Now that Colin Cowherd and ESPN have officially made their split, it is time for the host to look into his crystal ball and analyze his time at Fox Sports 1. His show is going to be simulcast in a similar fashion to The Mike Francesa Show, though Cowherd’s radio side will reportedly have a national syndication arm through Premiere. Seeing the way Francesa’s show has been regularly pushed to the lightly distributed Fox Sports 2, should Cowherd be worried his show gets the same treatment?
It hasn’t always been rocky for Mike Francesa. After splitting with Chris Russo in 2008, Francesa began hosting solo from 1-6:30 eastern on WFAN. His show was simulcast on the regional YES Network until 2014, when they opted to air The Michael Kay Show instead. Since then, everything has seemingly gone downhill for Francesa. He found a new television home with the Fox Sports startups, who agreed to air his show from 1-4 eastern on FS1 and 4-6 eastern on FS2.
Little did Francesa know his show would be regularly preempted for live sports programming, where his show would be pushed to Fox Sports 2, or, even worse, solely on the Fox Sports Go app. This was a new obstacle for the Sports Pope, who only saw live Yankee games take the place of his show when it was on YES. Preemptions happen, though Francesa finds soccer to be less entertaining than watching his show. He should have known better, as his local sports talk show has been annihilated in the ratings by the world’s most popular sport. Francesa has vocalized his disdain toward preemptions on numerous occasions, complaints that have soured his relationship with Fox Sports and CBS Sports Radio. At least Jay and Dan have had some fun with the whole situation.
Mike Francesa is a big fish in the biggest local pond, but Colin Cowherd is a big fish in the national pond, something that gives him a much larger reach. If Cowherd’s new radio show is a direct replacement for Mike Francesa, these same preemptions could be a problem. That said, with Cowherd’s impressive reach, the ratings issue wouldn’t be as big of a deal, not to mention his following would find Fox Sports 2 or clamor at their cable providers to carry the channel. This would lead to Fox Sports 2 in more homes and could help turn it into a viable third-tier sports network.
Part of the problem with forecasting preemptions for a Colin Cowherd show is that a time slot has yet to be revealed. This issue has already been covered, though it was likely complicated by Cowherd’s comments that ended his time at the Worldwide Leader. Assuming he inhabits the same slot that made him a big name at ESPN, live event preemption won’t be as big of a problem – most of the NASCAR and soccer events that Fox has the rights to occur in the afternoon. Furthermore, Cowherd would actually reach more subscribers than he did on ESPNU and would be a big draw for a network struggling to earn viewership outside of live events. Fox Sports has to tiptoe across a very fine line considering their radio arm airs two competitors in the Dan Patrick Show and the Rich Eisen Show and now their television arm will be simulcasting a direct competitor. If that last sentence sounds complicated to read, just imagine what is happening behind the scenes at Fox.
When it comes to the marriage of Colin Cowherd and Fox Sports 1, there are multiple factors that could affect future success, including competition within and without. But the one thing that’s the biggest difference between Cowherd and Francesa at Fox is the network’s investment. Fox is merely simulcasting Francesa’s show from WFAN and can move it and preempt it as they wish with no loss to themselves. They’ll be paying Cowherd in the range of several million dollars per year. That fact alone makes Cowherd’s show a programming priority that Francesa’s show never could be.
Alex Kaufman is a Spanish and communication double major at Denison University. He loves to consume and cover sports and sports media, hosts a sports talk show on 91.1 WDUB, and can be found at his own website, neuroticsportsfan.com.