Fuel TV cancels The Daily Habit

The Daily Habit, Fuel TV's long-running action sports talk show featuring athlete and celebrity interviews, in-studio band performances and comedy skits, has been cancelled.

The final taping of The Daily Habit is on Nov. 22. The show will remain on the air through the end of the year.

Reached by ESPN for details, the Fox-owned network responded: "After more than 1,350 shows over the past six years, The Daily Habit has run its course on Fuel TV."

Ranked for years as the network's flagship show, The Daily Habit reached a critical juncture in the spring of 2010, when David Hill, the chairman and CEO of Fox Sports Media Group, called an all-hands meeting at Fuel TV's first-floor offices in Los Angeles.

Hill prefaced the meeting by telling the gathered executives, staffers, freelancers and talent that he ought to be giving them a hard time for failing to reach more viewers. Instead, he emphasized that he believed in the network. But the bottom line was this: There weren't enough eyeballs watching Fuel TV, he said, and that needed to change.

Network executives started at once reexamining their unique niche in the television landscape. Within a few months, then Executive Vice President and General Manager CJ Olivares, who helped launch Fuel TV in July 2003, announced that the network would pull back slightly from its sharpened focus on action sports to include a wider spectrum of thrill-seekers. This new world view, Olivares said, would include non-endemics that shared the same individualism and risk-taking as their action sports counterparts. Enter mixed martial arts and rally car racing, even some rock climbing.

"When the Habit was firing on all cylinders, it was as good as it gets," said Ian Hill (no relation to aforementioned David Hill), who was the show's talent coordinator from October 2005 until he was laid off in June of this year. "The reason Fox wanted to change the show was to reach a broader audience, and they wanted us to figure out how to insert celebrities and put more of a comedy twist on it. On paper it sounded like a good idea.

"But here's my take," Ian Hill continued, explaining that, originally, the Habit appealed to the core action sports community on many levels, with industry shot-callers and athletes watching the show for new footage, trends, and potential team riders. Plus, younger viewers could get candid glimpses of their action spots heroes during in-studio interviews, and see established and emerging bands perform, all in the same half hour. "Then all of a sudden, this is dwindling rapidly," says Ian Hill. "And the audience is disappearing, and it just kind of sputtered."

During the same timeframe, many of the network's top executives starting clearing off their desks, starting last December with Shon Tomlin, the senior vice president of programming and marketing. Olivares stepped down in April with this statement: "As the network continues to evolve, I realize that my passion remains the action sports that were Fuel TV's core and I now have the opportunity to explore ... emerging possibilities [elsewhere.]" And earlier this month, Scott Paridon, vice president of production and development, said goodbye.

Successful programming strategies can be hard to come by when a network is trying to crack a tough demographic, namely males between the ages of 12 and 34. Considering the ubiquity of internet content, the hundreds of television channels competing for a young man's attention, and that Fuel TV only reaches an estimated 32 million households, the ratings game gets even tougher.

"The arc of the show started to take a broader route and in the process we lost a lot of our core followers," says Habit frontman Pat Parnell, who ranks his time hosting the show on par with reporting from five Olympic Games. "The type of allegiance you get from those kind of viewers, you just can't buy. At its prime, the show was the ultimate platform for [action sports] athletes and culture to have a voice. Some of the changes have been polarizing to a percentage of our viewership, and an unfortunate side effect of that has been disappointment aired from those committed fans.

"Looking ahead, though," adds Parnell, "I'm anticipating that UFC [coverage, starting January 1] brings more viewers to the channel and in the process turns more eyes on to action sports."

According to network officials, Fuel TV remains committed to action sports, and the majority of its programming continues to be action sports.

[Freelance writer Keith Hamm worked at Fuel TV from December 2006 to September 2010, primarily writing the now-defunct The Weekly Update.]