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FS1 Grows As It Turns 2

Fox Sports 1 turned 2 years old Monday. The higher-ups at Fox Sports consider it a happy birthday.

Although there have been bumps along the way – typical for any new network – FS1 viewership was up significantly in Year 2. The driving force behind that increase: more and better live events, including the Women’s World Cup and the men’s U.S. Open.

“When we launched the network, we were a little bit like a restaurant that opens up and is only able to serve half the menu,” Mike Mulvihill, Fox Sports senior vice president of programming and research, said in a Q&A with Cablefax. “The second year, we’re finally able to serve the full menu, and I think we’re a lot closer to what we envisioned ourselves being from the beginning.”

Ah, yes. The beginning. Fox heavily promoted FS1’s launch, emphasizing its supposedly superior sense of “fun” and hailing it as a legitimate rival to ESPN. Privately, Fox executives knew it would take years to rise to that level in terms of audience and awareness – and FS1 is still a long way from getting there, if it ever does.

That aggressive marketing campaign created unrealistic expectations. It was typical boldness for Fox, however, and as one network insider phrased it, it put FS1 “in the conversation with the heavyweight champion” – i.e., ESPN.

In reality, it would take FS1 considerable time to forge its identity. ESPN looks nothing like the fledgling network that launched 36 years ago, and FS1 already has undergone numerous, significant changes.

Remember when Regis Philbin was a centerpiece of FS1’s daytime lineup? And “Fox Sports Live” featured that mismatched discussion panel? That’s several iterations ago now. FS1 is about to make the outspoken Colin Cowherd, late of ESPN, its new daytime star, simulcasting his relaunched radio show, “The Herd,” from 9 a.m.-noon Monday-Friday.

(Cowherd’s show will be heard locally on KLAC/570, pushing “L.A. Today” with Bill Reiter and Leeann Tweeden to the noon-3 p.m. slot in place of “Jay Mohr Sports.”)

Luring Cowherd was the first big move by executive Jamie Horowitz, who also came from ESPN. If you can’t beat ’em … hire ’em?

Other changes include consolidating Fox Sports’ cable and digital news operations, resulting in layoffs. That sort of collateral damage is never a good thing for anyone involved.

Although in a better place now, FS1 continues to evolve. It recently added Bundesliga soccer matches and soon will debut a new Premier Boxing Champions series, “Toe-to-Toe Tuesdays.” It’s all about expanding and enhancing the live-events inventory.

“Two years in, we’re basically where we expected to be all along,” Mulvihill told Cablefax. “It just was a different path to the same place.”

Credit to the Orange County Register who originally published this article