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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

The NFL Still Considering Multiple Offers For Sunday Ticket

The NFL has had the respective bids of Disney, Apple and Amazon for weeks now. DirecTV has not bid for the package but has stated it is willing to partner with the new rightsholder for a potential deal.

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Sunday Ticket Negotiations

DirecTV currently has the rights to Sunday Ticket. That deal expires at the end of this upcoming football season. The NFL is expected to make a boatload of cash when they decide which media organization gets the next rights to the package. The only question is… who will that be?

Alex Sherman of CNBC reports that the NFL has had the respective bids of Disney, Apple and Amazon for weeks now. DirecTV has decided not bid for the package. However, they are interested in partnering with the new rightsholder for a potential deal. DirecTV knows that Sunday Ticket is a staple in bars and restaurants and is interested in maintaining those relationships.

Outside of the bar/restaurant industry, success has been limited for the satellite provider with the football package. Fewer than two million subscribers signed up for Sunday Ticket each year which made the package a money-loser for the satellite TV provider.

According to the report, the NFL wants more than $2 billion for the rights and a stake in NFL Media, which is being packaged with Sunday Ticket. Also on the table is the NFL’s mobile rights. The league’s previous mobile agreement with Verizon has ended.

An interesting piece of the negotiations is Sunday Ticket price. According to the report, a buyer would have limited flexibility on pricing. The NFL signed contracts with CBS and Fox and within the framework of those deals, language mandates Sunday Ticket have a premium price. That’s to prevent loss of viewers from the networks that feature local market Sunday afternoon games. So essentially, the price is the price for the consumer.

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Sports TV News

F1 Renews With ESPN For U.S. Media Rights

ESPN was reportedly in a three-way bidding battle with Amazon and Comcast. According to the report, F1 told both Amazon and Comcast on Friday that they had decline to accept either one’s offer.

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F1 ESPN

The racing series F1 has decided to stick with ESPN through 2025.

ESPN was reportedly in a three-way bidding battle with Amazon and Comcast. According to the report, F1 told both Amazon and Comcast on Friday that they had decline to accept either one’s offer.

The reported value of the three-year contract is set to pay F1 $75-90M per year for the U.S. media rights. Amazon had offered to pay roughly $100M per year, with the right to sublicense to a linear broadcast network. Comcast’s offer was similar to ESPN’s in terms of value and the structure. They also wanted to put select races on it’s streaming service, Peacock.

Netflix was in on the negotiations, as well. The makers of Drive to Survive, the streaming series that many credit with the sport’s explosion in popularity in recent years, wasn’t close on on their financial offer. Also, it seems F1 executives were not ready to put all of its races on a streaming service just yet.

Currently, F1 receives $5M per year for ESPN to broadcast it’s races. ESPN has grabbed about 1.0 million viewers per race. That makes F1 a more than viable option for the network to invest into again. ESPN will be able to put a small number of races on its ESPN+ streaming service exclusively. The vast majority being on ABC or ESPN.

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Sports TV News

Skip Bayless Says He And Stephen A. Smith ‘Sorted Out’ Their Disagreement

“Brothers fight. We have fought before. I’m assuming we will fight again.”

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Skip Bayless

Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless were locked in a war of words last week following the First Take host’s appearance on JJ Redick’s Old Man and the Three podcast.

The origins of their partnership were discussed and Bayless admitted he did not like the way Smith characterized the state of First Take before he arrived on set. Smith insisted that Bayless simply misunderstood what he meant by saying that he was told the show needed him.

Over the weekend, Skip Bayless says he and Stephen A. Smith got together at the Bayless home in California to talk things out in private.

“He was in LA, he came over, we sat by the pool,” he said on the latest episode of The Skip Bayless Show. “It wasn’t the easiest conversation for a while, but we slowly but surely sorted it out. We got through it, and we have been through so much together.”

Bayless reiterated that he considers Smith a brother. They love each other. That doesn’t mean they are always going to remember events the same way or see eye-to-eye all the time.

“Brothers fight. We have fought before. I’m assuming we will fight again.”

Fighting doesn’t mean the relationship is fractured. In fact, Skip Bayless was adamant that he remains closer to Smith than he is to most people in his life.

“I don’t trust easily because of the way I was raised, but I do trust Stephen Anthony Smith. Trust him with my life. Always have and always will. I trust he will always be there for me, and you better believe I will always be there for him.”

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