Fox Cuts Back 'Cops' Order, Lines Saturday Nights With Sports

11:29 AM PST 04/09/2012 by Lacey Rose
FOX
Cops

While Fox has not yet scheduled the 25th season of "Cops," which will include a minimum of 16 episodes plus an anniversary special, it has slated 28 of 32 Saturday nights with UFC, NASCAR, baseball and college football.

There will be fewer cops and bad boys roaming around Fox’s Saturday night schedule for the remainder of this year.

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Cops, the unscripted law-enforcement show that recently wrapped its 24th season, will occupy fewer spots for its not-yet-scheduled next season care of Fox’s plan to grow its sports presence on Saturday nights. After many months of preparation, the network has scheduled a combination of major events -- NASCAR races, Major League Baseball games, college football games and Ultimate Fighting Championship bouts -- to air on 28 of 32 nights from April 14 to Dec. 8.

“We see Saturday nights as the perfect home for quality sports programming, especially in spring and fall,” said Fox Sports Media Group co-president and COO Eric Shanks. “We’ve been working hand-in-hand with our entertainment division and partners, and we’ve put together a solid schedule that gives us a consistent Saturday night franchise for the first time ever.”

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Although a thriving sports franchise on Saturday evenings has the potential to be far more lucrative for News Corp., Cops has long delivered an enviably young audience and 3.7 million total viewers for a comparatively low price tag. A network rep insists this will not be a “significant” cutback, suggesting instead that there will be only “a handful” fewer episodes in the show's 25th season order. When they will air remains unclear since Fox has yet to schedule its nine free Saturday evenings through December. According to a well-placed source, the show's next season, which will include a minimum of 16 episodes plus a two-hour 25th anniversary special, is about to begin filming. 

The move, first reported by New York Magazine's Vulture website, comes nearly a year after Fox pulled back considerably on America’s Most Wanted, opting for quarterly specials over a weekly series after its 23rd year on the network. At the time, Fox entertainment chief Kevin Reilly told reporters the series hadn't made money for the network in some time and Fox needed the space to air repeats. AMW was quickly scooped up by Lifetime, where it’s been performing for the femme-skewing network. For its part, Cops’ producers at Langley Productions cannot contractually begin exploring alternatives for the future until February. Already, their show repeats on local stations as well as cable networks G4 and TruTV. 

Email: Lacey.Rose@THR.com; Twitter: @LaceyVRose

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