Since officially joining Fox (in August, but announced in September, months after his new position was announced in April with a mid-May start date), Jamie Horowitz has made quite the impact on the company. ESPN and NBC alum Horowitz is the president, Fox Sports National Networks, which gives him responsibility for FS1 and FS2, and the company’s latest hires fit in with what we’ve seen from him. Fox announced this week that they’ve hired former ESPN SportsNation producer Chris Healey as coordinating producer for original programming and Chara-Lynn Aguiar (who worked in entertainment partnerships at YouTube and global distribution strategy and business development at Disney/ESPN) as vice president of strategy and content for Fox Sports National Networks. The hires were announced by Charlie Dixon, who’s the executive president of content for FS1 and FS2 and will directly oversee both new employees, but Dixon reports to Horowitz (and worked with him on some of the key “Embrace Debate” moves at ESPN), and these moves feel very in-line with Horowitz’s apparent overall strategies of trying to recreate some of ESPN2’s debate-driven ratings successes while also pushing forward with digital-friendly videos.
Healey fits right in with some of Horowitz’s other hires. He worked at ESPN for the last 10 years, and in particular, was an associate producer on SportsNation (which Horowitz co-created) when the show launched in 2009, rising to become the show’s producer in 2012 and overseeing its move from Bristol to Los Angeles. That gives him familiarity with both the “Embrace Debate” model Horowitz became known for and the assortment of former ESPNers Horowitz has already brought in. This is a bigger role for him rather than overseeing just one show, as he’ll now have “a key role in the new development of new FS1 shows,” but it’s one he should be well-suited for; all indications are that Horowitz is looking to develop shows along the lines of the debate-focused ones that have worked for ESPN (at least from a ratings perspective), and Healey knows how to do that.
Aguiar’s hire is a little more unconventional, but also makes sense with what FS1 is looking to do. They’ve been making a strong push into the digital video realm, particularly with clips from Fox Sports Live, Garbage Time and now Colin Cowherd’s show, and Aguiar should certainly know plenty about what works and doesn’t work online thanks to her time at YouTube. She also has ESPN experience, which will also help her fit in with many of the other Bristol alums at FS1. Still, it’s her digital experience that may be most crucial here. FS1’s shows aren’t always doing huge ratings, but clips from them are finding success online; Richard Deitsch has noted recent 0.0 ratings for Cowherd’s show, but Fox has been playing up the 11.7 million digital video views it drew in October and its success on iTunes. Alternative content distribution channels seem to be a focus for Fox, and Aguiar should help there.
The key questions may be just how much Horowitz is looking to copy ESPN and how well that will work, though. If Healey and the other ESPN alums he’s brought in can take what worked for some of ESPN’s shows and present them in a new, fresh way with twists while avoiding some of the Worldwide Leader’s past pitfalls, this may work out just fine. If they stick too closely to ESPN’s model and don’t innovat, though, that could carry perils from two sides; “Embrace Debate” fans may stick with the original over a copy, while those who dislike that style of programming may avoid both. Horowitz seems to be going for a strong ESPN influence at Fox so far, but the question is how that will be implemented, and whether it will be worth watching. It’s going to be interesting to keep an eye on.