Fox Sports 1 launches on Saturday.
Because of the money behind it, the talent involved and the portfolio of sports rights that Fox owns, it’s the most formidable threat ESPN has faced since it became the most valuable media company in the world.
But will FS1 be good for viewers?
While we clearly won’t know that until it launches, the pre-launch media coverage of FS1 gives us some hints into what the channel will look like.
In the run-up to the launch, FS1 is try to push the idea that it’s the “fun,” “irreverent” channel and ESPN is the “academic,” “droll” channel.
A Businessweek article about FS1 contains the sentence, “It would be difficult to out-geek ESPN when it comes to sports.”
A Men’s Journal article about it described ESPN’s content as having “a vaguely academic format, offset with a droll, sardonic edge.”
That … doesn’t sound anything like the ESPN I’ve watched recently.
Right now ESPN’s is being eaten alive by a debate-centric model of sports media. It’s driven by bombastic, trollish commentators like Skip Bayless and Colin Cowherd, and it’s awful.
There is only a limited amount simple reporting or reasoned analysis on ESPN’s television channel, much less anything like could be described as “academic” or “geeky.” It’s largely just personality-driven debate that has nothing to do with reality.
So if FS1 sees itself as a less-geeky, less-academic, less-serious ESPN … what exactly is that going to look like?
We’re excited for FS1. Competition is good, and they’ve made some intriguing hiring choices.
But this “academic” thing feels like a red flag — a sign that FS1 could try to dumb things down for a general audience.
We’ll have to wait until Saturday to see.
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