In case you missed it or simply weren’t aware, Fox launched it’s new 24/7 sports network on Saturday, titled Fox Sports 1. It’s claimed to be carried on all major cable providers, so chances are it’s available to you. This network is clearly Fox’s attempt to challenge ESPN and steal viewership. A bold initiative since ESPN is seemingly bigger than the sports world itself, but kudos to Fox for actually trying. It will most likely never dethrone the king, but if they can get solid ratings, then that’s probably all they care about. I decided to take an hour and watch Fox Sports 1’s Sportscenter equivalent, Fox Sports Live. Here are my quick thoughts on the show:
After a video package we’re introduced to Charissa Thompson, who will be the host of FSL (Fox Sports Live), and right off the bat we have our first difference from Sportscenter. Thompson is not an anchor, but a host. Interesting. She explains that the show has 3 parts:
1. The Big Board - A large wall covered with scores from MLB and the NFL.
2. The Panel - A group of former professional athletes sitting discussion style (ala Sports Reporters), who will discuss big topics. More on this later.
3. The Anchor Desk - Where the anchors sit. Again, more on this later.
Nothing out of the ordinary here. We get a bottom line of scrolling scores just like on ESPN, however the bottom right hand corner is used to promote upcoming shows on the network. One glaring difference is that there is no 'upcoming segments' scroller on FSL. Instead, on the right side bar we get various news bites, along with preseason college rankings, fantasy football rankings, etc. I don't really like this, as I feel the 'upcoming segments' scroller that ESPN uses is really great. It gives you an opportunity to see if something's coming up that you want to stick around for, or if it's a lot of stuff you simply don't care about. I get that they can't be a mirror image of ESPN, but this would be a nice feature to have.
When we get to the anchor desk we find Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole. Apparently these two co-hosted Sportscentre (no that’s not spelled wrong) in Canada for quite some time, and both decided to jump ship to Fox Sports 1. Will these two be the only anchors? Not sure, have to wait and see I guess. I really liked these two a lot. In fact when the show was over, I had no problem saying that I liked both of them more than any anchor on Sportscenter. There was some forced comedy, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't laugh at some of it. They're both kind of goofballs, but they did a good job with the highlights, so it worked well.
How Highlights are Handled
Nothing crazy here. You've seen it all before. One of the anchors talks over the highlights and that's pretty much that. One thing I did notice is that a lot of the highlights were QUICK. I often felt like I didn't get enough highlights of a game to really understand what happened. Another note I made was that there was a decent amount of UFC coverage during this show. This was clearly because Fox Sports 1 actually was the network airing the event, so I understand that. I also had to keep telling myself that it's the FIRST show. There's no doubt things will get smoother.
Throughout the show, the anchors would throw it over to the Panel, and Thompson would ask them a question. The panel included Donovan McNabb, Andy Roddick, Ephraim Salaam and Gary Payton. I honestly hated this. The first question asked of them was whether they thought it was ok for Stephen Strasburg to throw at batters like he did that night. It's not a bad question, but why do I care what two football players, a basketball player and a tennis player think about this? You need to have baseball representation for that question, it's just common sense. In fairness to FSL, they did bring in Gabe Kaplar later in the show to speak about the Dodgers, but why not have him there from the start? ESPN would have at least threw this question over to the Baseball Tonight crew. Maybe this will change in the future, but I don't think we're going to get away from hearing former athletes comment on sports other than their own.
This is FSL's equivalent to Sportscenter's Top 10. There are only 5 plays, but the main difference is that the fan's vote on Twitter using the #The1. I like this concept a lot because it gets the fan's involved, which is a no-brainer. I think they should extend it to 10, which perhaps they will in the future.
In this segment we are shown videos and pictures from around the sports world. I'm not really sure if these are supposed to be funny, or just something we wouldn't normally see on the show. I guess it's fine.
Best Person in Sports
They highlighted a boy who was riding his bike to all 30 MLB stadiums to raise money for the hearing impaired. It was a nice segment.
YA BLEW IT!
This segment was short and ended the show, but it basically served to point out mistakes the anchors made on the show. Onrait and O'Toole did this segment on their previous network. Kind of random, but I didn't have a problem with it either. Will serve more or less as a comedy segment.
Right off the bat, it's apparent that FSL will not be a Sportscenter killer. But then again, Fox Sports 1 will not be an ESPN killer, so there's nothing wrong with that. While there were some bumps along the way, such as segments that felt forced, along with a panel that didn't have proper representation relating to the topics being discussed, there was certainly a lot to like. The anchors were great. They have really good chemistry from working together previously, and that's something to be excited about. The quality of the highlights was right on par, as well as the overall production of the show. My opinion is that if you really dislike the way ESPN does things on Sportscenter, Fox Sports Live is definitely worth a look.