AA is launching a roundtable discussion each week on one of the most significant topics we've covered throughout the previous seven days. Our collection of sports media gurus will take part in a free flowing, often times snarky, often times sardonic e-mail thread and we'll publish the results for you. Read the entire roundtable after the jump. This week's topic: Fox Sports 1.
Matt Yoder: We've analyzed, speculated, and pontificated for months, but after an eternity of waiting, Fox finally unveiled the worst kept secret in televised sports this week with the official launch of Fox Sports 1. It's just the latest in a long line of challengers to ESPN's throne, but whether it's the live sports they have or the pedigree of success in competing with the establishment, something tells me FS1 may have the best chance to stick around. What's going to be the biggest key in FS1 getting sports fans to embrace them as a legitimate alternative to ESPN?
Brad Gagnon: When ESPN became a sports TV mecca, it had more to do with the fact it offered highlights and sports coverage in wall-to-wall fashion. But now that sports news and highlights are obtained online in growing numbers, I really believe the key is live events. Having baseball, NASCAR and UFC rights will attract the viewers to begin to build the necessary momentum. People really seem to be looking for alternatives to ESPN's content, but NBC and CBS haven't grabbed hold of those viewers yet. There's definitely a prime opportunity.
Ken Fang: Fox Sports 1 is halfway there with the live inventory of baseball, NASCAR, college football, college basketball, soccer and MMA. There's the potential for more. And if Fox Sports Live, the SportsCenter competitor can be original and not be a Bristol clone, FS1 will be on its way to gaining the trust of fans. I like where they're going.
M. Yoder: I think that's the important thing. FS1 is starting way ahead of NBCSN with showing real live games. It's one thing to come on the air and show UFC, BCS college football and NASCAR. It's another to try to to sell an entire network on the NHL and Tour de France.
Andrew Bucholtz: For me, one of the keys to really compete with ESPN is to get to a point where people will turn on the channel to see what's there rather than going there for a specific thing. The live content's crucial in getting people to start thinking of you that way, but Fox Sports Live will have to be high quality too.
Gagnon: I agree the news and highlights show that competes with SportsCenter will be important. I think it has to be very different but not in a contrived "tweet of the day" fashion. I'd love it if they'd invest in finding some fresh faces and not just retreads. It would help if that staple nightly program kicked ass.
Bucholtz: If it feels like a low-rent ESPN ripoff, people won't turn on the new channel beyond when there's a game they want to watch. In my mind, one move they should make on the highlights show is avoiding the silly segments (i.e. Miami Heat/Harlem Shake) SportsCenter is delving into and focusing on real sports news. Don't try and rip off what ESPN does; do your own thing and make it stand out.
Reva Friedel: Don't be the Tim Tebow network & hire talent that can talk about more that just a benched QB. The end.
Gagnon: Here's hoping they bring in some smart analysts, rather than just going with the trend of overpaying more former players who phone it in. I don't necessarily need more highlights, but I'd love more original thought. I think that if Fox can embrace new stats and graphics and really hit X's and O's hard, they'll have an edge over ESPN in the news/highlights department.
David Rogers: If Fox Sports 1 wants to be taken seriously by sports fans then they need to start by taking themselves seriously. That's not to say the network can't have some fun with their programming, but it's clear ESPN has done more harm than good to its brand with their nonsensical debates (Tebow, Tebow and more Tebow) and ridiculously poor attempts at covering certain sports, like the NHL.
M. Yoder: If Fox Sports 1 wants to be taken seriously by sports fans… how in God's green earth does Regis Philbin fit into that plan? I'd be much happier if they brought back Chris Rose and Tom Arnold for the Best Damn Sports Show, Period. What's Deacon Jones up to these days anyways?
Gagnon: Yeah, that's a mistake. Nobody under 25 knows who Regis is. He doesn't connect with a large target audience. I don't get it at all.
Rogers: As ridiculous as it is to picture Regis in a sports role, he's bound to know more about hockey than Stephen A. Smith, right?
M. Yoder: As long as Regis Philbin doesn't have Liam Neeson on to talk about the New York Jets…
Really, if we've learned anything from NBCSN, it's that you can't build a network on studio shows, no matter how good they are. You need the games. I think Fox has got it right in going after those rights aggressively first and then building their studio shows around that – Regis Philbin, Terry Bradshaw and all.
Bucholtz: Fox seems to be in a better position than CBS and NBC despite launching years later. I think that says a lot about the struggles CBS and NBC have had. It's notable that they've learned from the mistakes of those networks and have put themselves in position to launch with better distribution and a much stronger lineup of live events. There's still plenty that can go wrong, but being late to the party may be an advantage instead of a disadvantage if they can learn from where other competitors have gone wrong.
Fang: Fox Sports 1 has the best potential to knock down ESPN. It's interesting that Fox officials are downplaying expectations to investors, but to advertisers and the media they're using the same Fox attitude. Fox Broadcasting came in and upset the apple cart among the Big 3 and got the NFL, MLB and NASCAR. Fox News knocked off CNN. Not saying Fox Sports 1 can knock off ESPN, but if there's a company that can, Fox has the money and the infrastructure to do it.
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