Skip Bayless’ defection from ESPN to FS1 has generally been met with skepticism or, even worse, indifference. Ratings for his new show, Undisputed have been uninspiring, and though First Take’s ratings have dropped, ESPN has survived his absence.

However, Horowitz said Skip Bayless’ move from ESPN to Fox has elevated ratings for the morning time slot that Bayless’ “Undisputed” show occupies and had boosted the lead-in for “The Herd.” It also has cut into ratings for ESPN2’s “First Take.” Horowitz: “One guy has had an impact on three different shows on two networks. It’s been incredible.”

So, Horowitz’s points are all valid. Undisputed draws more viewership than its time-slot did in the pre-Bayless era, which naturally boosts audience for The Herd. And yes, First Take‘s ratings have dipped since Skip left.

But the problem isn’t the direction of the changes in viewership of the three shows Horowitz cites; it’s the degree. When FS1 gave Bayless millions and spent boatloads more to advertise his show, the idea wasn’t just to make a dent in ESPN’s audience, it was to take out a chunk. Sure, 90,000 viewers per show is more than FS1 would draw airing college football re-runs or something, but it’s still only a third of what the somewhat-diminished First Take gets, and that must be disappointing to FS1 execs.

As is often the case with FS1, ratings suffer when measured against expectations Fox execs set for themselves. After months (years?) of talking trash to ESPN and promising a new power in sports media, incremental gains won’t impress anyone.

Per SBD,  Horowitz was “not quite as brash” this week at the ’16 NeuLion Sports Media & Technology Conference but still said ESPN should be “a little worried.” He also offered this bit of optimism about his much-maligned network:

“October could be the best month in the history of FS1. I take issue with the idea of decline at FS1. We’re in growth mode.”

That’s what FS1 keeps saying. We’ll see to what extent they can back it up.

[Sports Business Daily]

About Alex Putterman

Alex is a writer and editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. He has written for The Atlantic, VICE Sports,, and more. He is a proud alum of Northwestern University and The Daily Northwestern. You can find him on Twitter @AlexPutterman.

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