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Horowitz Says FS1 Can Be The Fox News of Sports Television

Jason Barrett

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The current ratings for Fox Sports 1 may not be great, but that isn’t stopping Fox Sports National Networks president Jamie Horowitz from taking aim at his former employer, ESPN. Yesterday at the Sports Business Journal World Sports Congress, the architect of FS1 went after the worldwide leader for its declining ratings on its flagship program SportsCenter.

“ESPN has lost 30% of SportsCenter audience during the past 5 years, 40% of it from the younger demo” said Horowitz. “I’d be a little worried if I were them.”

Although Horowitz may have a point, the bigger issue is whether or not Fox Sports 1 can be the solution. The sports channel has lagged in the ratings, despite adding some high profile talent, play by play, and gaining promotional support from Fox’s main channel.

To FS1’s credit, they did add Colin Cowherd, Kristine Leahy and Jason Whitlock. Homegrown star Katie Nolan has continued to blossom, especially in the digital space, and the late night “Fox Sports Live” program was rebranded to offer more opinion and humor and play to the strengths of Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Horowitz said he believes FS1 can change the game much like Fox News did for News/Talk television. A heavier focus on opinion, and less on highlights, is part of that strategy. That’s why the network remains interested in prying Skip Bayless away from ESPN.

“Fox News positioned itself as provocative and opinion oriented,” said Horowitz. “I believe Fox Sports 1 can take a similar tack. Opinion costs less than news and documentaries, and is likely to stand out more in the busy sports media world.”

Although it may not be popular to members of the sports media who long for the days of quality sports journalism and less debate style programming, it’s undeniable that opinion based content has struck a chord. ‘Opinionists’ (a term Horowitz uses to describe certain personalities) like Stephen A. Smith, and Bayless, have produced big ratings for “First Take”, and others like Bill Simmons, Michael Wilbon, and Tony Kornheiser have produced similar results.

Given Fox News’ position as the ratings leader in News/Talk television, Horowitz’s plan to steer FS1 in that direction makes a lot of sense. But to produce the same type of success, he’ll need a lot more high profile talent, additional original programming, and the most important thing – time and patience from ownership.

Sports TV News

FOX Sued for Patent Infringement Over NFL Scheduling

“Recentive Analytics filed suit against FOX in a Delaware federal court on November 29 according to Yahoo Sports.”

Jordan Bondurant

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An analytics company is suing FOX over claims that the network developed a mapping tool using their patented technology to create a season slate of NFL games.

Recentive Analytics filed suit against FOX in a Delaware federal court on November 29 according to Yahoo Sports.

The lawsuit claims FOX used access to Recentive’s predictive analytics tools to develop a resource of their own that would create optimal schedules for its 1 and 4 p.m. NFLwindows.

The company is seeking a declaration that FOX infringed on two of its patents. Recentive is also suing for damages and wants an injunction keeping FOX from using Recentive tech and preventing the network from “selling, offering for sale, marketing or using any internal network and mapping analytics tool for the scheduling and regionalization of events covered by the patents.”

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Sports TV News

FOX Will Use Chris Fallica On Belmont Stakes Coverage

“While the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby remain at NBC, The Belmont Stakes is moving to FOX as part of the network’s deal with the New York Racing Association.”

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The Bear will be more than just a college football presence when he moves to FOX. Chris Fallica wrapped his final duties for ESPN last week and is now headed to a new network and will tackle some new responsibilities.

Fallica’s new role at FOX will involve plenty of sports gambling content. Richard Deitsch of The Athletic reports that content will include horse racing.

“One Fox Sports source said look for him to appear on the Belmont Stakes coverage,” Deitsch wrote in his weekly media column.

Starting in 2023, horse racing’s Triple Crown will not be seen all in one place. While the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby remain at NBC, The Belmont Stakes is moving to FOX as part of the network’s deal with the New York Racing Association.

How the network intends to use Chris Fallica on the broadcast is not clear. Given that he is coming to the network to contribute to gambling conversations, it is likely he would either be making picks or at least reviewing odds right up to the start of the race.

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Sports TV News

NBCUniversal CEO Expects Disney To Buy Company’s Hulu Stake

“Shell noted that live sports coverage is helping make the stake in Hulu a luxury for NBCUniversal.”

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The Walt Disney Company owns 67% of Hulu. The other 33% is owned by NBCUniversal. The latter company doesn’t expect that to be the case forever.

“It’s worth a lot of money,” NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said at an investor conference earlier this week, “and I think there’s no indication that anything else is going to happen than Disney writing us a big check.”

Hulu is primarily a platform for movies and television shows. It is a major part of Disney’s deal with the NHL though. The streaming giant is part of the package of 103 games that are exclusive to ESPN and ABC. Hulu is also a live TV provider for many. The company’s Hulu Plus Live TV package had over 4 million subscribers as of the summer of 2022.

Shell noted that live sports coverage is helping make the stake in Hulu a luxury for NBCUniversal. He credits sports and content migrated from Hulu as the reason Peacock has grown to 18 million paid subscriptions since September.

Deadline reports that if Disney does want to acquire NBCUniversal’s stake in Hulu, “the price could fluctuate but will be in the tens of billions of dollars.”

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