Keeping Score

Fox Sports 1 Debut: Six First Impressions Of The New Network

Lots of motorsports, UFC, and "Three Things You Need To Know" mark the first weekend of the all-sports channel.

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Fox Sports 1, Rupert Murdoch’s grand effort to compete with ESPN for the eyeballs of sports fans, made its much-hyped launch this weekend. We can say this much:  the lights went on, and Fox Sports 1 seemed to avoid the kind of embarrassing glitch or muck-up that could ruin any debut. Motor sports and UFC programming dominated the opening two days: on Day 1, Saturday, Fox Sports 1 offered 11.5 hours of live NASCAR and UFC, and network execs were quick to trumpet the ratings. During Saturday night prime time, for example, Fox Sports 1 said it posted an average audience of 1.7 million, a tenfold increase over what Speed, Fox Soccer, and FUEL TV drew, combined, on a comparable night last year. (Fox Sports 1 replaced Speed on the cable dial. Here’s Speed’s handoff to Fox Sports 1, at 6 AM eastern on Saturday morning. The first face on Fox Sports 1: football pregame Curt Menefee).

You can’t draw any real conclusions about the network’s fate from opening night ratings, or the quality of the first two days. But feedback never hurts, right? I tuned into Fox Sports 1 for three hours or so last night, and here are a few  impressions:

1. The production quality is just fine: it has the Fox Sports feel. The ticker at the bottom wasn’t distracting, and I was pleasantly surprised that it provided an update from the World Track and Field championships, a somewhat fringe event for fans just looking for the red-meat: baseball and football news. A small point, but as someone indeed interested in track, just something that stood out for me.

2. The format of an 30 minute interview show, Fox Sports 1 on 1, is mighty promising. These more in-depth, conversational chats often deliver rare insight about big-name athletes. The show made me think of Roy Firestone’s old chat show on ESPN, Up Close, which had some classic moments.

Unfortunately, Fox Sports 1 on 1 went with a big-name, Tom Brady, for its debut, and Michael Strahan’s talk with him was predictably dull. Brady’s terrific life — Hall of Fame career, super-model wife — is far from fresh or interesting at this point, and he offered such bromides like “I love the game” and that he doesn’t “get a lot of joy thinking about the individual accomplishments.” Strahan didn’t really challenge Brady on anything, though that wasn’t totally his fault: Brady is not a subject the who attracts tough questions. I kept waiting for Strahan to ask Brady something about the Aaron Hernandez situation. But that question never came, which was disappointing, though pretty unsurprising. If the interview was taped before Hernandez was arrested in late June — he was charged with first-degree murder —  Menefee, the host of Fox Sports 1 on 1, should have disclosed that.

(MORE: Fox’s Sports Network To Debut Saturday)

3. Fox Sports 1 sprinkles sports news updates into commercial breaks, via a bite-sized package called “Three Things You Need To Know.” That’s probably a smart, viewer-friendly move. As the night progressed, Fox did a nice job of mixing up the stories — a few NASCAR items, football injury news, the Philadelphia Phillies snapping the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 10-game winning streak in the debut of interim manager Ryne Sandberg,  Serena Williams losing in a U.S. Open tuneup tournament. The “three-things” format, however, kept creeping into the Fox College Football Kickoff show – analysts told us three things you need to know about the Atlantic Coast Conference, three things you need to know about the Big 10. That got a little tiresome.

4. Prior to launch, the network played up how “fun” the programming was going to be. So tuning into the college football show, I feared a yuckfest. It wasn’t as bad as I expected. Fairly straightforward and informative.

5. Thank you, Fox Sports 1: my four-year-old son sauntered out of his bedroom and joined me on the living room couch right before the start of UFC Unleashed. As he was getting comfortable, a black screen appeared with this message: “Warning: The following program contains extreme sports and violence and may not be appropriate for younger viewers. Viewer discretion advised.” OK then. Let’s pause that for a moment. Head back inside, little guy.

6. I was most interested in checking out Fox Sports Live, the network’s hour-long highlight show, and answer to ESPN’s Sportscenter. The network hired Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole, two wildly popular anchors on TSN in Canada, for the show, betting that pair’s chemistry can attract a cult following in the States, like Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann did on Sportscenter back in the 1990s. In promos, the network said Fox Sports Live would be “unexpected,” “unconventional” and “unfiltered.” In fact, Fox Sports Live was going to “turn sports news upside down.”

That’s a pretty tall order, especially in today’s world. Sports highlights are a commodity: you can catch the scores and information on your smartphone. And nearly every memorable play is immediately uploaded online: you don’t need to wait until 10 PM to see it. So no matter how “unexpected” and witty and fun Fox Sports Live may be, can it ever be destination viewing?

We’ll find out soon enough. Based on Sunday night’s sample, nothing’s being turned upside down. (Here’s a review of Saturday night’s Fox Sports Live debut). The most memorable part of the program: a slow-motion clip showing Indianapolis Colts backup quarterback Chandler Harish accidentally hitting Fox sideline reporter Pam Oliver in the face with a football during pre-game warmups. Onrait and O’Toole were pleasant, but by no means spectacular. At one point, O’Toole said: “Just a reminder, you’re watching Fox Sports Live; so far, we haven’t been cancelled.” Maybe a tad funny, in a “I’m Chevy Chase, and you’re not” kind of way. Other than that….to be fair, Fox Sports Live usually features panel discussions with former ESPN SportsNation anchor Clarissa Thompson, Andy Roddick, Donovan McNabb, and some others to mix things up. But as Onrair and O’Toole said at the top of the show, the panel only works during the week.

Fox Sports Live ditches the story rundown that you see on the left side of the screen on Sportscenter. Instead, at the start of the show the producers kept one bulletin on the right: “Breaking News Exclusive — A-Rod Suspension – Fox Sports MLB Insider Ken Rosenthal reports Alex Rodriguez could have settled with MLB for far less than 211-game suspension.” It just lurked there. Maybe I’ll get used to it. But for now, it was distracting, a bit of an eyesore. As the program progressed, the show rotated different bits of info into that right side slot: this day in sports history (Larry Bird retired in 1992), NASCAR standings, more “Three Things You Need To Know” (rrrrgh!), etc.

Okay, enough nitpicking for now: Fox Sports 1 is getting started, and so far, all is fine. On Monday, Regis Philbin’s show — The Crowd Goes Wild — debuts at 5 p.m. eastern; Fox Sports 1 viewers were reminded of this about 30 times Sunday night. A daily NFL talk show debuts at 6. The network deserves a look. In the meantime — what’s this I’m seeing on Twitter? Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster plunked Alex Rodriguez on Sunday Night Baseball? I need to switch over to ESPN.

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36 comments
WilliamBurkeJr
WilliamBurkeJr

The speed channel used to show all of the Barrett-Jackson auto auction at Las Vegas. Now I could only watch part of the

auction of Fox sports 1 because I don't have Fox Sports 2 or National Geographic Channel, so I missed most of the auction.

There are plenty of other stations for college football. The car fans who loved the Speed Channel got royally screwed!

mstory59
mstory59

To whom it may concern, I am very disappointed by the removal and replacement of Speed by Fox sports 1. This was the only avenue available for a wide variety of motorsports and collector car hobiests. I am not interested in ping pong competitions from the UK and am very surprised any one would be. I will not be watching your network.

brady969
brady969

I was very glad with the coverage of the fights with the launch of FS1. It's the best MMA has ever seen. It's about time a sports channel got in touch with what younger sports fans want to see. MMA has been around for 20 years and now FS1 has certified that its here to stay. MMA haters can suck it. Lol

raysle
raysle

I was very sad when I learned that SPEED was being taken away from me but tried to give Fox Sport 1 a chance. They failed miserably.... they cut or cut in half all of the motorsports shows, failed to show crucial parts of a featured NASCAR race because they were in commercial break and never bothered to show a replay! That's a sports channel??? The talk shows are abhorent and all of the female "sportscasters" look like tranvestites ( no offense to transvestites. Please bring SPEED back!!!!!

mbarr275
mbarr275

You say that you only have 31 comments on here about takeing the speed channel off the air.  That is hard to beleave.  Why don`t you put up the real numbers? 

delouche
delouche

I was excited about FS1 only to tune in and see a simple re-branding of the same old Fox Sports Net crap (see Best Damn, etc.). The Fox Sports Live (SportsCenter type show) anchors were absolutely horrible. They were trying too hard to be funny and it was unwatchable. Combine this with the fact that the channel is hard to find on our cable system (due to Speed not being a big time network) and I don't see this effort making it. I'd say "sorry FS1" except that Rupert Murdoch is an evil person and deserves no success so, I guess "sorry all you good folks with jobs at FS1."

dougsracing
dougsracing

Fox 1 sports "SUCKS" we want Speed Channel back , More car racing , like the World of Outlaws ,NASCAR ,IHRA, NHRA .My Classic Car ,On the Edge ,Pinks reruns are better then what on Fox 1 . You lost this viewer & many more 

Not more football or boxing there are dozens of those channels

DuaneNead
DuaneNead

Murdoch needs to drug test his people, it seems like he has some pot heads working for him. SPEED Channel was the best car channel out there. I want it back ! FOX 1 can sit on on the one and hope it flops. I agree that morons or if you want to call them idiot(s) are running FOX 1.

I WANT THE SPEED CHANNEL BACK!!!

steveburns
steveburns

what idiot decided we needed another stick and ball sport station? mma? boxing? you people are totally out of touch. speed was a car channel, the only car channel. here we are in  the  last 3 races before the chase , and who are you interviering? mike tyson.hopefully this channel will fail miserably and maybe we`ll get a car channel back. we don`t need more retired jocks and announcer wannabes telling us the same retread crap that we get fed on 100 other channels. if thats what we wanted we would watch those other 100 channels. please make an appt. with a proctologist and try just once to your head out of your ass! LEAVE SPEED ALONE !!!!!!

DavidPayne
DavidPayne

If you morons want a damn UFC and or a soccer channel then make one but leave the SPEED CHANNEL the hell alone!!!  Another channel of a bunch of wannabe jocks talking about a bunch of way over paid, drug abusing meatheads is not what we need or want.  There are alot of people who want to watch programming about motorsports with out all that other crap!  PLEASE GIVE US BACK OUR SPEED CHANNEL!!!

FredMorris
FredMorris

this is the worst  thing that could happen to race fans, speed channel wasn't broke so why try to  fix it. they took off some of the best shows and cut race hub in half and moved to a time slot that working people can't watch it! we had espn1,2,3,4 the N.F.L. network  ,the golf channel, network sports and many others. so we sure as hell do not need this garbage. put the speed channel back on!!!

Icarrydemocrat
Icarrydemocrat

TURNED ON SPEED AND GET MIKE TYSON TALKING SH!t. AND TWO G0DDAMNED GIGGLING WOMEN STICK THIS IN YOUR @SS FOX SPORTS 1. I TAKE THAT BACK SHOVE IT UP YOUR @SS Rupert Murdoch

Trigger
Trigger

SICK.... THE SINGLE WORST SPORTS PANEL PRESENTATION I'VE HAD THE UNFORTUNATE OCCASION TO ENDURE!  IF THAT'S THE BEST  MURDOCK, MCNABB AND COMPANY HAVE TO OFFER... IT'LL BE A LANGUISHING L-O-N-G DAY TRYING TO CATCH UP WITH ESPN, OR ANYONE OTHER!!

TedMiller
TedMiller

Not everyboby is ex jocks trying to relive there high school or college days! Bring back Speed Channel!

rnoswal
rnoswal

I am so upset about all the shows that are gone from SPEEDTV, I hate, mourn and wonder just why FOX chose to drop  Dave Despain! Try dropping one of your football shows and you will just barely touch the bad feelings we have about losing Wind Tunnel!.... that hurts the worst, but no more Car Crazy? No more Pass Time?  No more My Classic Cars, which means no more Jay Leno  cars? I love racing and stuff about racing just as much as those who are as in love with Football or the other stick and ball sports but I will never watch FOX Sports 1, NEVER! I hope there is a petition to sign on facebook that shows just how many are disappointed with this crap! FOX, bring us a motorsports channel! Get our shows back, you at FOX obviously have no idea what you have done to a very loyal community, you have lost them and their sponsors. And if you are anything like FIX news, I won't be able to believe anything you say on your sports program anyway!

mbarr275
mbarr275

Sean Gregory is out  of his mind.  He is not real.

mbarr275
mbarr275

PUT SPEEDCHANNEL BACK ON TV NOW

allanrhyne
allanrhyne

What were you thinking? There is no reason to watch FS1. We like motorsports,  There already is a NFL channel, we don't need another one. I haven't been able to watch FS1 since it started. I don't like boxing, or what ever that mess is called. I scroll by to see if there is any racing on. Seeing none I move on. Hope you are happy.

kenfu
kenfu

Until FS1 brings back Passtime, Windtunnel, Track Side, and all other motorsports related progamming, I WILL NOT patronize your channel ... It was called SPEEDCHANNEL for a reason. Like everything else in this country ... it's gone to hell because of greed and the bottom line.

GaryQ
GaryQ

All Gear Heads ban "ALL FOX" stations until speed channel returns! what a bunch of dumb asses!  these are the same guys that will sit around and talk about a game that had a 40 point spread instead of showing a live multimillion dollar race!!!

rjohnston374
rjohnston374

I am a gearhead, Speed was a gearhead channel, Fox 1 is not.  I want to turn on a channel that is about cars, trucks, boats, racing, or working on all of the above 24/7..  I DO NOT WANT my car channel to talk about soccer, football, tennis golf or any other non-motor related "sport".  If you want a mix channel, fine, but put a all gear head channel on.  I will boycott all Fox channels until you replace Speed with an all things gearhead.   

RIGHT KNOW, YOU SUCK, AND I AM PISSED

upsetwife
upsetwife

there was not enough nascar or any car show If i had wanted to watch those other s sports i would of gone toother channels to watch.  You totally messed up the speed channel I had a very Pissed off husband all weekend because he did not get to see the his favorite shows,  Shame on you you made my live a living hell this last weekend get rid of those other sports and put speed channel back they way it was .

pissed in ca.

SteveEhrlich
SteveEhrlich

Too much NASCAR and UFC. No way can Fox Sports 1 stand out from the 500 other sports channels with redneck sports overkill. However the production values would make me switch to FS1 way before channels like CSS and Globovision for news and talk. The Regis Philbin Show sounds interesting even though Regis has been around since the Jurassic Era.

hillbilly592
hillbilly592

if I wanted to watch a reg sports channel I would watch espn put the speed channel back we want a car channel not just another sports channel

BlueDuck
BlueDuck

Oodles of stuff to write about except what most everybody tuned in for: MMA bouts by the UFC. 

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