The rivalry between ESPN and FS1 has been mostly one-sided in the Worldwide Leader’s favor, but there are signs that some things can get under ESPN’s skin. At the CAA World Congress of Sports on Wednesday, ESPN executive vice president of programming Burke Magnus accused Jamie Horowitz, the president of Fox Sports National Networks of taking a cheap shot at SportsCenter.
Horowitz said last year that ESPN should be worried about SportsCenter noting that its ratings had fallen 30% over the last five years and 40% with younger viewers.
Well Magnus was having none of it. He said Horowitz’s sentiments were “as ridiculous today as it was a year ago.”
And Magnus was quick to point out that SportsCenter was all over the Aaron Hernandez suicide story Wednesday morning, even moving programming around on two networks to cover it:
“We’re the only ones in the business covering the story like that. We’re the only entity in sports media that’s heavily invested in journalism and project reporting,” Magnus said. “‘SportsCenter,’ first of all, is not a show. ‘SportsCenter’ is a brand.”
While Magnus was angry over Horowitz’s comments, there is still no denying that SportsCenter has lost almost one-third of its audience dating back to 2010 and the fall is even worse when you look at the younger demographics.
To combat the falling ratings, SportsCenter has tweaked the format to allow for more personality-driven shows hosted by Michael Smith and Jemele Hill at 6 p.m. ET and Scott Van Pelt at midnight. Plus there’s more discussion, interviews and fewer highlights. ESPN has its many daily editions of SportsCenter including a soon-to-be announced morning edition with Mike Greenberg while FS1 canceled its SportsCenter clone Fox Sports Live.
And while Magnus can be angry at his former co-worker in Horowitz, there’s no denying that SportsCenter is not the juggernaut that it used to be. First Take has taken over SportsCenter’s 10 a.m. ET slot on the Mothership while SportsCenter has gone to ESPN2 where its ratings have fallen significantly from last year.
SportsCenter is still a valued brand at ESPN, but the network has to know that Horowitz’s words have a ring of truth to them.