By HOWARD FENDRICH, AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) - A major overhaul at Fox Sports Net will include the cancellation of the nightly "National Sports Report" and six editions of "Regional Sports Report."
FSN's local evening sports shows covering New York, Chicago, San Francisco, New England, Florida and Ohio are being pulled by Rainbow Media Group, which owns and operates affiliates there.
The moves will result in cutting 81 full-time employees across the six regional networks, Rainbow said Wednesday.
Rainbow, a 50 percent partner in Fox Sports Net, is owned by Cablevision Systems Corp., a New York-area cable TV company that also owns Madison Square Garden, the Knicks and Rangers.
"National Sports Report" -- originally envisioned as a challenger to ESPN's "SportsCenter" -- will air for the final time on Feb. 10. Starting the next day, FSN will have sports news breaks twice or four times an hour from 5:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. The shorter reports will be similar to the updates heard on radio.
"We are morphing the way we present news. It's part of the evolution of the network," FSN president Tracy Dolgin said. "We want to further differentiate ourselves from the competition."
"National Sports Report" started in 1996 as a 2-hour show competing with "SportsCenter." It eventually was cut to an hour, then a half-hour.
"National Sports Report" recently was drawing about one-fifth as many viewers as "SportsCenter."
Dropping "National Sports Report" will result in fewer than 20 job cuts, Dolgin said.
FSN, which went on the air in November 1996, reaches 78 million U.S. homes, about 8 million fewer than ESPN.
FSN's ratings from 7-10 p.m. grew 8 percent from 2000 to 2001.
It launched 15 editions of the "Regional Sports Report," focusing on local sports news for a half-hour, in July 2000. In setting up the programs, FSN established bureaus to feed reports to each other and to the cable outfit's "National Sports Report."
After the six regional reports close Feb. 8, there still will be nine regional reports on affiliates owned and operated by FSN.
Cablevision cut 600 jobs, about 4 percent of its full-time work force, late last month.
Rainbow also operates cable networks American Movie Classics and Bravo.
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)