Fox Sports has seen plenty of recent exits on the regional, digital and TV sides, and one interesting apparent trend is what looks like a move away from news. We saw the TV news update desk cut last year, and more recently, we’ve seen some sport-specific insiders such as Ariel Helwani publicly leave and many others appear to no longer have a role at FS1. That’s especially true especially after it did away with sports news and highlights show Fox Sports Live 2.0 (which would regularly feature a variety of insiders) in favor of the more comedy-focused Fox Sports Live With Jay And Dan. One of the latest departures might be NFL insider Mike Garafolo, who Ryan Glasspiegel of The Big Lead has reported will be leaving for a TV and online role with NFL Network, potentially filling some of Albert Breer‘s duties there. Garafolo hasn’t confirmed that yet, with his Twitter bio still describing him as a reporter for FS1 and his FoxSports.com archive still up (although he hasn’t written there since April 20). If that report is accurate and Garafolo is leaving, though, it’s worth asking how much room Fox still has for reporters who focus on breaking news.
We’ve seen numerous comments from Fox Sports National Networks president Jamie Horowitz on how he wants FS1 to move away from ESPN and SportsCenter and move towards the Fox News model with strong personalities, opinions and debate. It’s highly unclear that there’s any real room for top news-breakers in that scenario, and that’s perhaps particularly true now that Fox Sports Live 2.0 is dead and there’s no natural, regular on-television home for Fox reporters. FSL 3.0 still does interviews, sure, but it’s a much shorter show (30 minutes versus 60 to 90 for 2.0), and many of its interviews are with outside athletes or entertainers rather than with in-house reporters (and many of the in-house guests they have had are ex-athletes turned analysts, not reporters). Colin Cowherd’s “The Herd” occasionally features reporters, but most of his guests don’t meet that criteria, and many of those who do come from outside the network. There isn’t a lot of FS1 TV real estate that can easily accommodate reporters (unlike ESPN and its countless editions of SportsCenter, plus Outside The Lines, E:60 and more), and for a network looking to cut costs, they may be an expendable target.
It’s not just the TV real estate that seems to be diminishing, either. FoxSports.com used to prominently feature plenty of content from reporters like Garafolo, Jay Glazer and Peter Schrager on the NFL side, Bruce Feldman and Stewart Mandel on the NCAA side, Ken Rosenthal and J.P. Morosi on MLB and many more, but the prominence given to those pieces appears to be trending down in favor of more buzzy content (perhaps led by the changes around March’s massive cuts on the digital side). A notable move there comes from Morosi, who still appears on FS1’s MLB show The Whiparound, but now seems to write for just MLB.com and not FoxSports.com. He isn’t listed in FoxSports.com’s group of writers, which is growing thin indeed when it comes to the reporting side.
An area that will be really interesting to watch here is college football, where Fox has two of the best reporters out there in Feldman and Mandel. Their content’s still getting decent play (it’s notable that a lot of the stories on Fox’s NCAA Football homepage are from Feldman, whereas many of the other sports’ homepages are dominated by a mix of buzzy and AP content), and there could be decent in-season TV real estate for them if Fox decides to use them on the various games it has rights too, but will it be worth it for Fox to keep paying esteemed reporters when their network and website are shifting away from that approach? If there’s any area where it might make sense, it’s college football (and also the NFL, given the popularity of that sport and the ways Fox can use people like Glazer and Schrager across multiple platforms), but we’ll see how fully FS1 has embraced debate by this fall. The money for Skip Bayless‘ massive salary has to come from somewhere, and it’s also worth noting that if the network is going full debate, they already employ perhaps the most controversial college football personality out there.
If there is a move away from news here, it’s unfortunate, because for a while, Fox was hanging with ESPN on several news fronts. Their deal to have Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski appear on FS1 gave them the top NBA reporter for a while, while Helwani was perhaps the top MMA insider out there, Feldman and Mandel could compete with anyone on the college football side, Rosenthal and Morosi gave them a solid MLB presence, and Glazer, Garafolo and Schrager gave them solid NFL reporting. Fox brought plenty of reporting to their praised Women’s World Cup coverage last year, too, with Julie Stewart-Binks, Grant Wahl and Jenny Taft, and it’s interesting that Stewart-Binks and Wahl no longer seem to be in the network’s soccer coverage plans, at least not for this summer’s Copa America Centenario. (Update: Fox says Wahl will be involved in their Copa coverage as reporter-at-large, and that his initial omission was thanks to an editing error.) On the whole, it looks like Fox is much more interested in having people with strong takes on the news than people who actually report the news.
On some levels, a shift away from a news focus does make some sense, especially on TV now that FS1 no longer has a nightly news show. (FSL 3.0 is great for what it is, and it does feature commentary on what happened today, but there isn’t room on it to really talk to reporters and insiders the way there was on FSL 2.0.) ESPN is very invested in their news, their reporting and their SportsCenter, and moving away from that head-to-head competition might help to differentiate Fox. (It’s notable that their news approach and FSL 2.0 was a key part of them beating ESPN in the Sports Emmys this year, though.) Maybe Fox doesn’t need to have a lot of reporting; maybe they can do well just analyzing what others are doing. It’s also certainly possible that the losses stop right here, and that Feldman, Mandel, Glazer, Schrager, Rosenthal and others continue to give Fox plenty of solid reporting, even if it isn’t as prominently displayed as it sometimes has been in the past. From the outside, though, the signs appear a bit ominous for the state of news at Fox Sports. Fox isn’t obliged to report news, of course; they’ll do whatever they think will work for them. It’s certainly unfortunate to see the likes of Garafolo, Helwani, Wojnarowski, Morosi and others making exits (in one way or another), though, and it doesn’t say great things about Fox’s place in the current sports landscape.