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Horowitz Expected In At FS1

Jason Barrett

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In 2013, there was a tremendous piece in the New Yorker by Kelefa Sanneh about the cable news TV networks trying to figure out what the audience really wants. Fox News, which arrived to the cable news scene 16 years after CNN, quickly understood one key to reeling in viewers – strong opinion – and it didn’t take long for the network to surpass CNN in the ratings game. From the New Yorker piece:

On Fox, the anchors and commentators can seem like protagonists, doing battle with the “pinheads”—one of O’Reilly’s favorite terms—who just don’t get it. This battle needn’t be explicitly ideological: the network has always had a weakness for titillating legal stories and for celebrity misbehavior. But if the CNN approach emphasizes reporters chasing news around the world, the Fox News approach suggests that the real news is being made right in the studio, by the hosts themselves.

In sports, live events dominate nighttime programming. But over the last decade, ESPN began to generate controversy – and ratings and revenue – on ESPN2 thanks to the opinion of its studio hosts. By almost any metric you choose, a ranking of sports cable TV destinations for studio programming goes ESPN, ESPN2 and the trio of CBS Sports Network, NBC Sports Network and Fox Sports 1 lumped together in spots 3-5.

But, roughly 20 months after its debut, Fox Sports 1 appears to be on the verge of a significant breakthrough: Making bold, controversial hires that signal the network could be moving in a different direction.

Over the weekend, Fox hired combative, polarizing MLB legend Pete Rose to be a baseball analyst. Rose came out of the womb ornery, and at the spry age of 74, he instantly rises to the top of MLB analysts you want to hear from (even though his sartorial selection leaves something to be desired). Fewer advanced stats and more blunt honesty? Yes, please. No filter and never speaking with a thought of what the always-angry twitter mob might say? Check.

Rose appears to be just the tip of the iceberg.

If sources at ESPN and Fox Sports are correct, FS1 will announce in the coming days that it is hiring Jamie Horowitz – yes, the showrunner who brought Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless together on ESPN’s successful and loathed First Take – to preside in some capacity over sports . The sides have been speaking since January, an offer was presented a month ago, and barring a major surprise, Horowitz is headed to LA.

I discussed this on my radio show earlier this month with Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch (audio here, Apr. 12, 38 minute mark), and we both agree: If FS1 hires Horowitz, other dominoes could fall in the coming months that might have the network looking completely different in 2016.

Much has been written about Horowitz – following a quick exit from the Today Show, he was savaged in this Vanity Fair piece about Brian Williams – but his track record at ESPN was impressive: Created SportsNation (which the internet briefly loved!), was the only producer willing to take on Keith Olbermann upon his return to the network (another Horowitz show the internet loved!), “finding” Michelle Beadle and Charissa Thompson, and most importantly, his willingness to take embrace debate and create controversy.

And on that note, let’s hear from CNN’s Jeff Zucker, who had a memorable quote in this must-read on CNN anchor Don Lemon:

“There’s certainly a lot of interest in Don Lemon, and that’s a good thing for Don and for CNN. You know, Don is a little bit of a lightning rod. Frankly, we needed a little bit of lightning.”

And that’s what FS1 lacks, a lightning rod. Rose is a start, but if you have spent any time watching the debate shows on ESPN, you’ll see baseball isn’t a sport that is as conducive to the format as the NBA and NFL. Horowitz would begin to take the network down that road. Does FS1 want to merely exist, or does it want to pull away from CBS Sports Network and NBC Sports Network and make a run at ESPN2?

Plausible scenario: Horowitz brings over Skip Bayless and Colin Cowherd – whose contracts are up in the next 10 months – and starts stirring the debate pot. In two hires, Fox could take away ESPN’s #2 radio draw (based on revenue) and potentially put an end to First Take – another lucrative show – because Stephen A. Smith has said to more than a few people at ESPN he wouldn’t do the show without Skip.

In 2013, ESPN President John Skipper made several bold moves – hiring Keith Olbermann and Jason Whitlock, in addition to stealing Nate Silver’s site from the New York Times and giving Dan LeBatard (controversial!) a TV show and prime radio real estate.

And if Horowitz really wanted to generate headlines, what if he did something like: Instead of putting debate on in the morning, why not at 6 pm, opposite ESPN’s signature brand, Sportscenter? Or how about shaking up Fox Sports Live by changing the format to a debate show and doing away with the highlights that everyone’s already seen online?

To take it a step further – FS1 brings in a few more rabble-rousers to appeal to millennials, starts to make use of its bevy of newsbreakers – like Jay Glazer, Mike Garafolo – and go after ESPN’s mid-day shows?

It took 20 months, but Fox Sports 1 appears to be on the verge of making some smart, bold moves.

Credit to The Big Lead who originally published this article

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FOX Sports Moving UFL Games to Friday Nights in 2025

“The regular season average television audience of 816,000 was more than 30% higher than the pace from the previous year.”

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The United Football League logo

FOX Sports CEO Eric Shanks recently confirmed a report from Deadline last month that said United Football League games would move to Friday nights in 2025. The Deadline report had said FOX planned to replace WWE Smackdown with sports coverage from college football and basketball as well as games from the UFL.

Shanks’ comments were made during a Zoom with reporters about the news of their new agreement with the NTT IndyCar Series. SI’s Mike Mitchell reported that the UFL worked with FOX to move the games so they could complete their auto racing deal.

Shanks said many of FOX’s UFL games would be moved to Friday night when asked about the change but did not provide more detail.

The UFL was split between FOX and ABC/ESPN this season. The regular season average television audience of 816,000 was more than 30% higher than the pace from the previous year and the recent conference championship games were up 57% over the averages from the USFL and XFL last season. According to Mitchell, the league saw a large increase in the 18-49 demographic on FOX compared to USFL programming in 2023.

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Report: WNBA Could Quadruple Media Rights Fees

Under the current structure, the WNBA makes a reported $60 million annually from its media rights deals with The Walt Disney Company, Amazon’s Prime Video, CBS and Ion.

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(Illustration) | Courtesy: Women's National Basketball Association

The NBA is reportedly in the process of formalizing new media rights deals with The Walt Disney Company, NBCUniversal and Amazon’s Prime Video expected to be worth a collective $76 billion over the course of the deal. At the same time, the NBA is also negotiating media rights for the WNBA in which it has an ownership stake of approximately 60%. The WNBA could quadruple its annual media rights fee within these negotiations, according to a new report from Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports.

Under the current structure, the WNBA makes a reported $60 million annually from its media rights deals with The Walt Disney Company, Amazon’s Prime Video, CBS and Ion. Throughout the season thus far, the WNBA has seen its ratings increase, drawing more than 1 million viewers across several matchups throughout the regular season. Moreover, discussion surrounding the league is further assimilating into the sports vernacular surrounding stars such as Caitlin Clark, A’ja Wilson, Sabrina Ionescu and Breanna Stewart.

Ben Strauss of The Washington Post outlined how the NBA is in the process of considering one total bid from media companies that combines the value of media rights for the NBA and WNBA. With the league itself determining the value of media rights for the WNBA, he argues that it could either be “rocket fuel” for the league or that its augmented popularity “is more of an afterthought.” The possibility exists that it could be a combination of both extremes as well, but by having the league negotiate its media rights deal, quantifying the true value could be a more difficult task.

In a report from earlier in the year, McCarthy stated that the WNBA is likely to negotiate its own separate media rights deal if it is not receiving the remuneration that it wants. The WNBA attained its most-watched opening month in league history, averaging 1.32 million viewers for games across ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, CBS, Ion and NBA TV. Moreover, the league had its most-attended opening month in its 26-year history with 400,000 fans at games through the end of May and a rise in sales of WNBA-branded merchandise by 236% year-over-year.

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NBA Finals Game 3 Up 2% on ABC and ESPN

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Graphic for the NBA Finals

Game 3 of the NBA Finals series which saw Boston take a three games to none lead in the series was up 2% from last year’s Game 3. The game averaged 11,426,000 viewers and peaked at 13,926,000 at 10:45 p.m. ET.

The game was the top draw in all of television for the night and took the top spot in all of the key demographics. So far through three games, the series is even with the television numbers from 2023.

NBA Countdown, the show which airs right before the game begins, was also up two percent compared to the same show a year ago. NBA Countdown averaged 4,330,000 viewers. Through three games, the show is up five percent from last season’s pregame shows.

The Celtics will look to secure their 18th NBA Championship when the two teams meet again for Game 4 tonight at 8:30 ET. If a Game 5 is necessary, it would be played on Monday, June 17.

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