So far Fox Sports 1 hasn't had too many games to draw in a large number of viewers to the nascent network. However, this weekend Fox Sports 1 had one of their biggest telecasts to date in their two months of existence – #2 Oregon vs #16 Washington. A Top 25 matchup featuring the #2 team in the country seems like a game worthy of broadcast television, but Fox chose to air Oregon-Washington on FS1 and the less attractive matchup between Baylor and Kansas State on Fox. Perhaps they were trying to shift more eyeballs to their shiny new cable channel. It worked… somewhat.
The game on Fox Sports 1 actually drew a higher rating than Fox. Oregon-Washington scored a 1.3 overnight rating. Baylor-Kansas State only a 1.0. The game also drew 1.76 million viewers, good enough for the second most watched telecast in FS1 history. Maybe if Fox chose to air Oregon-Washington on broadcast it could have drawn double the rating, but clearly they wanted to sacrifice that total viewership to aid FS1.
Here's the bad news though – both of those games were well behind the competition in viewership. These were the other overnight ratings from Saturday's top afternoon games via Sports Media Watch:
Florida-LSU, CBS 3.4
Michigan-Penn State, ESPN 2.6
Clemson-BC or Northwestern-Wisconsin, ABC 2.5
Oregon-Washington, FS1 1.3
Baylor-Kansas State, Fox 1.0
As you can see, the two Fox games were off the pace compared to the other games at the same timeslot. FS1 had a much better matchup than ESPN with the Ducks and Huskies, in fact you could even argue it was the game of the day. After all ESPN was there on-site for College GameDay at an FS1 game. However, FS1 drew just half the rating of the competition, even the much maligned Big Ten. Had Oregon-Washington been on ESPN, you could easily argue it would have drawn double or maybe even triple the rating.
Live events and games people are willing to flock to are the key moving forward for Fox Sports 1. These numbers show there's some awareness for the channel, but it's definitely limited. Two months in, it's a sign of where Fox Sports 1 is at the moment as a channel. The struggle for viewers, even for top games, is much tougher than they probably expected.