Fox Sports 1's new flagship debate fest, All Takes Matter, isn’t very good. The problem isn’t that it features two idiots slinging bad takes—although it does—but that it’s boring. Good sports studio shows need to be either smart or entertaining. A select few—Inside the NBA is the prime example—manage to be both. Most others are smart but boring (Outside the Lines) or dumb but entertaining (First Take). All Takes Matter is dumb and boring.
The longterm success of All Takes Matter doesn’t hinge upon what I think, though, or even on what craven Fox Sports execs think. It hinges upon what the public thinks, and after two weeks of broadcasts in favorable conditions, the public doesn’t seem to be remotely interested.
For its June 13 debut, All Takes Matter drew 94,000 viewers, which was immediately compared to the SportsCenter juggernaut it’s taking head-on:
Michael Mulvihill, Fox Sports’s senior vice president for programming and research, sought to put those numbers into context:
Mulvihill is right that it was unreasonable to expect All Takes Matter to immediately siphon off SportsCenter’s audience (though an expectation that it would was stoked by All Takes Matter showrunner Jamie Horowitz’s repeated shots at ESPN’s flagship program). And if All Takes Matter can consistently beat whatever was previously in its time slot by 31 percent, that would definitely be a success.
But in the two days after its debut, All Takes Matter drew just 48,000 and 46,000 viewers. If we take Mulvihill at his word, that means it underperformed its year-to-date time slot by 33 percent and 36 percent, respectively, on those days, and was similarly down in the 18-49 demographic Mulvihill says he’s interested in. Viewers tuned into the debut, didn’t like what they saw, and didn’t come back.
By the end of its first week, Fox Sports was already resorting to what certainly looks like ratings trickery to gin up All Takes Matter’s numbers. On Thursday, June 16, All Takes Matter began at 4:58 p.m., instead of its usual 6:00 p.m. This appears to have been a ploy to take advantage of the massive audience already tuned in to FS1 for the first round of the U.S. Open, and it worked: 247,000 people watched All Takes Matter on that day. (Fox Sports didn’t respond to questions about why All Takes Matter’s time slot was changed.)
Alas, chicanery can’t mask All Takes Matter’s overall tepid viewership. Back in its regular time slot last week with no live sports lead-ins, All Takes Matter averaged 51,500 viewers, a 28 percent drop from the previous shows in its time slot. Not once has All Takes Matter drawn higher ratings than its lead-in, meaning that every single night people see Colin Cowherd and Jason Whitlock and immediately change the channel or turn their televisions off.
The only FS1 studio show that All Takes Matter consistently beats is MLB Whiparound. It jockeys around in the ratings with Fox Sports Live and TMZ Sports—both of which look like they have the production budget of a public access show—and is regularly beaten by NASCAR Race Hub and The Herd. Since All Takes Matter debuted, Fox Sports PR has sent out 60 tweets, 17 of them touting the high ratings of various programs. Not a single one of them was about All Takes Matter.
There isn’t any help on the horizon, either. One of the small joys in watching All Takes Matter for the past two weeks has been the awkward and uninformed debates about soccer, mostly about the Copa America Centenario as Fox Sports was the rightsholder. But with Copa America finished and having hit the deadest part of the sports calendar, there is nothing to fill an entire hour of discussion, and few live sports to provide a ratings boost.
This doesn’t mean the show doesn’t have goals. If it does well, gets lucky, and begins to attract an audience, it may beat out Feherty, Linea de Cuatro, International Talk, Mecum Auto Auctions, Jalen & Jacoby, Quick Pitch, High Heat, Champions Tour Learning Center, Intentional Talk, Sweetwater, Knot Right Kayak Fishing, Golden Boy Classics, Spartan Race, Destination Baja Sur, Tuf Talk, My Classic Car, America Redonda, and UFC 200 Greatest Fighters—among other shows that have recently beaten All Takes Matter in the ratings—and make its way to the top.