Thinking about how to look at the ratings for FS1’s “Speak for Yourself”


FS1’s “Speak for Yourself” with Colin Cowherd, Jason Whitlock and Jason McIntyre premieres on Monday at 6 p.m. ET and viewership numbers for the premiere episode will be out around 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday.

There is a tendency to want to compare FS1 with ESPN. That tendency is as understandable as it is ridiculous. And unless you like comparing Toyota Corolla’s to Lexus LS’s the comparison is definitely ridiculous.

At this point someone usually hits me with the “Yeah, but ESPN had a 30+ year head start!” speech. That’s a damn fine speech too and probably does a great job motivating the FS1 troops. It also has the benefit of actually being true! But that truth is a mere distraction compared to the broader truths for FS1:

  1. FS1 doesn’t have the cash to compete with ESPN for sports rights
  2. FS1 doesn’t have a path to get the cash to compete with ESPN for sports rights

You could add a #3 there that was something like “FS1 can not and is not (and knows it) actually competing with ESPN” and a #4 that goes something like “So don’t bother comparing FS1 to ESPN. It’s ridiculous!”

I’m not disparaging FS1* or its staff. FS1 has a lot of great people. But great people can’t overcome bad math. And the math is quite bad for FS1. Maybe the way I do the math I come up with ESPN having 8 times the cable carriage revenue FS1 has and maybe when you do the math you come up with ESPN having 9 times as much revenue or 7 times as much revenue.  But no matter how you do the math ESPN has more than 5 times as much cable carriage revenue as FS1 leaving FS1 in a spot where it can’t compete with ESPN for sports rights.

*I’m not disparaging Toyota owners either, I drive a Honda CR-V not an Acura MDX!

Update for clarity: I’m not suggesting FS1 can’t compete at all for sports rights, obviously they can since they have some! I’m just saying FS1 isn’t anywhere close to competing for them on an even footing with ESPN.

There will also be a tendency to want to make it about “Speak for Yourself” versus “SportsCenter” or view the ratings for “Speak for Yourself” as a validation or indictment of debate style shows and especially maybe a validation/indictment of Jamie Horowitz style debate shows. These tendencies too are understandable and maybe not quite as ridiculous as the FS1 vs ESPN tendency but still kind of ridiculous in their own right.

Pardon the interruption but debate shows have already been validated via ratings. That ship has sailed. It could be (and I think likely will be) that Jamie Horowitz’ first take was his best take, but either way he’s already been validated, too. But even if Horowitz is Albert Einstein smart, he can’t fix FS1’s bad math. In the end, any focus at all on FS1’s ratings outside of live sports and maybe “The Ultimate Fighter” is just a distraction from FS1’s math problem.

In short, since talent and studio shows aren’t what’s ailing FS1 nor can they be the cure.

Still, the reasonable way to look at the ratings for “Speak for Yourself” is to compare it to other FS1 programming at 6PM ET. And while it’s best to ignore premiere week ratings and wait to see how things shake out a week or month down the road, I recognize some will not want to wait. To that end I dug up some year-to-date Nielsen averages for FS1 6PM ET programming.

Below you’ll find both the Monday-Friday Nielsen averages and, for those who won’t want to wait for even a second data point, just the Monday averages. Despite the ridiculous nature of the FS1 vs ESPN comparison, I know some of you won’t be able to resist so I’ve included the same numbers for the 6PM SportsCenter.

I’m not throwing shade at anyone, truth is whenever Bayless’ new show debuts on FS1, ridiculous though it may be even I won’t be able to resist the new show vs old shows comparisons.

But as you can see below, maybe the better comparison would’ve been Toyota vs Lamborghini.

 2016 Y-T-D through June 8* Average Viewership
ESPN 6PM Sportscenter M-F  560,000
FS1 6PM Programming M-F  72,000
Monday 6PM SportsCenter  626,000
Monday FS1 6PM  124,000

*Year-to-date Live+same day DVR Nielsen averages through June 8, 2016 – please note that the first ~6 weeks of the year = NFL still happening (plus the CFP Championship) which boosts ESPN’s average. Random example: on Monday, January 18 the 6 p.m. SportsCenter averaged 846,000 viewers.

Prediction: “Speak for Yourself” will debut with 146,000 viewers before settling down in the sub 100,000 viewer range a week or two down the road. I hope that I’m undershooting by a lot, it’ll be more fun if I am.

This article has 3 Comments

  1. Using the salaries of the hosts of the shows, any of the 4-6pm shows on ESPN are fair game for comparison. Don’t care as much about the platform, but the dollars spent on the programing vs the numbers of viewers is apples to apples.

  2. Good lord was this a bad read. What are we talking about cars, tv channels. FS1 always get put up with what ESPN is doing, but boo it’s not said about NBCSN. FS1 is doing fine with live programming!!

  3. Jason Whitlock is the most racist black guy i have ever seen !! Everytime a subject comes up he’s always playing the Race Card ! ( if it was a white guy he would’t be treated like that ! ) Bullshit Every show he plays the same speech I’m all done with Speak for Yourself…………..

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