Fox Sports 1 is approaching its six-month mark and while it's had plenty of growing pains, the channel has already managed to usurp more established rivals.
In its first few months, FS1 has been trying to make a name for itself with little live sports outside of college football, college basketball and the UFC.
Still, the network averaged 287,000 total viewers and 140,000 in the all-important 18-to-49 demo in prime time from its August launch through December. This is a marked improvement from its predecessor, Speed, which averaged just 151,000 total viewers and 60,000 in the demo in the time slot the year prior.
Of course, FS1 is still nowhere close to touching ESPN, which on any given night attracts over 2 million viewers and 990,000 18-to-49 year olds. And only six months in, it is not worth even comparing the two.
A more telling comparison would be against smaller channels like NBC Sports Network, MLB Network and NBA TV. FS1, which is available in about 90 million homes, is beating all three in prime time. FS1 tops MLB and NBA TV in both total viewers and 18-to-49, and beats NBCSN in total viewers and is neck-in-neck in the demo.
And with the Big East Conference and Major League Baseball in the spring, media buyers expect the network to see more gains in the second-half of its first year.
But what could really make the network is the potential package of Thursday night football games the NFL is reportedly looking to release. FS1 along with NBCSN are expected to make bids on the games.
Thursday night games averaged 8 million viewers on NFL Network this past season -- nearly four times FS1's most-watched event thus far.
FS1's biggest success has been the football rivalry game between Oregon and Oregon State in November, which set a network record with 2.2 million viewers.
Slow Start for Studio Shows
While FS1 is able to attract viewers with some big match-ups, ratings for its studio programming have been lackluster. "Fox Sports Live," the network's attempt to take on ESPN's "SportsCenter," has had a slow start.
FS1 had been offering "make-goods" in some high-profile sports events on broadcast sibling Fox as it looked to compensate for ratings shortfall, with some advertisers offered time in Fox broadcasts of college football games, pre-game and post-game NFL programming, and even time in the World Series.
"FS1 took care of people where it needed to," said Marc Morse, senior VP -- national broadcast, RJ Palmer. "There's no real angst in the marketplace," he said, adding that media buyers expect it will take time for the network to find its footing.
And with Fox home to the Super Bowl, FS1 is expected to get plenty of play in coverage of the big game.