Bold and Brash, Fox Sports 1 Takes On the Big Boys at ESPN
Fort Lauderdale, Fla. — The new kid isn’t exactly a neophyte, nor can it be considered a genuine underdog.
Nonetheless, if upstart 24-hour sports network Fox Sports 1, which launches Saturday, is to make inroads not only against Goliath ESPN but in a seemingly saturated television sports landscape, it will have to scream alternative.
That’s why you will see 81-year-old Regis Philbin hosting a discussion and analysis program called Crowd Goes Wild.
Also why Fox Sports Live, FS1’s counter to SportsCenter, will be hosted by a pair of zany Canadians who are beloved north of the border but unknown to viewers in the United States.
NFL fans can tune in for the curiosity of how unpredictable personalities of former star players such as Brian Urlacher and Randy Moss will interact in a loosely formatted daily football insider show.
“I think we looked at this more like NFL uncensored, NFL after dark, put together a fun crew and guys who have known each other for a long time and really make it more insider than anything else out there,” said Jay Glazer, Fox Sports senior writer who will be a key component of Fox Football Daily and a Sunday pregame show Fox NFL Kickoff along with ex-players Urlacher, Moss, Ronde Barber and Scott Fujita.
Fox Football Daily will premiere Monday at 6 p.m. after the new network’s opening weekend dominated by NASCAR and UFC. FS1 will sign on at 6 a.m. Saturday with a one-hour college football kickoff show.
Fox Sports 1 replaces Speed on most cable and satellite providers.
It will be available initially in about 90 million homes, after deals were reached late this week with several key distributors, including DirecTV and Dish. A sister channel, Fox Sports 2, will also come online this weekend in place of Fuel.
To find on your system, visit FOXSports.com/FOXSports1.
Fox Sports officials are well aware of what they are up against from ESPN’s multiple platforms and empire of content rights. But Fox has a history of bucking odds, has plenty of resources of its own and is clearly committed to gradually building this venture.
This month Fox Sports expanded a multi-platform agreement with NASCAR through 2022, and finalized a 12-year agreement with USGA to broadcast the U.S. Open, U.S. Women’s Open and U.S. Senior Open. FS1 will figure prominently in both.
Most intriguing is the late-night studio news show that will joust with SportsCenter, something that others such as NBC and CBS haven’t tried to do.
Fox Sports Live (11 p.m. with refreshed versions at midnight and 1 a.m.) will be anchored by Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole, well known in Canada as irreverent and hilarious co-hosts of TSN’s SportsCentre. Fox is confident their light-hearted schtick will be similarly embraced by a U.S. audience.
“We like sports and we like to laugh, so that’s pretty much the show,” Onrait said during the introductory news conference.
“We will bring the maple syrup,” O’Toole said.
The show will bounce from updates and highlights with O’Toole and Onrait to opinion-driven discussions by a panel moderated by Charissa Thompson that includes Andy Roddick, Gary Payton, Donovan McNabb and Ephraim Salaam.
Scott Ackerson, Fox Sports executive vice-president for studio production, said the panel will give the show an element not found on SportsCenter, though there is a danger of it morphing into something akin to The Best Damn Sports Show Period, which Thompson also co-hosted.
But the key for Fox Sports 1 is the chemistry of O’Toole and Onrait catching on. Fox wants them to continue doing what they do in Canada, and included longtime producer Tim Moriarty to help make it happen.
“Fox Sports Live is going to deviate from existing sports news formulas, and we expect Jay, Dan and Tim to use their unique brand of humor to make the show fun for fans to watch,” Ackerson said.
Fun has been a buzz word in all of Fox’s promotion for the new network’s programming, which includes The Jones and Moseley Show that will focus on extreme challenges, toughest records and impossible feats. Then there is Regis, and isn’t he synonymous with fun?
Fox has at least provided enough appetizers to give FS1 a look. Chris Taylor, telecommunications instructor at Ball State (David Letterman’s alma mater) is among those who think it will succeed.
“There is an insatiable appetite for sports on all platforms and devices. It’s true reality TV, true DVR-proof programming,” Taylor said.
“Fox Sports 1 will be in about 90 million U.S. homes, which is the largest cable channel startup, by audience size, in history. And startup is a wrong label for FS1, it’s an established brand with secure and established funding.”