FSN is considering significantly scaling back national programming across its army of profitable regional sports networks as soon as early next year, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation.
Fox Sports executives declined to comment, but sources said that with the success of the RSNs coming on the back of local programming, the company will scale back and could eventually eliminate the expensive production of national original programs that run across the network of regionals. That would mean the end of national shows fed across the RSNs such as FSN's veteran talk show Best Damn Sports Show Period, which sources said may be the first to go.
While sources said the move is completely unrelated, that show is losing its executive producer, John Entz, who is leaving to join Major League Baseball's new network as senior vice president of production. He will be in charge of all in-studio and game coverage, reporting directly to network chief and former CBS Sports executive producer Tony Petitti. An announcement of that move is expected this week.
Since Fox formally launched FSN in 1996, it has often tried to bolster its national programming presence. One method was the introduction of an array of studio shows. But more recently, it increasingly ceded that territory to ESPN and instead successfully found a groove by concentrating on local coverage, which is built around a dominant aggregation of local professional- and college-sports-rights deals. That lineup has led FSN to be a major profit center for the company.
Even if FSN completely jettisoned original productions such as Best Damn Sports Show Period, as well as Sport Science, Amazing Sports Stories and Baseball's Golden Age, it would continue to provide national coverage of sporting events it has under contract to all of its RSNs. By contract, FSN regional networks need to have national programming in the case of local blackouts and other situations where a national feed is needed.
The talk of cutting back national original programming at FSN comes as the prominence of the RSNs within the News Corp. structure was demonstrated by a recent restructuring at Fox National Cable Networks. The organization last week named Fox alum and former Gemstar-TV Guide International chief Rich Battista as president. While execs such as Big Ten Network president Mark Silverman and Fox Soccer Channel chief David Sternberg will now report to Battista, FSN boss Randy Freer will continue to report directly to chairman and CEO Tony Vinciquerra, to whom Battista will also report.
Vinciquerra himself was recently (and quietly) promoted to the role of chairman and CEO from his previous role as president and CEO.
In another move, FSN president Bob Thompson will transition into a consultancy role next summer, a move that has been in the works for some time. Thompson has been an integral part of building FSN into a prominent asset for the company.
—Alex Weprin contributed to this story