When Fox Sports 1 launched in August 2013, two of the first public faces of the network were anchors Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole. The popular pair were exported from the Canadian version of SportsCentre (notice the important order of the “r” and “e” there) on TSN to be the lead anchors for Fox Sports Live, FS1’s flagship news and highlights show to compete with the American SportsCenter.
Onrait and O’Toole have drawn acclaim for their work since moving south of the border as they’ve brought the same humor and irreverence that made them household names in Canada. However, FS Live has struggled to make a true impression in its first 18 months in the viewership department, only competing with SportsCenter when it has massive live event lead-ins. Further, the program has been through a number of editorial shakeups as FS1 tries to find the right formula for its bedrock nightly show.
With that in mind, Fox Sports has made a statement of intent that they’d like to continue to build around Jay and Dan with the pair’s contracts expiring soon.
Fox Sports head honcho Eric Shanks told the following to SI‘s Richard Deitsch:
The contracts of Fox Sports Live anchors Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole—who arrived from TSN Canada in the summer of 2013—come up in 2016. I asked Shanks if he was interested in extending their tenure in the States. “I am,” Shanks said. “I think they are unique voices and personalities and solid at what they do. One of the hardest things to do in this business is to create chemistry, and they have it built in. So whatever the format of that show is, Jay and Dan are pros, they like each other and it comes through. They are very creative and almost like producers as well as talent.”
Many of the changes made to Fox Sports Live have been (wisely) done to highlight Onrait and O’Toole’s talent as broadcasters. The more FS Live can be “Jay & Dan” and the less it can be ill-fated ideas like the Best Damn Redux Athlete Panel, the better. We’ve seen the continued growth and evolution of Fox Sports Live as it really has become a better show in the last twelve months.
One really can’t blame Onrait and O’Toole for not bringing in viewers in droves to Fox Sports 1. No single personality (not even Bill Simmons) can reverse the ESPN monopoly in ratings. The only thing that will do it is more live events sports fans actually want to see. So as FS1 transitions in its second year and looks ahead, it needs to build around what it does well at its core while it adds to its live sports lineup. And Jay & Dan should definitely be part of those long-term plans.