Fuel TV Hits the Gas

With the beginnings of a solid distribution system in place and a number of satisfied advertisers on board, Fox’s 7-year-old action-sports network, Fuel TV, is revving up its image this fall with a new tagline and a programming slate designed to broaden its audience.  

Flying under the new banner “Risk Is the Only Rule,” Fuel aims to underscore the element of danger that sets it apart from its competition. Sports featured on the network—skateboarding, snowboarding, surfing, free- style motocross––all carry an element of risk that doesn’t factor into the equation with more mainstream pursuits. “The consequences of failure or making a mistake by competitors in the sports we televise is far more significant than in traditional sports,” said CJ Olivares, executive vp and general manager of Fuel TV.

Currently available in 30 million homes, or around 26 percent of all U.S. TV households, Fuel TV is not only looking to expand its reach but also gunning for a slightly older viewership. At present, the male 12-24 demo makes up the lion’s share of its audience; with the new tag and programming in place, the net looks to shift to male 12-34. “The goal is to go after not only the participants of action sports but also audiences who just enjoy watching these sports,” said David Hill, Fox Sports Media Group chairman and CEO.

To that end, the network will make several changes to its signature nightly studio show, The
Daily Habit, including a live studio audience and a beefed-up celeb panel. FoxSport.com’s popular sports talk show Cubed will also be brought on board. Veering into the picture in December is new series Slam, which will feature the greatest crashes and spills in the live-action sports arena. Current shows that embody Fuel’s risky credo include Built to Shred, Danny & the Dingo, Bubba’s World and Thrillbillies, all of which will return with new episodes in fourth quarter.

“They are going to shake the mold and rattle the tree, and that’s a good thing for us,” said Tom Campagne, a marketing consultant for Verizon Wireless’ music/action sports and events business.

Fuel’s bid to expand its reach should make it a much more attractive environment for marketers, said Tom Winner, global director of broadcast buying at Weiden + Kennedy. “We like Fuel TV a lot, but its audience has been a little too narrowly targeted,” Winner said. “So to age up and give our clients more impressions makes good business sense.”

Per SNL Kagan, Fuel in 2010 should amass $71.4 million in total revenue. Last year, the net took in $13.8 million in ad sales dollars, up 2 percent versus ’08.