SBD/August 19, 2013/Media

FS1's UFC Debut Averages 1.78 Million Viewers; "Fox Sports Live" Reviews Promising

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FS1 airs Sonnen-Rua UFC bout as its first-ever primetime telecast
FS1 averaged 1.78 million viewers for "UFC Fight Night" on Saturday, which featured Chael Sonnen defeating Shogun Rua by submission in the first round during the net's first-ever primetime telecast. That audience figure is second best for the UFC since it signed a rights deal with Fox Sports heading into '12. FS1 also ended up higher among all key adult male demos on Saturday compared to the four broadcast TV nets. The UFC's previous fight cards on FX averaged 1.29 million viewers. The only card to perform better than Saturday night's telecast was on Jan. 19, when FX averaged 1.9 million viewers for a broadcast that featured Vitor Belfort defeating Michael Bisping from Brazil. Meanwhile, FS1 averaged a 0.3 overnight for its debut "Fox Sports Live" telecast after the UFC bout from 10:43pm-12:00am ET. By comparison, ESPN earned a 0.6 overnight for the 11:00pm-12:00am edition of "SportsCenter." FS1 also earned a 0.6 overnight for its NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race from Michigan Int'l Speedway on Saturday from 12:30-2:30pm. ESPN in the same window averaged a 0.7 overnight for Australia-Puerto Rico in the Little League World Series (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).

MIXED REACTIONS TO DEBUT: SPORTS ON EARTH's Joe DeLessio lists eight observations from the debut of "Fox Sports Live," writing, "For all the talk of how Fox Sports 1’s highlight show is an alternative to SportsCenter, this was the first sign that much of the show would actually be pretty familiar to SportsCenter viewers." "Fox Sports Live" is not "so much blowing up the format as it is adding a layer to it by having the same panel on the show every night and throwing to it regularly." Co-hosts Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole are "as good as advertised," as they are "as funny and irreverent as all the YouTube compilations suggested." FS1 "tried hard to position the show as a 'fun' alternative to SportsCenter, but for better or worse, the panelists don’t really come across as wacky, towel-snapping jocks." There was "a tiny bit of ball-busting in episode 1, but for the most part, they aimed either for straightforward analysis or taking a side in a mostly-civil debate" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 8/19). TIME's Sean Gregory writes the production quality "was just fine: it has the Fox Sports feel." The ticker on the bottom of the screen "wasn't distracting, and I was pleasantly surprised that it provided an update from the World Track and Field championships." The format of "Fox Sports 1 on 1" is "mighty promising," but the inaugural episode featuring Michael Strahan interviewing Patriots QB Tom Brady was "predictably dull." However, the net "deserves a look" (TIME.com, 8/19). YAHOO SPORTS CANADA's Chris Zelkovich wrote Onrait and O'Toole "apparently emerged relatively unscathed" in their debut. The two have "transported themselves holus bolus to the U.S." (CA.SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/18).

WORK IN PROGRESS: In Tampa, Tom Jones writes FS1's debut was "uneven." It is "obvious Fox is to be taken seriously," but there are "kinks to be worked out." "Fox Sports Live" was "all over the place," as viewers were "overloaded with too much information." There was a "ticker running on the bottom and another set of notes and graphics above that ticker and still another set of notes and graphics running down the right side." The panel ranged from "looking nervous to offering no insight." Former ESPN host Charissa Thompson "seemed to be the only one comfortable." That is "what you get when you hire analysts with next to no television experience." The show should "rely even more on Onrait and O'Toole." They "clearly were the stars of the show" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 8/19). Blogger Ed Sherman writes, "At times I really thought I was watching an old rerun from 'SportsNight,' the terrific ’90s show written by Aaron Sorkin." Sherman: "There’s going to be an adjustment period to JayDan. It is going to take time to get used to their pace and rhythm. And their humor. At first blush, I do think the Canadian guys are funny. My advice, though, would be: Don’t try to be too funny" (SHERMANREPORT.com, 8/19). In Denver, Dusty Saunders writes of "Fox Sports Live," "Two words sum up the premiere -- loud and confusing." The overall hour had "a smugness about it -- as if the channel had invented TV sports coverage." And the "all-too-busy screen produced ongoing confusion." There has "got to be improvement in this bells-and-whistles show" (DENVER POST, 8/19). The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Tim Goodman wrote "Fox Sports Live" has "a lot of segments." Viewers get "highlights, then a toss over to some in-studio banter and then back again." And "then back and forth again." The panelists "change, but the volleying back and forth -- which can get tiresome if what you really want, say, is a bunch of highlights in a row -- doesn't" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 8/18).

TWITTER REAX: WQXI-AM's Mike Bell wrote, "Liking Fox Sports Live, with Jay Onrait & Dan O'Toole...closest thing to loose, hip energy of Olbermann & Patrick from back in the day." Former ESPN NHL analyst Matthew Barnaby wrote, "I love Onrait and O'toole in the States with @FOXSports !!! Great place to get caught. Solid additions throughout!!!" BYU announcer Mike Wrubell wrote, "Not loving the omnipresent Charissa Thompson-led panel, but the Canadians are on point." Meanwhile, Fox has released a video of Onrait and O'Toole addressing some tweets about their first show.

FS1 A NICE LANDING SPOT FOR UFC: In N.Y., Marc Raimondi wrote FS1's production of "UFC Fight Night" was "fantastic." The net "made the fans feel like they were watching a big-time sporting event." The new camera angle -- with the camera "on the same plane as the canvas -- gave a whole new ingenious way to grasp the grappling aspect of MMA." UFC also delivered its "deepest free TV card ever." For "pure entertainment value, this might have been the UFC’s best show of the year -- and it was free." FS1 has "a chance to be huge for the UFC." Saturday night was "only an excellent, Bruce Buffer-level introduction" (NYPOST.com, 8/18). In Houston, Jeremy Botter wrote UFC's debut on FS1 "was a success by any measure." The fights were "excellent and memorable" (CHRON.com, 8/18). SI.com's Jeff Wagenheim wrote under the header, "UFC Finds A Home With Fox Sports 1 Debut" (SI.com, 8/18).

GETTING THEIR FOOTBALL FIX: "Fox Football Daily" premieres this afternoon on FS1 with Curt Menefee hosting a panel that includes Jay Glazer, Brian Urlacher, Randy Moss and Ronde Barber. Urlacher said that he "misses playing football but is enjoying his new role as an analyst for Fox." Appearing in the third quarter of last night's Colts-Giants game, Urlacher said it is "definitely an adjustment" going to work in the media. He said, "I'm having a good time with it. We have a good crew here. ... It's been fun so far." He added, "We have good camaraderie on this show as well. I think any time Jay's around, it's going to be fun" (Mark Potash, SUNTIMES.com, 8/18). THE MMQB's Peter King writes of Moss, "I love the hire, because he might actually be honest and say some smart things. But I'm skeptical of his staying power." King: "Can he stay interested in TV? It seems so anti-Moss, to sit in a studio and talk football" (MMQB.SI.com, 8/19).

USING TOO MUCH SEX APPEAL? SPORTS ON EARTH's Colin McGowan wrote Thompson and Erin Andrews in a video on the Hollywood Reporter website "try to affect 'blonde-tastically flirty' and end up somewhere around a generic Esquire Hot Lady Profile that's been left outside during a hurricane." The only time "we hear either of them speak, in the midst of so much doe-eyed preening and hair-flipping, is when Andrews jokes 'Are these our engagement photos?'" The photo shoot and accompanying video "is Fox asking Thompson and Andrews to announce that the network will also feature good-looking women." McGowan: "All I want is for Thompson and Andrews to be good at their jobs. Fox should too" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 8/16).

HEALTHY COMPETITION: In Columbus, Michael Arace writes it is "easy to bash ESPN and forget that the network still practices some world-class journalism." It covers "certain issues -- performance-enhancing drugs, for instance -- better than anyone." Yet ESPN can "use the competition" from FS1, even if it is "coming from a couple of yippy little dogs nipping at exposed ankles." The "plucky outfit that once touted a far-flung idea on the backwater of cable television has grown into a monolith." Its "hubris is such that it can create its own morality" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 8/19).
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