Fox Considers Buck for Late Night
Network developing half-hour show for its top sports personality
By Ben Grossman -- Broadcasting & Cable, 10/7/2007 8:00:00 PM
Could Joe Buck be the next name to enter the late-night world?
Fox is considering a weekly, half-hour late-night show hosted by its lead sports personality. The network's entertainment division just quietly completed a pilot for the show in New York.
The format currently under consideration would include both interviews and comedy, and be set in front of a small studio audience.
A network spokesperson declined to comment.
The new project comes as Fox continues to ramp up its late-night efforts leading up to the probable 2009 shakeup in the genre. With Jay Leno not expected to hang up his microphone if and when Conan O'Brien supplants him on The Tonight Show, the late-night scene promises to get interesting and rampant speculation has been ongoing for months.
NBC says it is planning on handing the 11:30 slot to O'Brien, despite Leno's numbers still dominating the terrain. Should the network decide to change its mind, it could keep Leno and pay O'Brien a penalty in the neighborhood of $45 million, knowing it would then lose him to the competition.
Either way, one of the two big names should be available in 2009, and Fox wants back in to late night. Networks execs have said they would write the big check necessary to land an established star should the right one become available.
Fox's competition for a Leno or O'Brien could come from ABC and even the syndication world, among other bidders. ABC's entertainment side still wants to wrestle the 11:30 time slot away from its news division's Nightline.
ABC's Jimmy Kimmel has grown into a strong asset and could be a smart play for Fox if he were ever to become available. Kimmel has consistently grown his audience despite the incompatible Nightline lead-in and the heavily female-oriented programming on ABC. Fox's lineup and the synergies with Fox Sports, for whom Kimmel has worked in the past, would be a nice fit to promote Kimmel's growing brand.
And while Comedy Central's Jon Stewart is always a hot commodity at the networks, he more likely could be headed for David Letterman's chair if the timing works out down the road.
But Fox is not waiting, and is instead actively pursuing development opportunities. The network is in its second year of Talk Show With Spike Feresten, a show that has noticeably improved since its inception despite largely operating under the radar screen Saturdays at midnight.
Fox actively continues to pursue other late-night projects as well. It also has a solid but aging MadTV Saturday nights at 11.
And now it is trying out Buck, Fox Sports' lead play-by-play announcer, who heads up the top broadcast teams for the network's National Football League and Major League Baseball coverage. The son of the late legendary sportscaster Jack Buck, he was hired by Fox in 1994 at the age of 25 and became the youngest announcer to call a regular NFL package on network television.
Buck has also appeared on shows such as NBC's Late Night With Conan O'Brien, and twice actually guest-hosted Craig Kilborn's Late Late Show on CBS in 2004.
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