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FS1 is "seeking to position itself as the 'fun' sports destination," and if the premiere of "Crowd Goes Wild" at 5:00pm ET Monday is "any indication, this is just the last stop before transforming TV sports coverage into open-mic night," according to Brian Lowry of VARIETY. Even though co-host Regis Philbin is a "major sports fan, the octogenarian host looked a trifle out of his element in this teeming morning-zoo environment." Comedian Michael Kosta "quickly established himself as the would-be village idiot, opening with a prepared bit in which he compared" Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez to the character Walter White on AMC's "Breaking Bad." Additionally, the screen was "so overflowing with graphic elements and headlines it would be easy for one of the panelists to hide behind them." The show is "so conspicuously not ready for primetime as to inspire relatively little faith in the rest of the enterprise" (VARIETY.com, 8/19). Meanwhile, "Fox Football Daily" debuted yesterday at 6:00pm, and Ad Age's Michael McCarthy tweeted, "For a guy who never liked talking to media, Randy Moss has been looser and more relaxed than Brian Urlacher on 1st #FoxFootballDaily." The MMQB's Peter King tweeted, "A good debut for Randy Moss. Engaged, fairly enlightening. Hope he keeps it up. He's good to listen to." McCarthy replied, "Agreed. Urlacher needs to loosen up more. But it was only 1st show" (TWITTER.com, 8/19).
TAKING A DEEPER LOOK: With FS1's "Fox Sports Live" now into its third night of coverage, THE DAILY monitored last night's broadcast to detail what the show is covering. The 60-minute edition of the show at 11:00pm featured co-hosts Jay Onrait and Dan O'Toole, with Onrait saying of FS1's Erin Andrews, "We're Jay and Dan and we're full of probiotics thanks to our new friend, Erin Andrews." Andrews is an endorser for TruBiotics yogurt. The broadcast led with MLB highlights, with the Dodgers-Marlins and D-Backs-Reds, which carried the show to its first commercial break. The show returned with reports on the ongoing murder investigations of Aaron Hernandez and Oscar Pistorius, NASCAR driver Tony Stewart's broken leg forcing him to rest the remainder of the season, injury updates on Lakers G Kobe Bryant and Giants WR Victor Cruz, Broncos LB Von Miller possibly being suspended for six games for violating the league's substance-abuse policy and Steelers-Redskins on "MNF" last night. Following the Steelers-Redskins highlights, the show's panel of analysts of Donovan McNabb, Andy Roddick, Gabe Kapler and Gary Payton, along with Charissa Thompson, discussed the future of Redskins QB Kirk Cousins, Miller's suspension and the debate over hitting players low after Dolphins TE Dustin Keller was severely injured from a low hit. The broadcast then returned to Onrait and O'Toole in the studio and aired highlights of Nationals-Cubs, Rays-Orioles and Astros-Rangers (Paul Sanford, Television Editor).
AND WE'RE BACK: After another commercial break, a taped good-natured "rant" from FS1's Regis Philbin was aired directed towards Onrait and O'Toole, followed by an injury update on Angels 1B Albert Pujols, the lawyer for Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez declining to release medical evidence and boxer Mike Tyson appearing with the panel live in-studio. After highlights from the Little League World Series and Steelers-Redskins, "Fox Football Daily" co-hosts Curt Menefee, Jay Glazer and Randy Moss discussed various NFL topics. The remainder of the telecast featured Cardinals-Brewers, highlights, a segment called "The 1" of the plays of the day and highlights of Mets-Twins, Rockies-Phillies and Pirates-Padres. The broadcast also included highlights of EPL match Manchester City-Newcastle, WBC middleweight and welterweight title bouts and finally Tyson talking with Thompson and Payton (Sanford).
JUST GETTING STARTED: In San Jose, Jon Wilner wrote "everyone from couch potatoes to the coaches and athletes themselves will benefit from the existence of FS1, including -- and especially -- ESPN." The net "needs something to keep it sharp and honest" (MERCURYNEWS.com, 8/19). Horizon Media Research Dir Brad Adgate tweeted, "Average # of viewers (total day) first day of Fox Sport 1 479,000; second day 133,000, Both days: Median age 43.5; 76% of viewers is male" (TWITTER.com, 8/20).
Some critics "sneer" at ESPN's "boastful tagline -- 'The Worldwide Leader in Sports' -- but it is unquestionably apt," according to Derek Thompson of THE ATLANTIC. ESPN, with an estimated value between $40-60B, is "at least 20 times bigger than the New York Times Company, or five times bigger than News Corp." The company as a single asset "could be worth as much as all the other parts of its majority owner, the Walt Disney Company, combined," and is "likely the most valuable media property" in the U.S. ESPN Senior VP/Research & Analytics Artie Bulgrin said, "Other networks need to create hits. We don’t. We are a destination network, not a network with destination programming. People tune in to ESPN without even knowing what’s on." Thompson writes ESPN "seems to only grow stronger from year to year." The answer to why no one has "found a way to bring it down, even incrementally ... lies partly in a decision made nearly a decade ago." ESPN execs said that ratings in '05 had "declined as the network wandered into the wilderness of sports esoterica." ESPN President John Skipper said, "We had strayed to food eating and gaming and salsa and horse racing and figure skating, and it just didn’t perform for us." His plan to "restore the network’s glory was so simple, it could have fit on a napkin." Skipper: "I had this quadrant with two axes: young versus old, and male versus dual audience." Skipper "pushed the programming to the upper-left quadrant (young and male) with an emphasis on live sports." He said, "We're not looking for niche audiences." Bulgrin said once the net put this strategy in place, ratings "started to change rather dramatically" (THE ATLANTIC, 9/'13 issue). Thompson also presented, with permission from ESPN Research+Analytics, a key Powerpoint presentation on America's favorite TV channels (THEATLANTIC.com, 8/15).
READY FOR THE CHALLENGE? Thompson in an online video said ESPN "isn't just the biggest name in sports, it might be the biggest media brand in the world. But ESPN's dominance isn't inevitable. It could end." Thompson laid out his "5 Things That Could Kill ESPN" with the first thing being FS1, which has a "portfolio of sports rights that rivals even ESPN." FS1 "could be the single greatest head-to-head threat that ESPN has ever seen." The next threat is the Internet, because "if the web is the future of media, then the web cannot be an ESPN monopoly." There are "simply too many national sports sites that compete on its turf." The "threats to the cable bundle" and "cost of sports programming" were the next issues. Thompson said by some estimates, "sports now accounts for half the total cost of TV programming." So if sports costs keep rising and median incomes hold steady, "there could come a breaking point where families could no longer afford to buy the entire cable bundle." The final threat is "ESPN itself, not just its role in driving up the cost of sports, but the broader threat that any company this dominant and valuable can get consumed by its own success" (THEATLANTIC.com, 8/14).
MULTICHANNEL NEWS' Reynolds & Baysinger write MLB Network is "finishing up a strong ratings season." The net's regular-season game viewership through early August was "up 10% over 2012 with an average of 242,000 viewers per contest." Meanwhile, "MLB Tonight" has seen a "26% increase in viewership over the 2012 regular season," with Sunday editions up 44% (MULTICHANNEL NEWS, 8/19 issue).
CIRCLING THE WAGONS: In Buffalo, James Fink noted U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.) is asking that FCC Chair Mignon Clyburn "work with the NFL on another round of revisions to the league's blackout policy." Higgins said, "Football hasn’t even entered the regular season and yet Western New Yorkers are already facing blackouts of Buffalo Bills football games. A determination by the FCC of whether this policy is in the public interest is worthy of a serious and long-overdue consideration.” Only the regular-season opener against the Patriots is sold out (BIZJOURNALS.com, 8/19).
FOOTBALL IS KING: NASCAR fans in seven markets will have to watch Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race from Bristol Motor Speedway on alternate channels, as ABC affiliates in those markets are airing NFL preseason games rather than the race. Fans in Dayton, Nashville, Philadelphia, Phoenix, St. Joseph, Mo., Columbus, Ohio and Weslaco, Texas, will be impacted. ABC affiliates in the Buffalo, Charlotte and Rochester markets will join the race in progress following the 4:30pm ET Bills-Redskins game (ESPN).