Is FS1 a possible stop for a Barstool Sports late-night TV show?
In a feature on the company for Forbes, Mark J. Burns recapped the growth that Barstool has made since its beginnings as a black-and-white Boston newspaper in 2003. Barstool is now a significant digital media presence, powered by an investment from the Chernin Group in 2016, with offices in Manhattan and producing content for Facebook Live, Snapchat and Instagram, along with a network of podcasts, some of which among the top 15 sports shows on iTunes. (Pardon My Take ranks No. 2.)
Barstool CEO Erika Nardini has worked hard on trying to expand the company’s brand across a variety of platforms. In addition to the ones already mentioned, Barstool has also taken steps into the sports documentary space, spotlighting topics in short films that traditional networks and their sports documentary arms wouldn’t touch, such as the rowdy Buffalo Bills fan base and Rick Pitino’s sex scandal at Louisville.
TV may be the next hurdle to clear for Barstool. Its Rundown show on Comedy Central broadcasted earlier this year during the Super Bowl was successful, especially compared to other sports programming from more established networks like ESPN and FS1.
First Take: 450K
Barstool Rundown: 310K
— Sports TV Ratings (@SportsTVRatings) January 31, 2017
According to Burns and multiple sources, Barstool has been shopping a late-night show around to networks, including FS1. It’s unknown of discussions with Fox Sports are still ongoing or if they died down. Regardless, those conversations are an indication of Barstool’s ambition to take on TV next, something Nardini and Barstool founder Dave Portnoy confirmed.
When asked about where the brand conversation currently stood for linear, Nardini declined to comment but did say, “We’re interested in having a linear show. I think a question for us is which one of our brands should be a linear show.
“We have a ton of aspiration around radio, social and on television. I think you’ll see us explore all three of those things going forward.”
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When pressed if that means regular programming on TV, Portnoy said, “That could be anywhere.”
He added: “It could be TV. It could be big social media platforms, Facebook, Snapchat. … It could be relationships with sports leagues. It could be things that, I think, two years ago or prior to Chernin would have been hard to believe.”
FS1 has been looking for a show to put in its 11 p.m. ET nightly slot, ever since canceling Fox Sports Live. Katie Nolan’s Garbage Time seemed like a good fit for late-night, but sources told Awful Announcing that the time slot was instead offered to Clay Travis, who turned the idea down after being told he would have to limit his commentary to sports. Barstool is certainly aware of FS1’s ratings, mocking them last November when Awful Announcing noted that Colin Cowherd’s interview with Donald Trump was topped by George Poveromo’s World of Saltwater Fishing.
Ouch. I doubt that’s the news FS1 was looking for when they signed Colin Cowherd after his ESPN departure. Getting beat in the ratings by George Poveromo and his saltwater fish isn’t a great look. It wasn’t just any interview either. It was the Donald Trump interview. The mack daddy of TV ratings.
Barstool would certainly bring an established brand name and a devoted audience, one with a large social media presence, to such a program if an agreement could be reached with FS1. Given Barstool’s outreach on several other social platforms, a late-night show could potentially get exposure on a variety of platforms beyond TV. That could help Barstool further expand to the national brand that Portnoy envisions.