The ratings for Skip Bayless’ first Undisputed show received two very different headlines in coverage from entertainment news website TheWrap Tuesday. Check out this side-by-side look at the headlines for their two separate stories:


Those headlines seem highly contradictory, even if they are relying on different metrics (performance versus ESPN’s First Take and performance versus Fox’s previous reruns in that time slot). And media observer (and former Fox employee) Jimmy Traina tweeted that it “looks like there was a plea to spin”:

Tony Maglio, the author of both stories, responded to Traina, and said the different stories weren’t about network pressure, but about the timeslot numbers coming in later.

Yes, the numerical improvement over reruns is undisputed (see what I did there?), but that doesn’t seem to justify a separate story with a “Soars” headline right after writing one with a “Drowns” headline. Also, “Original Multi-Million-Dollar Show With Prominent Sports Personality And Millions In Advertising Beats Reruns” isn’t that newsworthy of a headline. The two really aren’t comparable; it’s as if ESPN sent out a “College Football Playoff Beats Regular Monday Programming” release, or CBS argued “Super Bowl 50 Beats Typical Sunday.” It would be surprising if the debut of a new show of any sort didn’t beat reruns in its timeslot, much less one Fox has spent this much time and money promoting. And the percentages indicate that; it’s much easier to be up 400 per cent when the first number was tiny in its own right.

To TheWrap’s credit, they’ve kept both stories online and linked both to each other. This would look much worse if they’d deleted or edited the initial critical story, and it’s still there (and linked in the prominent “Latest TV” stories sidebar on the right of the new story). The new story also mentions how First Take‘s ratings were still way better than Undisputed’s. Still, not everyone’s going to click through a link or read beyond a headline. And “Skip Bayless’ ‘Undisputed’ Debut Soars With Huge Time-Slot Ratings Gain” wasn’t a great headline.

[Jimmy Traina]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.

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