Saturday was launch day for Fox Sports 1, the would-be cable rival to ESPN. What can viewers expect from the new network? Let’s open things up for questions.
Q: Where can I find Fox Sports 1 on my TV?
A: On Time Warner Cable, FS1 is on 122 and 769 (high definition). Verizon FiOS has it on Channels 83 and 583; it’s channel 219 on DirecTV and 150 on Dish Network.
Q: Why should I care about Fox Sports 1?
A: Because of its live programming, the meat and potatoes of any sports network. College football and basketball, major league baseball (starting next year), NASCAR, soccer and UFC are what the network calls its pillar sports, along with NFL-related programming.
Q: Will FS1 have a SportsCenter equivalent?
A: Of course, but with its own Fox Sports flavor. Remember “The Best Damn Sports Show Period?” That late and not-so-lamented program will no doubt have an influence on Fox Sports Live, which is FS1’s nightly news, opinion and highlights program at 11 p.m.
Former athletes Donovan McNabb, Gary Payton and Andy Roddick are among the co-hosts. Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole, two popular anchors from Canada’s TSN SportsCentre, will man the highlights desk.
Q: Where does Regis Philbin fit in?
A: Philbin is the biggest name who will appear in a live sports-entertainment talk show, from 5 to 6 p.m. weekdays, called “Crowd Goes Wild.”
The 81-year-old Philbin is, as he likes to say, “only one man!” So “Crowd Goes Wild” will also feature Wall Street Journal sports columnist Jason Gay, ex-tennis player turned comedian Michael Kosta, former NFL star Trevor Pryce, Sky Sports host Georgie Thompson and Katie Nolan from Guyism.com.
Q: What does FS1 have for NFL junkies?
A: Primarily its new program Fox Football Daily, which is kind of a daily edition of its Sunday program that airs around Fox Sports’ NFL coverage. The broadcast team includes familiar faces Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long, Jay Glazer, Gus Johnson, Erin Andrews and Mike Pereira. Former players Randy Moss, Brian Urlacher and Ronde Barber are also on board.
Q: What are some FS1 highlights for today’s Day Two schedule?
A: NASCAR RaceDay debuts at 10 a.m., previewing the Sprint Cup race from Michigan International Speedway. There is a UFC bout at 9 p.m. between Rich Franklin and Wanderlei Silva and a two-hour Fox Sports Live starting at 10 p.m.
Q: Is ESPN taking note of its new cable rival?
A: That’s like asking if George Steinbrenner used to notice when the Red Sox acquired a big-name player. Just this past week, ESPN hired away columnist Jason Whitlock from Fox Sports. The Worldwide Leader also brought in statistics wizard Nate Silver from the New York Times as well as making another move that stunned ESPN-watchers: Bringing back Keith Olbermann to host a nightly talk show on ESPN2. In Olbermann’s first stint at ESPN, he burned more bridges than Robert Duvall’s platoon in “Apocalypse Now.”
Q: What do the Fox Sports 1 honchos think about competing for an audience with Olbermann?
A: Funny you should ask. Scott Ackerman, a Fox Sports executive vice president, said in a media conference call, “To kind of give you a little difference in our philosophy and Keith’s philosophy: Keith likes to look at the worst person in the world and we like to look at the best person in the world. So we will have a segment on the best person in the world. … I don’t think there is anyone here that believes they just decided to bring Keith back because it was the right time.”
I believe that translates to, “Bring it on, baby!”
Q: Will Fox Sports 1 make it in today’s TV landscape?
A: There are many reasons to think it will. First is all the live programming the network has paid rights fees for. If the Daytona 500 or golf’s U.S. Open or the World Cup final is on FS1, viewers will find it on their dials.
Rupert Murdoch’s millions are behind the network, and he isn’t known for throwing money away.
And let’s not overlook the X factor. That would be Regis.
Fox Sports co-president Erick Shanks told the New York Times that while Philbin doesn’t seem to fit the network’s target demographic, there are definite benefits to having him aboard.
“Probably no athletes will turn Regis down for an interview,” Shanks told the newspaper. “If they do, once their mom finds out, he’ll go on.”