Olivares Motors Away From Fuel TV

In wake of programming shift, network chief hits the road

Eight years after playing a key role in the launch of the network, C.J. Olivares has run out of gas at Fuel TV.

The evp and general manager is stepping down from the helm of the Fox Sports cable net, although he will stay on as a consultant to provide transitional support.

Officially, Olivares’ rationale for leaving his post has to do with looking “to pursue opportunities more closely related to the action sports genre.” That's closer to the truth than most departure boilerplate: according to one insider, Olivares had become increasingly disenchanted with Fuel TV’s programming strategy.

Fox Sports is expected to name a replacement for Olivares within the next few days. The new chief is almost sure to be a homegrown hire.

“It has been my honor and privilege to lead a team of dedicated and talented professionals at Fuel TV these last eight years,” Olivares said. “As the network continues to evolve, I realize that my passion remains the action sports that were Fuel’s core.” He went on to say that he looked forward to exploring opportunities in the space.

Launched in 2003 as a destination for extreme sports such as surfing, snowboarding, and BMX racing, Fuel last year began casting a wider net, airing mixed martial arts competitions and auto racing.

The network also reconfigured its prime-time franchises, tinkering with its 8 p.m. panel show, The Daily Habit, to incorporate more talk about “dude stuff.” The show’s home page promises a steady diet of “hot chicks, cutting-edge bands and hilarious comedy.”

Despite the bro-tastic shift, Fuel isn’t looking to age down. To the contrary, the niche network is attempting to draw a slightly older crowd, setting its sights on males aged 18-34. (At launch, the target demo was the 12-24 group.)

Fuel only began reporting its Nielsen deliveries this month. According to prime-time ratings data for the period spanning March 28 through April 24, Fuel averaged just 8,000 total viewers in prime, of which 3,000 were members of the 18-34 demo.

Last year, Viacom had considered purchasing Fuel from Fox Sports, but stepped away from the deal after a close examination of the network’s distribution prospects. Available in around 30 million households, more than a third of Fuel’s reach is made possible by its carriage deal with DirecTV. That deal expires this year.

As goes distribution, so goes ad sales. According to SNL Kagan, Fuel last year took in $18.3 million in net sponsor revenue, putting it in the company of startups like Gospel Music Channel and the revamped Ovation.

At an average rate of 14 cents per sub per month, Fuel brings in $50.4 million in annual affiliate revenue.