Regis Philbin will make his debut as a co-host of FS1's "Crowd Goes Wild" Monday afternoon, and giving the longtime TV personality his "chance as a sportscaster" is another attempt by the net to "differentiate itself from ESPN," according to Richard Sandomir of the N.Y. TIMES. The idea of Philbin hosting a sports show is "not completely far-fetched," as former viewers of “Live! With Regis and Kelly” know that Philbin "is a big sports fan, whose riffs would make his co-hosts’ eyes roll." Fox Senior Exec VP David Hill said, “Classic television is, ‘Expect the unexpected.’ Regis falls into that category. This is perfect for him.” Fox Sports co-President & co-COO Eric Shanks said that Philbin’s "appeal could help 'Crowd Goes Wild' secure any reluctant guests." Sandomir reports the goal for the show is to be an "entertainment show surrounded by sports, with invitations to celebrities like George Clooney to talk about his favorite team while pitching his latest film." But how long this "new experience will last is, apparently, up in the air." Philbin was asked about the length of his contract and said, “Five months. Twenty weeks. It ends after the Super Bowl.” But Fox Sports Senior VP/Original Programming Michael Bloom said, "There's no short-term contract" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/14). Philbin last night appeared on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" to discuss the show. Host John Oliver asked if Fox is "going to do to sports what they did to news?” Philbin said, “Everybody’s going into it. All the networks will have a sports channel before long." Philbin added that "Crowd Goes Wild" co-host Georgie Thompson is “a pretty blonde from London right next to me.” Oliver said, “I love the way you say that because that’s the way TV shows used to be pitched: ‘I’ve got a pretty blonde from London, put her next to Regis and you got a show’” ("The Daily Show," Comedy Central, 8/14).
RING THE BELL: UFC President Dana White called Saturday's UFC Fight Night 26: Mauricio Rua-Chael Sonnen event on FS1 "the best television card" in the promotion's history. USA TODAY's John Morgan writes UFC programming will be "one of the channel's core features, and Sonnen's marketability is a key reason for his role in the debut card's main event." Sonnen is "establishing himself as a top MMA analyst for Fox Sports as well" (USA TODAY, 8/15).
MEASURING SUCCESS: SPORTS ON EARTH's Will Leitch wrote FS1's success "all comes down to data. Specifically: Who has the games people want to watch?" All the new "personalities, shows and branding exercises -- it's all pointless, because the primary reason people watch sports networks is, of course, to watch live sports." The reason NBCSN and CBSSN have "struggled is not because they have dumb shows or poor brand strategies." It is "just that they don't have the live programming yet." Fox has "more sports rights than NBC does, with college football and the NFL and UFC and the World Cup and tons more things that can both be shown and promoted" on FS1. Meanwhile, ESPN "has a little bit of everything." That is "where these wars will be won." Leitch: "I'll be watching Fox Sports 1 when it launches, and if there's a show or two on there I like, I'll make sure to check it out occasionally. But I'll only make an appointment to watch the channel when there's a game I want to watch" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 8/14). Meanwhile, in West Palm Beach, Dave George writes competition from FS1 will make ESPN "better, not just increasingly wider." ESPN already has "added an extra hour" to “College GameDay," and the "bigshots at Bristol are holding extra meetings and pushing for brighter ideas" (PALM BEACH POST, 8/15).
NO NEED TO OVERREACT: Fox Sports Senior VP/Programming & Research Mike Mulvihill spoke at a trade conference yesterday and said he "won't overreact" to the ratings for FS1 "based on early numbers after launch." He also considers the net's first 100 days "a fair time to look" (CABLEFAX DAILY, 8/15).