This year brought more debate to the forefront as FS1 tried to find its niche through the luring of Skip Bayless and the premiere of two new shows, Speak for Yourself with Colin Cowherd and Jason Whitlockand Undisputed with Skippy and Shannon Sharpe.
Now as 2017 approaches, Bayless’ old show, First Take will move from ESPN2 to ESPN next week in hopes of stemming a recent ratings downward trend that began when Undisputed began airing.
With both sides drawing lines in the sand, it’s expected that executives at ESPN and FS1 will ramp up their rhetoric and that’s exactly what they’ve done. In the Los Angeles Times, ESPN and FS1 have their guns a’blazin on each other.
Jamie Horowitz, Fox Sports National Networks President had a big hand in creating the debate programming at ESPN and now he’s doing the same thing at FS1. He says the way FS1 can discuss and debate is different than how it was one at ESPN:
“The Fox culture allows us to talk about sports news in ways that perhaps would be frowned upon at other companies,” Horowitz said. “There is an appetite here for raw fearless talk.”
That’s something that’s been reflected by Bayless himself who said there were topics that couldn’t be broached while he was at ESPN.
Burke Magnus, executive vice president for programming and scheduling at ESPN doesn’t agree with Horowitz’s assessment.
“The bone I pick with it is that the opinion programming they are doing is differentiating the two of us,” he said. “All day long we offer this type of programming, and Jamie Horowitz had a hand in it when he was here. It’s really not something that makes them distinct. They attempted to compete with us on news and information and eventually abandoned that notion. That’s not because news and information is dead; it’s because they couldn’t compete with ‘SportsCenter.’”
Magnus acknowledges that it wasn’t good for First Take to have Bayless leave saying “Those successes are hard to come by,” but he says he considers what FS1 is doing as “healthy competition.”
So the debate competition begins anew in 2017 with First Take on ESPN going head-to-head with Undisputed on FS1, it’s going to be a rather interesting year.