The PR war between ESPN and Fox Sports has been largely one-sided, featuring Fox touting every small victory over ESPN and ESPN just pointing at the bigger picture and their overall dominance over FS1.
On Tuesday, ESPN fired back in a way they never have before – by calling out Fox for moving the target. Oh boy.
— ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) January 24, 2017
The article breaks down how Fox’s aims have changed over the three-plus years since the launch of FS1 in August of 2013.
Their aim at first was very broad: It started with ESPN overall, then late night SportsCenter, then late afternoon, then First Take and now, very narrowly, the 10 a.m. ET SportsCenter on ESPN2.
ESPN’s PR team then explains how they won the ratings battles in each of those segments, noting they have a better total day audience on nearly a five to one basis, that Scott Van Pelt’s late night SportsCenter has beaten the third reboot of Fox Sports Live on a 12:1 basis over the last year, and that Speak For Yourself was topped eightfold by the 6 PM SportsCenter and, after its move to 5 PM, 11:1 by the Around the Horn/PTI block.
Finally, ESPN addresses the launch of Undisputed, and notes that First Take has a 4:1 edge in 2017 (which is a span of what…three weeks?). In the introduction of the piece, ESPN also notes that ESPN2 is edging Undisputed during the all-too-brief year of 2017.
Nothing revealed by ESPN here was all that surprising, though perhaps the overall margins of some of these ratings battles are a bit staggering. I think what this really says is that ESPN and its PR team is sick and tired of Fox boasting about Undisputed’s occasional victories, implying that FS1 is making up ground on ESPN when they’re still far, far behind them in overall viewership.
With Fox airing the Super Bowl this year and broadcasting several of their FS1 studio shows from Houston, they have a huge opportunity to make up some more ground. Will they be able to close the gap a little more next week, and hold those gains for more than a week? We’ll find out as 2017 rolls along, but if FS1 can’t continue to make gains…what will their target be as the network’s fourth year comes to a close?