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Fox Sports Reshapes Its Series Approach

A daily talk show, a countdown skein and an animated series are all on Fox Sports Net's second-quarter development slate, as the national sports service looks to broaden its content beyond live games.

The programming projects are the outgrowth of a recently created network-development department, charged with creating nontraditional content, according to Fox Sports Net executive vice president of programming and production George Greenberg.

Along with Greenberg, the department also features former Sci Fi Channel and FX programming executive Zig Gauthier and ex-MTV: Music Television content development executive Geoff Suddleson.

"What we're trying to do is upgrade the national programming out of Los Angeles we provide to everybody," Greenberg said. "We're open for business to take pitches from the sports and Hollywood communities."

One project expected to launch is Fox Sports Net Across America, a weekly series tentatively scheduled for Sunday nights, beginning in March. It will expand on local stories of national interest developed by FSN's 22 owned or affiliated regional sports networks.

In May, Fox Sports Net will unveil the The Sports List, a weekday strip examining "the greatest sports arguments" in a countdown format, Greenberg said. The show, hosted by TV-sports personality Summer Sanders, will feature Hollywood stars and pro athletes discussing their recollections of events profiled in the series. "It's like [MTV's Total Request Live] on steroids," he said.

Also in May, the network is expected to bow its second poker-based offering. The yet-to-be-named, seven-episode series — slated for late-night fringe — will pit the best poker players against one another in a head-to-head elimination tournament, with a two-hour finals to be telecast live.

The network currently airs a United Kingdom-produced series, Late Night Poker.

Omega Dome, a scripted sports-and-entertainment series that combines live-action sports clips with animation, is also in the development pipeline. "There is nothing like it on television," Greenberg said.

Fox will also commission a New York-based daily topical sports show that will counterbalance the more comedic and conversational Best Damn Sports Show Period
(BDSSP). "It's a cross between Bill O'Reilly and Nightline," Greenberg said.

Also on tap: a quarterly special featuring a top Fox Sports personality hosting a "Barbara Walters-type show for sports," centering around high-profile events like the Super Bowl and World Series.

"We'll use the specials to also help launch big events and as a springboard to launch new series," he said.

Each show will air several times during the week, to give the regional sports networks an opportunity to schedule the shows around their pro and college sports events. "We want to expose as many people to these shows as possible," Greenberg said.

To make room for the new entries, Greenberg said Fox Sports Net will table You Gotta See This! for the foreseeable future. Late last year, the network cancelled its action-sports magazine series, 54321.

The network, though, is retaining documentary series Behind the Glory and last month reshaped the workhorse BDSSP, cutting back the two-hour format by a half hour in an effort to increase pacing and bolster viewership.

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.