued at $2.5 billion – in September 2000, Fox Sports became the exclusive over-the-air broadcaster of Major League Baseball, giving it the exclusive rights to the World Series beginning with the 2000 edition, as well as rights to the All-Star Game, select Division Series games and exclusive coverage of the League Championship Series. Under a clause in the contract (which has not been exercised as there has not been a labor dispute during the term of rights while Fox Sports has held the contract), if some of the scheduled games were cancelled by a strike or lockout, Fox would still pay Major League Baseball for a full slate of annual games, while the league in turn had to compensate Fox with additional telecasts.
In 1998, Fox obtained the broadcast rights to the Cotton Bowl Classic college football game; the game aired on Fox until 2014, with ESPN assuming the rights beginning with the 2015 game, adding it the five other bowl games comprising the College Football Playoff system that ESPN already broadcast, under a twelve-year deal worth over $7.3 billion.
On November 11, 1999, NASCAR awarded Fox and sister cable channel FX the partial television rights to its races (as part of a four-network deal, valued at $2.4 billion, that also included NBC and TBS; the latter's rights were later assumed by TNT) starting with the 2001 season, with Fox and FX alternating coverage of all races held during the first half of the season (NBC and TNT would air all races held during the second half). The deal also included alternating coverage of the preeminent Daytona 500 race, with Fox televising it in odd-numbered years and NBC airing it in even-numbered years through 2006, with the opposing network airing the Pepsi 400 instead. The rights later extended to sister motorsports-oriented cable network Speed Channel in October 2002, when it bought out ESPN's contract to televise the Camping World Truck Series races. Through a 2006 contract renewal, Fox became the exclusive U.S. broadcaster of the Daytona 500. In partnership with Speed, Fox has also broadcast the start of the Rolex 24 at Daytona and select Formula One races produced by Speed beginning in 2007, and also carries two Camping World Truck Series races per season that were transferred from Speed, and are produced under the Fox NASCAR brand.
In 2007, Fox began airing most of the games that were part of the Bowl Championship Series, including the BCS Championship Game (although due to a separate arrangement between ABC and the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association, events in the series that were held at the Rose Bowl stadium – such as the Rose Bowl Game and the 2010 BCS Championship – were excluded from the contract), in a deal worth close to $20 million per game. ESPN assumed the BCS rights beginning in 2010.
In 2011, Fox began to increase its college football output through the introduction of a Saturday "game of the week" on FX, featuring games from the Pac-12, the Big 12 and Conference USA (the rights to which were later assumed by Fox and Fox Sports 1); Fox also signed deals to carry two new championship games created through conference realignments that occurred in 2010 and 2011: the Big Ten Conference Championship through 2016 (as part of Fox Sports' involvement with the Big Ten Network), and the Pac-12 Championship through 2017 on an alternating basis with ESPN. In May 2010, Fox aired the final of the UEFA Champions League, marking the network's first ever soccer broadcast.
In August 2011, Fox Sports announced it had reached a seven-year broadcast agreement with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, ending the mixed martial arts promotion's relationship with Spike. The deal included the rights to broadcast four live events in prime time or late night annually, as well as other UFC programming that would air on various Fox properties, including the Fox network (which aired its first UFC match in November 2011, the first time that the UFC aired an event on broadcast television), FX and Fuel TV. Fox previously carried events from UFC competitor International Fight League in 2007 on its sister network-turned-programming service MyNetworkTV under a time-buy arrangement until that organization was purchased by UFC; however, no MyNetworkTV involvement was announced under the current UFC agreement (by that point, the programming service had eliminated first-run programming to focus on off-network reruns of drama series).
In addition to the broadcast division, Fox Sports owns numerous regional and national cable sports channels in the United States, which include:
Fox Sports Media Group formally announced the replacement of Speed with Fox Sports 1 on March 5, 2013, with a target launch date slated for August 17. The network airs content from Major League Baseball, the UFC, NASCAR, soccer (including the FIFA World Cup) and multiple college sports events (including owning rights to Big East basketball and its annual postseason basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden). As a competitor to ESPN's SportsCenter, the network created Fox Sports Live, described as a "24/7 news franchise providing around-the-clock coverage through regularly scheduled programs, hourly updates and an information-rich ticker that provides a network agnostic sports event television schedule." Notable personalities on FS1 include Regis Philbin, Mike Tyson, Michael Strahan, Erin Andrews, as well as many other Fox Sports personalities. On August 17, 2013, with little advanced promotion, the extreme sports-focused Fuel TV was rebranded as Fox Sports 2, a companion network serving primarily as an overflow channel for Fox Sports 1, along with providing supplementary sports coverage. The networks launched on August 17, 2013.
On September 2, 2013, Fox Soccer was replaced by FXX, an entertainment-based sister network to FX with a focus on comedy programming. With the concurrent shutdown and replacement of the network, Fox Soccer's sports programming was shifted over to Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2. As a result, outside of very rare sports conflicts on both Fox Sports networks, FX no longer carries any sports programming. Fox Soccer's companion premium service, Fox Soccer Plus, continues to exist and supplements soccer coverage on Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2.
Fox Sports Networks operates as a slate of regional sports networks with broadcasting agreements that follow league market distribution rules (for example, cable and satellite subscribers in Kansas City, Missouri receive Kansas City Royals games on Fox Sports Midwest, while viewers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin see Milwaukee Brewers games on Fox Sports Wisconsin). The regionalized coverage frequently restricts broadcasts of live sporting events outside of a team's home market. The regional networks also air team, conference, or other regionally based analysis and biographical programming, as well as some common national programming. In some markets, the regional Fox Sports network operates an overflow (or "plus") feed that carries additional sports, documentary and magazine programs that cannot be carried on the main feed due to event conflicts.
The graphics and scoring bugs used by Fox Sports have won awards and changed how sports broadcasts are presented on United States television. The opening notes of the theme used on the Fox network's NFL broadcasts are incorporated in iterations of other themes used on Fox Sports broadcasts. Originally, when the scoring bugs are upgraded, the previous versions were retained for one of the division's other properties for about a year; however, this practice ended in 2009. The first score bug was used for Fox's NFL coverage, and was then expanded to the network's baseball and hockey broadcasts.
One segment of the Scott Schreer-composed theme, coincidentally or otherwise, echoes the notes for the "giddyup, giddyup, giddyup, let's go" line from the Leroy Anderson-composed song, Sleigh Ride. Although, the rhythm of that segment of both tunes is similar to that of the first four bars of both the first and second figures of the Johann Strauss Sr.-composed Radetzky March, which itself is similar to that of the finale of Giachino Rossini's overture to his opera William Tell. During sports broadcasts aired during the Christmas holiday season, Fox Sports broadcasts will sometimes acknowledge this fact by seguéing from the one tune into the other during the commercial break outcue.
Beginning in October 2010, the NFL broadcast theme became uniform for all Fox Sports properties beginning with the National League Championship Series that year and NASCAR races with the 2011 Budweiser Shootout. It is yet unknown if this includes the Fox Sports Networks affiliates, as their basketball, hockey, baseball and college football broadcasts continue to use their own distinct theme music.
By 2001, the score bug was restructured as a banner positioned at the top of the screen, and was simpler than the version used today. It was first utilized that year on Fox's NASCAR coverage with the introduction of a new updated graphics package that was based on the 1998 design; the banner and updated graphics were then utilized on the network's Major League Baseball and NFL telecasts. It featured a translucent black rectangle, a baseball diamond graphic for baseball broadcasts on the far left, the team abbreviations in white with their scores in yellow boxes (the boxes were white for NFL broadcasts until Super Bowl XXXVI, when the coloring was changed to yellow), then the quarter or inning, time or number of outs, pitch count/speed (used for baseball broadcasts), and the logo of the Fox Sports event property whose game is being telecast (such as NFL on Fox or MLB on Fox) on the far right.
Beginning with the 2003 NFL season, the banner was upgraded as part of a new graphics package. At first, the team abbreviations were replaced with team logos, and the scores were rendered in white within black parallelograms. Unlike the previous version, the FoxBox would alternate between a black rectangle and several black parallelograms; however, it reverted to being a black rectangle beginning with the 2004 NFL season, and the team logos would later be replaced with abbreviations in the respective teams' primary colors (the colorized team abbreviations would first be utilized on postseason baseball broadcasts that year). Whenever a team scores a point or a run, the team's score and logo would flash a few times.
During baseball broadcasts, the entire banner would flash, with the words "HOME RUN" and the team's name in the team's color zooming in to the center from both left and right. In late 2005, a new white banner resembling a chrome finish was introduced, and the team abbreviations became rendered in white letters in the team's main color; the new banner would then be expanded to NFL and NASCAR broadcasts. The baseball broadcasts continued to use the 2001 scoring banners and graphics in 2004 until the network's coverage of that year's postseason.
Beginning with the 2006 NFL season, the scoring banner was upgraded again. This time, real-time scores from around the league were included as a permanent fixture on the extreme right side of the bar, while the banner's coloring changed to the colors of the team currently in possession of the ball (this coloring scheme was seen only on football broadcasts). The banner no longer flashed after the scoring of runs, touchdowns or field goals. During baseball broadcasts, the diamond graphic appeared in middle-justification and was slimmed down to just the three main bases, unlike other implements which included home plate. This banner, after first being used for NFL broadcasts in 2006, was eventually expanded to Bowl Championship Series, NASCAR and baseball broadcasts; baseball telecasts, however, continued to use the late-2005 scoring banners and graphics in 2007. In 2008, Fox NASCAR introduced a new camera embedded between turns one and two on the various tracks; it was soon known as "Digger Cam", unveiled alongside a gopher mascot named Digger. For the 2009 season, the 2006 graphics package was dropped entirely for Fox's baseball telecasts and replaced with the new Fox Sports Net graphics, which had debuted on baseball telecasts across FSN's affiliates that season. These were later repositioned for widescreen in July 2010, when Fox Sports began presenting all of its high definition programming content in the 16:9 aspect ratio, with letterboxing on standard definition feeds relayed to pay television providers.
At the beginning of the 2010 NFL pre-season, Fox debuted a new graphics package for its football coverage – an upgraded version of the 2006 design with a "much more colorful 3D look." The new graphics also marked a migration to Vizrt hardware for CG, providing producers with a more streamlined workflow for graphics. The new design would be rolled out for Fox's racing coverage and the Speed network in 2011, at the start of the 2011 MLB season (where both Fox and the FSN networks would begin using it as well, excluding SportSouth games simulcast by WPCH-TV and Root Sports – which used the previous FSN appearance), and on Fox Soccer.
Starting with the 2010 National League Championship Series, Fox began using its football theme music for its Major League Baseball broadcasts, to the confusion and dismay of some viewers. Division president Eric Shanks gave a rationale for the change, stating that the NFL theme music was more energetic than the previous theme; Shanks then announced that the NFL theme would be used for all Fox Sports telecasts going forward.
A new graphics package for Fox Sports broadcasts was introduced for Fox's NASCAR coverage leading up to the 2014 Daytona 500. Fox Sports Midwest producer Max Leinwand described the look as being "cleaner" than the previous design. The design has also been used to introduce new design conventions for some of Fox's graphics; for NASCAR, the running order ticker was replaced by a leaderboard-style display that was initially displayed as a vertical sidebar, while MLB coverage now uses a scoreboard positioned in the bottom-left of the screen instead of the top-left.
For Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002, Fox Sports produced its first telecast in a 16:9, 480p enhanced-definition format marketed as "Fox Widescreen"; while promoted as having better quality than standard definition, and being the first U.S. sporting event produced completely in a widescreen format, it was not true high definition, but still matched the aspect ratio of HDTV sets.
Fox Sports began producing selected events in 720p high definition, starting on July 3, 2004 with the Pepsi 400, select NFL games, the 2004 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, and that year's postseason. Fox would produce more telecasts in HD during the following years, but still fell back on using 480p widescreen for events not televised in HD.
As of late July 2010, all sports programming broadcast by Fox-owned networks began transitioning to a format optimized for 16:9 widescreen displays, with graphics framed within a widescreen safe area rather than the 4:3 safe area, intended to be shown in a letterboxed format on standard definition feeds.
In February 2008, Fox Sports announced a new charitable foundation called Fox Supports, which provides grants and marketing support for health-related causes. Each organization is tied to a specific events package seen on Fox Sports.
The following are the charities supported during the history of the program:
Although the amount of sports content on the network has gradually expanded since Fox Sports was founded in 1994 (particularly since 2013), Fox's sports schedule on weekend afternoons has remained very inconsistent to this day as the majority of its sports contracts are with professional leagues and collegiate conferences associated with more widely known sporting events, with very limited supplementary coverage of amateur, extreme or winter sports (unlike NBC or CBS) that can be aired during the daytime even when major events are not broadcast – leaving absences in daytime sports coverage on either a Saturday, a Sunday or both on certain weeks. Syndicated programming (either in the form of feature films, series or both) and/or infomercials scheduled by the network's owned-and-operated stations and affiliates, as well as occasional Fox Sports-produced specials and Fox-supplied preview specials for upcoming primetime shows fill Fox stations' weekend afternoon schedules on days with limited to no sports programming.
Some of the network's sports telecasts (most frequently, college football and Sunday afternoon NFL games, and the World Series) delay or outright pre-empt regularly scheduled local evening newscasts on Fox stations due to typical overruns past a set time block or pre-determined later start times; a few Fox affiliates that maintain news departments (such as WBRC in Birmingham, Alabama and WVUE-DT in New Orleans) have opted not to air or have cancelled early evening newscasts on Saturdays and Sundays due to frequent sports preemptions in that daypart, while others (such as WDAF-TV in Kansas City, Missouri) instead reschedule their weekend early evening news programs to an earlier timeslot if possible when Fox is scheduled to air an evening game or race.
As is done with CBS, Fox offers a flex schedule for its NFL, NCAA and Major League Baseball telecasts, featuring a selection of up to four games that vary on a regional basis, allowing either one or (often) two consecutive telecasts to air on a given day depending on the Fox station's designated market.