SBD/May 6, 2013/Media

Fox Sports 1 Setting Talent Lineup For Three-Hour Nightly News Program

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Onrait (l) and O'Toole are known for comedic newscasts in Canada
TSN "SportsCentre" anchors Jay Onrait and Dan O'Toole are "leaving their network next month for Fox Sports 1," where they will be "a major part of a three-hour Fox Sports Live program that will air nightly" from 11:00pm-2:00am ET, according to Richard Deitsch of SI.com. "Fox Sports Live" is expected to "have more than a dozen regulars, including anchors, update people and a rotating cast of former athletes/analysts." Fox Sports execs offered Onrait and O'Toole "a deal that included bringing over their longtime producer." On the surface, "it's a smart, outside-the-box hire." Chemistry is "hard to develop for this type of show, and Fox Sports executives believe Onrait and O'Toole already possess it." It will be "interesting to see how their style plays in the States." ESPN's Charissa Thompson is also headed to FS1, though it "won't be formally announced for another month due to contractual obligations," as is ESPNews anchor Don Bell. Fox also is "trying to fit Andy Roddick ... into a position on the same program." One "key production signing" by FS1 is the "hiring of former NFL Network producer Bardia Shah-Rais." One ESPN employee who worked with Shah-Rais called him "the best hire Fox Sports 1 has made so far." FS1 in total is "expected to make around 200 hires." Meanwhile, CBS Sports Group Chair Sean McManus and Turner Sports President of Sales, Distribution & Sports David Levy are "interested spectators in the evolution of Fox Sports 1." McManus said, "You are always cognizant of what someone else is doing, and I applaud them for being aggressive. It will be interesting to watch." Levy: "It will be a challenge if you don't have live sports. We manage a 24-hour property -- NBA TV -- and Fox Sports 1 is a competitor for that as well. A lot of rights are long-term rights, and having secured those, you feel better, but everybody is a competitor" (SI.com, 5/5).

CHEMISTRY LESSON: SB NATION's Steve Lepore noted Onrait and O'Toole are "cult figures in Canada for putting together an often hilarious sports newscast that harkens back to the days of 'The Big Show' on ESPN." If FS1 "allows them to do their thing, this could be a really, really solid hire for the new network" (SBNATION.com, 5/3). AWFUL ANNOUNCING's Matt Yoder writes since the days of Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick anchoring "SportsCenter," ESPN has "ensured none of their talent outshine the network or the highlights." In that regard, Onrait and O'Toole will be a "direct counterpunch from the outset for Fox Sports One." They will be given "every chance to become household names and their irreverent humor will serve as an immediate alternative to the establishment." Onrait and O'Toole's "off-beat, envelope-pushing style is quintessential Fox" (AWFULANNOUNCING.com, 5/3).
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