Colin Cowherd has made a big deal about his increased exposure in moving from ESPN to Fox Sports.  Not only will he have a role on network television through the new Fox NFL Kickoff Show as a pregame to the pregame of Fox NFL Sunday, but he’s arguably the new face of FS1.  Cowherd having a central role on the main cable sports channel at Fox is certainly a different situation than being simulcasted on ESPNU.  Cowherd bluntly said earlier this week, “I’m not leaving ESPN, I’m leaving ESPNU,” a slight that miffed ESPNU/SEC Network anchor Dari Nowkhah.

So now that Cowherd has made the move from “ESPNU” to FS1 in one of the big money free agent moves of the summer, the attention turns to what kind of numbers he can draw.  FS1 has seen its fair share of struggles in trying to get studio programming off the ground, but Cowherd is arguably the biggest name they’ve brought aboard.  Could he carry any of his audience from ESPN?  Could he improve what Fox was doing in that timeslot?

It’s very early, but the results are mixed.

Cowherd failed to crack six figure viewership in his first two showings this week.

Via our ratings guru Douglas Pucci, those numbers aren’t too different from how Cowherd performed this summer at ESPNU, but overall a slight increase.

Viewership averages for “The Herd” on ESPNU

June 22-26: 32,000
June 29-July 3: 42,000
July 6-10: 73,000
July 13-17: 35,000
July 20-24: 45,000

Similarly, Cowherd’s numbers show an increase against previous FS1 programming, which consisted mostly of studio and game replays.  Here’s last week’s viewership numbers for FS1, which were consistently lower than what you just saw from ESPNU:

Viewership averages in Cowherd’s FS1 timeslot

Bayern Munich vs Bayer Leverkusen 8/31 Noon 34,000
Grand Prix of Great Britain 9/1 12:30 10,000
Poker: Alpha8 Las Vegas 9/2 12:30 29,000
Fox Sports Live Football Preview 9/3 Noon 5,000
Fox Sports Live Football Preview 9/3 12:30 19,000
Fox CFB Kickoff 9/3 1pm 60,000
Michigan/Utah replay 9/4 11am 46,000

You can certainly have a debate whether the millions Fox is paying Cowherd are worth 30,000 viewers.  Of course there was going to be a bump for Cowherd’s first show, but it’ll be worth watching to see where that number averages out to in the weeks to come.  Keep in mind that for all the talk of what a failure Mike Francesa’s FS1 tenure was, he was in the low-to-mid five digits in viewership numbers.  If Cowherd averages out to about 50,000 viewers… that’s really not all that much better.

On the positive side, having Cowherd air on FS1 is important because the radio simulcast eliminates a lot of those tape delays above and at least gives FS1 more live programming.  And Cowherd is certainly an improvement on 5,000 viewers for a replay of a studio show.  The above numbers show that FS1 is a complete non-factor during the daytime hours.  For FS1 to grow and to become more relevant, they have to begin to chip away at ESPN’s 24/7 stranglehold and give viewers something worth watching around the clock.

Cowherd took a big risk in leaving ESPN for FS1.  If anyone thought he would pull in ratings that might compete with ESPN and ESPN2’s daytime lineup, they’re going to be very disappointed.  Instead, early indications are that Cowherd will pull similar numbers to other studio shows who have attempted to gain a foothold on FS1 and NBCSN in the mid five digits.  Will that be enough for both Cowherd and Fox in the long run?

About Matt Yoder

Award winning sportswriter at The Comeback and Awful Announcing. The biggest cat in the whole wide world.