Skip Bayless’ new FS1 show, Skip and Shannon Undisputed, begins next week, and the network has been working hard to promote the program and its new star. Not only has FS1 aired ads for Undisputedon TV and online, it has also put up billboards, three of which just so happen to lie within three miles of the Bristol, Connecticut home of ESPN, Bayless’ former employer.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Fox Sports president Jamie Horowitz says this undeniable (but enjoyable) act of trolling is no more than a crazy coincidence: “I guess there were billboards put up where you can find lots of sports fans,” Horowitz said.
One of the reasons everyone was so psyched for FS1’s launch three years ago was that it seemed fun for ESPN to have a real rival. And even though FS1 hasn’t drawn the kind of ratings to keep the Worldwide Leader up at night, the sports media world is a more fun place when personalities from the two networks are jawing at each on Twitter or, in this case, when FS1 is rubbing its new free-agent signing in ESPN’s face.
— Andrew Keck (@andrewkeck) September 2, 2016
FS1 seems to be going all-in on Bayless. In addition to aggressively marketing him to a sports-fan public that hates him yet watches his show in huge numbers, the company is making a big deal of him internally as well. Per WSJ:
Fox Sports 1 is also giving Mr. Bayless the red carpet treatment inside the company. He sat down this week with Peter Rice, who as chairman and chief executive officer of Fox Networks Group is the highest-ranking television executive at 21st Century Fox. Even 21st Century Fox Chief Executive James Murdoch reached out to welcome Mr. Bayless to Fox Sports 1.
Bayless is stepping into a morning-show slot that has averaged only 37,000 viewers on FS1 over the past year. That’s less than a tenth of what Bayless’ First Take was drawing at ESPN.
Skip and Shannon Undisputed premieres Tuesday Sept. 6 at 10 a.m. ET on FS1.