ESPN has been the worldwide leader in sports since 1979. Many companies have tried to challenge its reign, but they have seen their efforts fail. So who in the world would try to take down this sports media juggernaut? That would be Fox Sports and their new 24/7 sports network, Fox Sports 1. Fox Sports 1 replaced SPEED Channel, which was a network for racing fans. After one year in the race, Fox Sports 1 is still far behind ESPN.
Fox Sports 1 said that they would be the “fun” alternative to ESPN. They have instead practically become a copycat of ESPN. While ESPN has their shows “NFL Live,” “Around the Horn,” and “Pardon the Interruption,” FOX Sports 1 saw their alternatives to these shows: “FOX Football Daily” and “Crowd Goes Wild” cancelled within a year of their launch. To make the comparison, Crowd Goes Wild, which aired at 5 P.M. eastern, only averaged 80,000 viewers during its best month. That same month ESPN’s Around the Horn and PTI, which aired during the same time period, averaged 883,000 viewers.
While ESPN has dominated the late night sports stage with their top show “Sportscenter,” Fox Sports 1’s “Fox Sports Live” has had issues. The two times “Fox Sports Live” has averaged over 2 million viewers have been after two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. Even though Fox Sports Live hasn’t seen the ratings that they wanted to, I do think they have some potential.
Along with the co-anchors Jay Onrait and Dan O’ Toole, Fox Sports Live has their own panel of former athletes. I personally like the unique idea of having former basketball star Gary Payton and former tennis star Andy Roddick talking about football with former quarterback Donovan McNabb. It gives the view multiple perspectives of different athletes, even though they aren’t an “expert” about that sport.
With Fox Sports 1 trying to compete, ESPN has come up with some new ideas to stay atop the sports media world. First, with Sportscenter, ESPN has created their new Studio X (above). Studio X is a brand new set, which has a more futuristic and bright look to it.
Another brilliant move by ESPN was the addition of Keith Olbermann, who worked for ESPN from 1992-1997. Olbermann was given his own show, “Olbermann,” where he gives his own viewpoints on many topics in the sports world. One thing that I like about Keith Olbermann is that he’s not afraid to speak his mind. He recently called on NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to resign after the Ray Rice domestic violence incident.
While Fox Sports Live hasn’t quite lived up to Fox’s expectations, the sport I think they need to continue to focus on is NASCAR. Even though Fox Sports 1 replaced SPEED channel, NASCAR has continued to lead the way in the ratings. When NASCAR released their 2015 schedule on August 26, NASCAR Race Hub had 178,000 viewers, this just for a schedule being released. NASCAR fans love their coverage, and if FOX Sports 1 wants to keep their head above water, they need to keep NASCAR in their main plans.
Fox Sports 1 came out of the box saying they were going to challenge ESPN right away. While at times I do switch over the watch the non-NASCAR coverage on Fox Sports 1, ESPN still reigns supreme in my opinion. ESPN has more programs where their sports media gives their opinions. They also have many experts for particular sports, compared to Fox Sports 1 who only has three or four for each sport.
Finally, I think the reason most people watch ESPN is that it is what they are accustomed to watching. ESPN has been on the airwaves since 1979, and firmly established itself as the go to sports network. Fox Sports 1 says they are going to rival ESPN, but I believe it’s not even a fight. ESPN is the MVP, and they are pulling away from the pack.
What do you think? How much Fox Sports 1 do you watch compared to ESPN? What could Fox Sports 1 do to catch ESPN?
– Andy McConnell