Heading into Thursday's massive night on the sports calendar, one of the major questions was how SportsCenter and Fox Sports Live would approach news and highlights from the evening. ESPN had one of their biggest games of the year with #3 Oregon vs #5 Stanford. Fox Sports 1 had arguably one of their biggest games ever as a network with #6 Baylor vs #10 Oklahoma.
ESPN has a reputation that they only offer in-depth coverage for properties they own and giving less coverage to big games that exist on other networks. Their treatment of the NHL has much to do with that. How would they handle last night's schedule? And for that matter, would Fox Sports Live follow suit and focus on Baylor-Oklahoma as the primary game of the night since it aired on their airwaves?
To compare both programs, we examined the 1 AM ET version of both shows that aired live. With Baylor-Oklahoma finishing well before Stanford-Oregon, this meant that both games were finished by the time the 1 AM ET episodes hit the airwaves. How did each network cover their respective game and that of the competition? The results are as follows…
Time SportsCenter spent on Oregon-Stanford – 8:16
Time SportsCenter spent on Baylor-Oklahoma – 5:40
Time Fox Sports Live spent on Oregon-Stanford – 3:46
Time Fox Sports Live spent on Baylor-Oklahoma – 4:05
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Fox Sports 1 spent more time talking about their game (Baylor-Oklahoma) although it was marginal. ESPN spent much more time on Oregon-Stanford and a significant amount of time on both games in total. Both programs saturated viewers with college football coverage, the major difference in time spent was an FS Live panel discussion about the BCS that couldn't really be classified as talking about one game over the other.
The details about how each show got to this point in coverage might surprise you, though.
Anchor Stan Verrett opened proceedings by talking about both games, remarking, "4 of the Top 10 teams in the BCS squared off in 2 head to head matchups."
SportsCenter led with a very thorough Oregon-Stanford highlight that went over 5 minutes. This included the now infamous quote from De'Anthony Thomas that Oregon would score 40 points as well as postgame interviews from The Farm. In addition, Stanford-Oregon was on the SC Update on top of their rundown scroll throughout the program keeping it in the front of viewers' minds.
Baylor-Oklahoma highlights came directly after as Adnan Virk ran down almost 4 minutes in highlights. This included an on-site interview from Waco with Shelley Smith and Baylor head coach Art Briles.
After that, the program went back to Palo Alto for more on the Stanford-Oregon game with the crew who called the Oregon-Stanford game to talk about the national championship picture and where both teams fit. Rece Davis, Jesse Palmer, and David Pollack spent the majority of the 3 and a half minute segment on Stanford and Oregon, but also gave respect to Baylor with David Pollack saying, "I think Baylor should be moving up, I think they should be ahead of Stanford" based on their dominant victory over Oklahoma.
34 minutes into the show, ESPN went to postgame comments from David Shaw about Jonathan Martin. What followed was a second batch of highlights from both games. 39 seconds on Stanford-Oregon and 55 seconds on Baylor-Oklahoma. Both games were also nominally mentioned at the end of the show in Top Plays and a highlight mashup.
Fox Sports Live
Similar to ESPN, Fox Sports 1 paid credence to the huge night in sports with Charissa Thompson welcoming viewers by saying, "One of the greatest college football Thursdays ever. Only one national championship contender came out alive."
After the perfunctory introductions and a spotlight on Jay and Dan's mustaches, Fox Sports Live went to… Stanford-Oregon?!?
That's right. Fox Sports Live's first highlight was not the Fox Sports 1 game, but the ESPN game. A surprising decision that should be applauded. Stanford-Oregon was the bigger game and it was closer. If one were to look objectively, it would be the top story of the night even in the crowded landscape. That decision to lead with Stanford-Oregon in place of FS1's own game is one that draws much respect for a show that's looking to be a serious alternative as a primetime standard for news and highlights.
From there, Jay Onrait and Dan O'Toole traded highlights that took roughly 3 minutes each on both games. The panel then made its first appearance with Thompson, Andy Roddick, Clay Travis, and former Stanford player Coy Wire. A lengthy discussion ensued with Baylor now taking the focus for 1:30 while Stanford-Oregon only got about 30 seconds at the top. The rest of the near 7 minute segment debated BCS standings and the Heisman race.
Much like ESPN, FS1 went back to the highlights 30 seconds in with just 22 seconds on Stanford-Oregon and 52 seconds on Baylor-Oklahoma. In both highlight packages it was referenced on air that the second game aired on Fox Sports 1.
ESPN receives a lot of flack, much of it well deserved, for protecting their interests and covering only the sports that they own rights to. A disconnect arises when you call yourself the "WorldWide Leader in Sports" when that only rings true for the rights you own. Nevertheless, ESPN was pretty fair in how they covered both games last night and didn't ignore the Baylor-Oklahoma tilt on FS1. In fact, they were more than fair in their coverage with in-depth highlights and Shelley Smith on-site in Waco.
Fox Sports Live should also be complimented in how they approached last night's games, even being willing to lead with the ESPN game instead of their own. Would ESPN do the same if the games were reversed and Stanford-Oregon aired on FS1? It's hard to say, but one would hope they would. In the end, on one of the biggest sports nights of the fall, both ESPN and Fox Sports 1 were equitable with their coverage.
Also, you may be wondering why Fox Sports Live dedicated much less time to college football than ESPN did. It's because FS1 dedicated 3:26 to an entire segment of NHL highlights from several games around the league. You probably already know how much time SportsCenter dedicated to the NHL. You're still on the case for now, Bobrovsky.