Last year FOX Sports plucked Colin Cowherd away from ESPN. This year they’ve landed Skip Bayless. As a result it’s created chatter in the media and curiosity among sports radio and television fans.
But FOX isn’t stopping there. They understand how important it is to make a strong first impression and who they’re up against, so what better way to make a splash than to get under ESPN’s skin by promoting their new programs right in their backyard.
As part of the company’s marketing campaign promoting the arrival of Bayless on Fox Sports 1 starting September 6th, the network bought space on three billboards within a five mile radius of ESPN’s Bristol, Connecticut headquarters.
“I guess there were billboards put up where you can find lots of sports fans,” Jamie Horowitz, president of Fox Sports National Networks told the Wall Street Journal.
Horowitz is of course very familiar to Bristol, having spent several years working as a programming executive at ESPN. “First Take,” which featured Bayless and Stephen A. Smith, was one of the shows he oversaw. He’s now looking to duplicate that formula with the addition of NFL Hall of Fame Tight End Shannon Sharpe starring opposite Bayless on the new debate program “Skip and Shannon Undisputed.”
Gaining new fans of the product is important for FOX Sports. They currently boast a miniscule audience of 37,000 viewers in the 9:30a-12p ET time period. By contrast, “First Take” averaged 434,000 viewers on ESPN2 with Bayless involved last year. That’s nearly 12x larger than the audience on FOX Sports 1.
Although they’re bombarding Bristol with billboards, and likely stirring some emotions inside ESPN headquarters, Fox Sports 1 is also promoting Bayless’ arrival on its own network and other properties owned by parent company 21st Century Fox, as well as on YouTube, Yahoo Sports and Bleacher Report. The network claims that the campaign launched for “Undisputed” is one of its biggest ever for a studio show.