Last week, Sports Illustrated reported network Fox Sports 1 is ending Fox Sports Live as we know it, after the would-be SportsCenter competitor helmed by popular Canadian anchors Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole failed to live up to its lofty projections. Its viewership was never particularly commanding, but Fox Sports Live’s ratings as measured by Nielsen have fallen through the basement in the past several months, with the program rarely managing to score even a tenth of a ratings point without the help of a major lead-in like postseason baseball or first-run UFC programming.
But Fox Sports Live isn’t the only FS1 program in search of viewers. Ratings across the network’s program schedule rarely rise above the “scratch” level, which Nielsen defines as having enough viewers to be accurately recorded. Even worse, FS1 programming is regularly beaten in the ratings by programs on networks with far fewer potential viewers—and even other Fox Sports-operated channels.
Literally no one is watching or cares about Fox Sports. We had to resort to a stunt headline here to get you to read this post about how no one is watching or cares about the network. The stunt headline will likely prove accurate.
Availability isn’t the problem. Here’s a breakdown of sports networks by number of subscribers this month, as published by SportsTVRatings.com (from which all ratings information in this post was acquired):
|Network name||Estimated # of Homes (000)||Coverage %||July 2015 Estimate||Change vs July 2015|
|NBC SPORTS NETWORK||83,022||71.3||83,874||-1.0%|
As you can see, Fox Sports 1 reaches more homes than any sports network not named ESPN or ESPN2, and is available on tens of millions more televisions than many of its competitors. That hasn’t stopped those competitors from regularly beating FS1 in the ratings.
Take Colin Cowherd, whose July departure from ESPN was hastened due to his thoughts on Dominican baseball players. While Fox Sports suits have talked up the show’s viewership in press releases, the facts (per ratings data) reveal that between 50,000 and 60,000 people are tuned in on any given day. About twice as many viewers are choosing Chris “Mad Dog” Russo’s show on MLB Network—despite that channel being available in 18 million fewer homes. Other programs that beat out Cowherd during our ratings sample period: Fisher’s ATV World; Saltwater Experience; and Fishing with Roland Martin. All those air on NBC Sports Network, perhaps FS1's most appropriate rival.
It’s even more grim for The Best Thing I Herd, a Cowherd “greatest hits” show. It rarely pulled even 20,000 viewers, and regularly lost out to programs like UFC reruns on Fox Sports 2 or La Ultima Palabra on Fox Deportes.
Also grim? Preliminary ratings for Fox’s much-hyped Whitlock’s House Party by the Bay, a Super Bowl special live show featuring guests like Fox Sports personality Clay Travis. For the three days this week we have data, it’s averaged a paltry 32,000 viewers. (If that; again, Nielsen doesn’t validate viewership numbers this low.) Given Cowherd’s numbers, it’s clear that people are actively changing the channel once Jason Whitlock appears on their televisions—choosing UFC reruns on FS2, an Inside Stuff rerun on NBA TV, or something called The Insurance Skills Challenge instead.
FS1's only reliable ratings draw is PBC boxing—which, given its airtime purchase nature, is essentially an infomercial for Al Haymon—and the daily, live NASCAR Race Hub. UFC programming is also strong, though it doesn’t manage to beat out the likes of women’s volleyball, President’s Cup golf, or a Bucks-Kings game on NBA TV during our ratings sample period. Fox Sports 1 is available in 84 million households; it should rarely if ever lose ratings hours to programs on Univision Deportes or (especially) Fox Deportes, but that’s exactly what happens.
There’s something toxic about Fox Sports 1, a ratings wasting disease that has run rampant throughout the network’s programming while its execs have hired some of sports media’s most loathsome figures. Those things can’t be related, can they? Earlier this week, Colin Cowherd went back to one of his favorite wells: bashing John Wall for no apparent reason. It’s not clear whether Cowherd even believes the things coming out of his own mouth, or is just saying them for attention. If it’s the latter, that’s particularly sad, because it’s very clearly not working.
Here’s a spreadsheet highlighting our ratings samples; we took Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday from the weeks of Oct. 5, Dec. 7, and Feb. 1. Next to each Fox Sports program and its estimated number of viewers (in thousands) and rating (if it earned one) is a comparable program running that same hour on another network.