Last week I joked about the possibility that an astronomy show on a sports network would beat that network's flagship sports show.

Turns out that joke wasn't so funny after all.  It became a reality.

Last Sunday night, Fox premeired its widely anticipated reboot of Carl Sagan's famous Cosmos documentary series hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson.  For its debut episode, Fox simulcasted Cosmos across 10 of its networks including Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2.  It was a bold, unusual step, and quite possibly a little bit of overkill.  Here I thought I was the only person interested in both cosmology and Big East basketball.

A total of 8.5 million people watched the debut episode.  Considering it aired on a zillion channels and all of them combined were still defeated by The Walking Dead, that might be labeled a bit of a letdown.  But on Fox Sports 1, Cosmos was the most watched show Sunday night.  Here's the viewership for FS1's Sunday night primetime lineup…

8 PM – NASCAR Victory Lane: 151,000 viewers
8:30 PM – UFC Ultimate Insider: 75,000 viewers
9 PM – Cosmos: 163,000 viewers
10 PM – UFC Countdown: 86,000 viewers
11 PM – Fox Sports Live: 51,000 viewers

What does it mean that an astronomy show broadcasted on several other networks at the same time beat all of FS1's sports-related content Sunday night?

I honestly have no idea because I've never seen anything like this before.

Not only did Cosmos beat Fox Sports Live, it trounced it in the ratings by a margin of over 3 to 1.  Could you imagine ABC News airing a documentary on ESPN and having it beat SportsCenter by that margin?  These numbers mean a significant part of the audience tuned into FS1 for Cosmos (or stumbled upon it on their television guides) and tuned back out once the network went back to sports.  

For what it's worth, Cosmos drew 26,000 viewers on Fox Sports 2 and was handily defeated in viewership totals by Monster Energy Supercross with 60,000.

While having an astronomy show become one of their most watched shows of the week may not necessarily be a good development for a 24/7 sports network, I like to look at the glass as half full.  Not only did FS1 viewers get to explore the wonders of the universe, they got to learn something too.  Surely that has to beat the same old sports debate of the day.  And better yet, maybe it will inspire Fox Sports 1 to give us Bill Raftery playing Ms. Frizzle and reviving The Magic School Bus.  

A kid at heart can dream, right?

[Data via Son of the Bronx]

About Matt Yoder

Award winning sportswriter at The Comeback and Awful Announcing. The biggest cat in the whole wide world.

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