Driven to cut costs

Fox watches bottom line on road to Daytona

Known for its production values, Fox Sports is trying to balance technical expertise with making sure its telecasts are cost-effective.

Fox Sports chairman David Hill confirmed during a conference call ahead of this weekend's Daytona 500 festivities in Florida that the network has done some trimming behind the scenes. And it's not just in the NASCAR telecasts; Hill said the network for the past 18 months has looked "minutely at every one of our productions," including the NFL and MLB on Fox.

Travel costs have been cut back, and deals with vendors — when it comes to power, catering and mobile-production units — have been renegotiated. Fox Sports has cut by a day the time it takes to build its compound. And it has partnered with ESPN to save costs, with the networks hiring the same technicians who work Saturday at Daytona for ESPN and then Sunday for Fox Sports.

"We'll be making changes and working in a far more cost- effective way than we have ever before. But … we're very confident that it will not" cut down on what is seen by viewers, Hill said.

Fox Sports is the latest network looking at the future with a much tougher bottom line. NBC Sports & Olympics chairman Dick Ebersol alluded to it last month, saying in effect that things looked grim in the immediate future. And ESPN recently laid off staff following edicts by parent company Disney.

But even with the challenged economy, Fox Sports execs said automotive, financial and telecom ads have sold well.

"In a very difficult sales environment, whether it's primetime television or sports, the NASCAR ad market for Fox in this environment is unbelievably healthy," president Ed Goren said. (partialdiff)