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ESPN's latest rival debuts on August 17
From those wonderful folks who gave you Bart Simpson and Bill O’Reilly comes FOX Sports 1, “America’s New Sports Network." Rupert Murdoch’s latest underdog upstart follows in the successful footsteps of FOX Broadcasting Company and FOX News, two networks that went from the cheap seats to luxury suites against all odds.
FOX’s newest expansion franchise, which debuts Aug. 17, is attempting to be the fun alternative to staid sports establishment ESPN. But don’t be fooled by the light-hearted schtick — FS1 has the potential to be a serious challenger to ESPN’s status as “The Worldwide Leader in Sports.”
ESPN has SportsCenter. Followed by a rerun of SportsCenter. FS1 has FOX SPORTS LIVE, a three-hour bloc of programming that airs from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. ET and features a variety of shows. Former ESPN SportsNation host Charissa Thompson (pictured above on right) and a slew of retired athletes — including Andy Roddick, Gary Payton and Donovan McNabb — are all on board.
But the stars of the show are expected to be co-anchors Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole, along with Producer Tim. They were stars north of the border on TSN’s SportsCentre in Canada. Onrait and O’Toole have been compared to early-ESPN quick-witted trailblazers like Dan Patrick, Keith Olbermann and Craig Kilborn. There is concern over how their humor will be received stateside, but Canadians everywhere were sad to see the wisecracking Canucks fly south.
For roughly 60 years, Regis Philbin has hosted a talk show. The 81-year-old is back in the saddle with “Crowd Goes W!ld,” a daily (5 p.m. ET) sports-entertainment show shot at Chelsea Piers sports facility in Manhattan.
The rabid New York Yankees fan and Notre Dame alum will be joined by an eclectic lineup that includes YouTube star Katie Nolan, the Wall Street Journal’s Jason Gay, two-time Super Bowl champ Trevor Pryce, tennis-playing comedian Michael Kosta and British beauty Georgie Thompson.
FS1: Numero Uno?
FS1 has game-day content — with NFL, MLB, college football, NASCAR, UEFA Champions League and UFC. And FS1 has a plan of attack, hoping the Al Bundys of the world would rather laugh and check out foxy girls than dissect X’s and O’s. But only time will tell if FS1 can go toe-to-toe with ESPN. “We’ve always had competition,” ESPN president John Skipper told Businessweek. “But most of that competition has been segmented competition — network television is competing against our network television, Yahoo! Sports is competing against us in digital, Sports Illustrated competing in magazines. We have always been the one entity that had cross-platform assets. But FOX is a different animal than we’ve dealt with in the past.”
Before kickoff on Saturdays this fall, FS1 will have an expanded two-hour pregame show — a la ESPN’s College GameDay — before Pac-12 and Big 12 coverage. Familiar faces Erin Andrews (of ESPN fame and infamy), Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George and resident referee Mike Pereira are joined by SEC expert fire-starter Clay Travis as well as former radio personalities Joel Klatt and Petros Papadakis.
Cult favorite Gus Johnson is back handling play-by-play with Charles Davis as the color commentator in the booth on Saturdays, with Kristina Pink on the sideline. FS1 will also have a weekly Thursday night game.
IT'S IN THE GAME
FOX Sports 1 has no NBA coverage, but FS1 will more than hold its own against ESPN in the NFL and MLB.
FOX: 105 NFL regular-season games, four playoff games, Super Bowl every three years
ESPN: 17 regular-season games
FOX: 92 MLB regular-season games, All-Star Game, NL or ALDS, NL or ALCS, World Series
ESPN: 90 MLB regular-season games, NL or AL Wild Card
Last year, ESPN made $9 billion. Only $3 billion was generated by advertising revenue. The remaining $6 billion came from cable television companies charged to carry the network. Driving up the price-per-subscriber and, as a result, profits, is the primary reason sporting events like the BCS national title game are aired on ESPN rather than ABC, which Disney also owns. FS1 is expected to initially carry a price-per-subscriber of between 75 cents and $1.
$5.06 » ESPN
$2.71 » ESPN 3D
$1.21 » TNT
$0.97 » Disney Channel
$0.84 » NFL Network
$0.82 » Fox News
$0.67 » ESPN2
$0.62 » USA Network
$0.59 » TBS
* Information from 2012 via SNL Kagan