When most Americans think of sports television, they think of ESPN. Founded in 1979, ESPN (Entertainment and Sports Programming Network) has been the flagship provider of sports news in America for several decades. Their unwavering coverage of the four biggest professional sports in America has made them the “go-to” network for all the scores and statistics you could ask for. Although their dominance seems unshakable, one corporation is trying to uproot ESPN and capture some of their viewership.
FOX started out as a broadcasting company created to make a mark on the world of television, following the enormous success of the cinematic production company 21st Century Fox. As the company grew along with its viewership, FOX created more and more material to distribute, from original sitcoms to local news and weather reports. However, FOX was never able to get their foot in the door of sports television, until the summer of 2013.
Launching August 17, Fox Sports 1 is the first real competitor with ESPN for a nationwide viewership of daily sports news and statistics. Like ESPN, Fox Sports 1 has created a news-like sports show, called Fox Sports Live, to bring its viewers sports news from local areas and across the country. The combination of highlights and analysis from all four professional leagues provides viewers with a variety of topics and discussions on the program. Although Fox Sports Live has been successful so far, why not just watch SportsCenter instead?
SportsCenter, ESPN’s flagship program, provides highlights and analysis of the four leagues’ top teams and players, as well as the insight of many retired professional athletes. Despite its dominance, SportsCenter has often been criticized for being biased and supporting specific teams or athletes more than others, such as Lebron James and the Miami Heat. Although these teams may be popular for the general American public, some regions of the country (such as the Northeast) don’t care for the bias and repetitive nature of the big network. Conversely, most of the American public doesn’t care for professional teams based in Boston. Teams such as the Patriots, Bruins, Red Sox and Celtics often find that their success not only drives them off of the popular sports network, but lowers their respect level in the nation’s eyes.
This area of bias and controlled focus is where Fox Sports 1 aims to sway viewership and steal ratings from ESPN. Although they do not advertise it, it is obvious to a well-informed sports fan that FS1 is making a strong attempt to show all sports and cover all the teams, regardless of their region, record, or likeness with the general public.
When asked about the change in sports television, Ethan Kurinsky, a senior at AHS, said, “I grew up watching ESPN and don’t think I’ll convert. Although FS1 shows more of the Boston teams, I’m just used to ESPN.” This kind of dedication to the network is what holds ESPN above FS1 for the time being.
Although some people feel that they are committed to SportsCenter, others are embracing the new face in sports television. Andrew Dunne, also a senior at AHS, says “[he] like[s] Fox Sports 1 because they have a different approach to giving me sports news. They seem more laid back and relatable, like real sports fans are.”
Fox Sports 1 has an approach designed to convert some of ESPN’s most loyal viewers to the new sports network in America, and has had success so far. Although many people will stay true to ESPN, a certain number of people will make the switch to FS1.
By Patrick McQuillen