Colin Cowherd’s interview with new best friend Donald Trump couldn’t have asked for anything more in the promotion department. It got ad time during the World Series on Fox. It got its own Twitter hashtag. It even got its own primetime special on FS1. So just how many people tuned in to this earth-shattering sports and political event of the season?
The answer: not many.
According to our ratings guru Douglas Pucci, Cowherd’s interview with Trump provided a minor boost to the show with an average of 89,000 viewers. Although Cowherd’s move to Fox has received a lot of publicity, the viewership increase has been modest at best, with the program still hovering in the mid-to-high five digits. The last four weeks have seen Cowherd average 68,000, 56,000, 65,000, and 77,000 viewers respectively for the afternoon radio simulcast.
But what about the much-balleyhooed primetime special? Well, it’s in those numbers where the gap between FS1 and ESPN was illuminated in its fullest. As FS1 was airing its Trump-Cowherd primetime special, ESPN was getting ready to air Monday Night Football. The result was that just 53,000 people watched the replay at 8 PM ET. Over on ESPN, 2.1 million were tuning in for Monday Night Countdown followed by an audience of over 12 million for Colts-Panthers. But it wasn’t just MNF pregame coverage that beat FS1? No, the Trump-Cowherd interview finished behind the following programs:
NBA Coast to Coast (ESPN2) 138k
CFB Notre Dame/Temple replay (ESPNU) 54k
More people watched a fishing show on NBCSN than Colin Cowherd’s interview with Donald Trump that was heavily promoted during the World Series. Let that soak in.
Those are ok numbers for FS1 during the daytime hours, but it has to be a bit of a blow to the network’s pride to see their heavily hyped interview beat by an NBCSN fishing show in primetime.
The numbers call to attention the difficult realities facing FS1 and NBCSN and basically any sports network not named ESPN. No matter how much money Fox dishes out to high-priced former ESPNers, they by themselves are not going to bring ESPN-level viewership with them to a new network. NBCSN learned the same lesson with the cancellation of The Crossover. Dan Patrick’s ratings hover in the same mid five figures as well. It’s just the reality of the universe these networks operate in.
Only prime live sports rights throughout the day, and not interviews between polarizing political candidates and polarizing sports shock jocks, are going to bring in the consistently high ratings these networks hope to reach some day.