Much was made of the decision by Fox Sports 1 to cancel the heavily hyped Fox College Saturday after just one year.  Erin Andrews is back to sideline reporting full-time and the network is basically starting over with their college football coverage.

A further step in that direction is FS1’s annoucnement that they will be launching a new Friday night college football pregame show.  At midnight ET.

The show will air under the Fox Sports Live banner and be titled Fox Sports Live: Countdown to Kickoff.  Here’s more from a network announcement.

“Few things in sports rival the enthusiasm and passion fans have for college football,” FOX SPORTS LIVE executive producer Michael Hughes said. “We are really excited about this concept and feel like we have an awesome group of insiders and analysts who have covered the game and competed at its highest level.”

In-studio analysts include Joel Klatt, Matt Leinart, Petros Papadakis and Dave Wannstedt. In addition, FOX Sports’ trio of college football insiders, Bruce Feldman, Stewart Mandel and Clay Travis, are on hand to provide news breaks and insights on each week’s most relevant topics, including explanations and analysis of the sport’s first-ever playoff system.

The format counts down the week’s biggest stories from 10 to 1, mixing in related analysis and conversation from the panel of experts. With FOX Sports also holding an expansive rights package for games this season, the show cuts away to on-site reports from the respective crews for previews of Saturday’s contests airing on FOX and FOX Sports 1. On-site game talent includes veteran broadcasters Gus Johnson, Charles Davis and Tim Brando among others.

FOX SPORTS LIVE: COUNTDOWN TO KICKOFF airs live at 12:00AM ET, followed by a series of re-airs on Saturday mornings that lead into FOX Sports 1’s first game each Saturday, set for kick off at 12:00 PM ET. 

There’s two major takeaways from this decision.

First, hopefully this goes a bit further in giving Fox Sports Live some identity.  As Steve Lepore noted in his review of the show, the 12 PM ET live edition of Fox Sports Live now features the panel counting down the biggest story of the day while 11 PM ET focuses more on highlights.  The new college football show will slide right into that format.

The problem with this is that your program guide still lists both shows as “Fox Sports Live.”

So what is Fox Sports Live exactly?  Is it the highlight show?  Or is it the panel countdown?  To the average sports fan, who Fox Sports 1 is still trying to court, this has to be incredibly confusing.  If you turn on a random episode of SportsCenter, you know what you’re going to get.  If you turn on Fox Sports Live, you don’t.

That’s a long way of getting to the point that hopefully Fox Sports 1 will rebrand their midnight show as Fox Sports Live: Countdown or, even better, something entirely different in order to more clearly communicate what the show does.  Separating the branding of those shows and giving them a real identity would be wise for Fox Sports 1 and hopefully it starts with this new college football show.

Second, it’s very smart by FS1 to get away from competing directly with College GameDay.  Airing at midnight they can begin to carve their own identity without fear of trying to steal some of GameDay’s massive audience.  We’ve seen CBS Sports Network try their own studio show Lead Off at midnight, but it was eventually cancelled earlier this year.  There’s not too many people in front of a television on Fridays at midnight, but at least Fox Sports 1 can call this time their own as they rebuild their college football brand.

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