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Horowitz Says FS1 Can Be The Fox News of Sports Television

Jason Barrett

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The current ratings for Fox Sports 1 may not be great, but that isn’t stopping Fox Sports National Networks president Jamie Horowitz from taking aim at his former employer, ESPN. Yesterday at the Sports Business Journal World Sports Congress, the architect of FS1 went after the worldwide leader for its declining ratings on its flagship program SportsCenter.

“ESPN has lost 30% of SportsCenter audience during the past 5 years, 40% of it from the younger demo” said Horowitz. “I’d be a little worried if I were them.”

Although Horowitz may have a point, the bigger issue is whether or not Fox Sports 1 can be the solution. The sports channel has lagged in the ratings, despite adding some high profile talent, play by play, and gaining promotional support from Fox’s main channel.

To FS1’s credit, they did add Colin Cowherd, Kristine Leahy and Jason Whitlock. Homegrown star Katie Nolan has continued to blossom, especially in the digital space, and the late night “Fox Sports Live” program was rebranded to offer more opinion and humor and play to the strengths of Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Horowitz said he believes FS1 can change the game much like Fox News did for News/Talk television. A heavier focus on opinion, and less on highlights, is part of that strategy. That’s why the network remains interested in prying Skip Bayless away from ESPN.

“Fox News positioned itself as provocative and opinion oriented,” said Horowitz. “I believe Fox Sports 1 can take a similar tack. Opinion costs less than news and documentaries, and is likely to stand out more in the busy sports media world.”

Although it may not be popular to members of the sports media who long for the days of quality sports journalism and less debate style programming, it’s undeniable that opinion based content has struck a chord. ‘Opinionists’ (a term Horowitz uses to describe certain personalities) like Stephen A. Smith, and Bayless, have produced big ratings for “First Take”, and others like Bill Simmons, Michael Wilbon, and Tony Kornheiser have produced similar results.

Given Fox News’ position as the ratings leader in News/Talk television, Horowitz’s plan to steer FS1 in that direction makes a lot of sense. But to produce the same type of success, he’ll need a lot more high profile talent, additional original programming, and the most important thing – time and patience from ownership.

Sports TV News

Pat McAfee Feels Good About His College Football MegaCast Debut

“I feel good going into the next one. I feel like we’ve learned from this first one,” he said.

Jordan Bondurant

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The College Football MegaCast featuring Pat McAfee and his daily YouTube show’s cast debuted on ESPN2 over the weekend, and McAfee is looking forward to the next edition.

On his show Monday, McAfee told co-host A.J. Hawk that he felt good about how the show went considering it was uncharted territory to be in.

“We had no idea how successful it would be,” McAfee said. “Like this is the first time we’re being judged in a different fashion. I don’t think we marketed it much, you know, because I don’t think we knew how it was gonna go.”

The alternate feed is being produced for ESPN by Omaha Productions, which is also responsible for the ManningCast which runs alongside the traditional Monday Night Football broadcast.

McAfee said this first show turned out to be a learning experience and that they started off on the right foot.

“I feel good going into the next one. I feel like we’ve learned from this first one,” he said. “We had no idea, it was very much of a roll of the dice. Going into the next one I think we’re gonna try and make it even grander and bigger, and I’m very excited for it.”

As for the style in which they covered the Clemson/N.C. State game, McAfee added that the giveaways and guest interactions added a lot of value.

“I think it’s the right way to watch a game, and to be honest I think it’s keeping us all invested as much and even more,” he said.

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Sports TV News

LA Clippers Sign New Contract with Bally Sports

The multi-year agreement will go into effect this season. Bally will carry 63 of the team’s 2022-23 regular season games.

Jordan Bondurant

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The Los Angeles Clippers will continue its relationship with Bally Sports, completing a new deal over the weekend to keep Bally as the team’s regional sports network.

The multi-year agreement will go into effect this season. Bally will carry 63 of the team’s 2022-23 regular season games. Additionally, 11 games will be carried by KTLA, giving the team some additional viewership reach. The remaining eight games will be broadcast on national television.

Brian Sieman will continue on as the play-by-play broadcaster for games, with Jim Jackson and Mike Fratello swapping the analyst chair. Jamie Maggio and Kristina Pink will be reporting.

According to the Los Angeles Times, all signs pointed to the team and the network hashing out a new contract.

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Sports TV News

ESPN’s NFL Programming Sees Big September Growth

For ESPN, September has been a really strong month with their NFL programming.

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NFL Studio

For ESPN, September has been a really strong month with their NFL programming.

Sunday NFL Countdown is averaging 1.4 million viewers per show thus far in 2022. That up 15% from 2021’s first three shows of the NFL season. The season premiere – Sunday, Sept. 11 – averaged 1.6 million viewers, tying the network’s best Week 1 audience for the show since 2016 and is up 35% year-over-year.

NFL Live experienced large growth too. The episode airing after the first NFL Sunday, on Monday September 12, averaged 664,000 viewers which beat every NFL Live episode last season, including the most-watched episode on 2021 (December 17) which grabbed 635,000 viewers.

Monday Night Countdown is averaging 1.3 million viewers for its two, non-staggered September episodes, which aired in its traditional timeslot (6-8 pm).

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