Are Skip Bayless and Colin Cowherd worth the money?


Forbes’ Maury Brown has a post on ratings for “Undisputed” and the simulcast of Colin Cowherd’s radio show on FS1.

I generally agree with the Fox Sports’ spin here. I’ve noted several times on Twitter the increase in the numbers for Cowherd’s simulcast is a bright spot. While it’s probably reasonable to guess that Fox execs had hoped for more when it comes to Undisputed ratings, the show has been trending up in recent days.

The question (or problem, depending on your point of view) as Richard Deitsch and others note is how will Undisputed do once NFL season is over since FS1 has no NBA sports rights or corporate tie-ins?

Along with Sports Business Journal, Maury Brown does God’s work when it comes to publishing local baseball ratings, so I think highly of the man, but I had a few reactions to the story.

It’s easy for Fox Sports to go the “Rome wasn’t built in a day” cliche route, especially when…

…Fox is providing data that doesn’t include “Speak for Yourself.” I don’t blame Fox for not wanting to shine a light on the numbers for “Speak for Yourself” but if you’re going to go the “Rome wasn’t built in a day” route isn’t it also worth wondering whether parts of Rome are burning?

Percentage increases over last year might not be completely meaningless, but…

As someone who has a website where traffic is up almost 400% year/year I can tell you that 400% of almost nothing is still, sadly, pretty damned close to nothing. It’s not as bleak as that for FS1, but considering FS1 mostly aired garbage encores a year ago where Undisputed now airs, it’s folly to read anything in to the big percentage gains.

DRAMATIC declines for First Take are worth considering even in an FS1 context

The bad news for FS1 here is that not all of First Take’s missing viewers have migrated to Undisputed. But a big chunk of them probably have. Post Labor Day, “First Take” has averaged 330,000 viewers, down 30% versus the 471,000 the show was averaging during the same period last year.  Over the same period Undisputed is averaging 90,000 viewers and the trend is up over the last several days. Time will tell if that’s just a blip. The recent uptick is small in absolute terms but on a percentage basis maybe all those promos for Undisputed during NFL games helped.

Given the current trend in TV viewership, I think it’s likely “First Take” would have been down even if it still had Bayless, but I’m guessing that decline would be more in the 5-10% range and not 30%.

What is the value of hurting the enemy to the tune of 30% (from an FS1 perspective I’d take credit for all of the declines)? I can only speculate but I’d speculate it’s closer to $5.5 million a year than $0. Add in the 90,000 viewers and it’s closer still.

Some people might already be writing off the Jamie Horowitz era at FS1 as a failure, but I’m not there yet. Sure, I  wish Horowitz would keep his yap shut when it comes to ESPN, but (of course?) it’s too soon to know whether Bayless or Cowherd are worth the money.

Between the shows, encores, best of shows etc, they’re filling a lot of hours of programming* with better numbers than FS1 had before and that’s real progress. The distressed “First Take” ratings are a nice cherry on the top.

*I have no clue about the economics of Cowherd’s radio show but that’s a consideration when determining whether he’s worth the money.

This article has 11 Comments

  1. Oh my god people, let it go! Things take time, FS1 is on an uptick in these timeslots. College football is up this year. Big East/Pac-12 basketball was up on FS1 and it was the only network that was up. Big Ten is coming for football and basketball with 50 hoop games and 25 football games to FS1 and FOX. World Cup, etc.

    Rating are dropping like a rock for First Take and growing on FS1 for Undisputed and it’s only been like what 4 weeks. I wonder why FOX doesn’t do more promos for Speak for Yourself and Racecar Hub, but…that’s for another time.

  2. The question should not be ‘Is Skip Bayless Worth the money?’ It should be ‘How did Fox manage to get Skip Bayless so cheaply?’ When it comes to sports debate NOBODY comes close to Skip!

  3. Skip and Steven A. balanced each other to the point were it made good TV. I looked forward to both disfunctional characters

  4. Just go to your local bar and listen to the drunks arguing sports. They have as much idea as these overpaid clowns !!

  5. Skip keeps rehashing same old argument! It sounds like an old rerun. Can’t watch!! His Dallas bias is really annoying!!

  6. And a prelim Beauty Pageant that was broadcast 10/24/2016 on Facebook got 125k viewers, and the finals which aired the next day on DTV and FaceBook, had over 250k viewers on FB alone… Just saying…

    1. sure, but Facebook counts very differently. If First Take averages 300,000 viewers for 2 hours that’s 36 million minutes. If 125K watch 1 minute of a Facebook video (125,000 minutes) Facebook counts that as 125K.

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