FOX Sports 1 launched in August of 2013 with just a handful of programming options. UFC, NASCAR Trucks, Pac-12 and Big 12 college football and Big East college basketball were the slate on top of studio programming. Trying to go at ESPN with just those offerings was said to be like a restaurant opening with only a portion of its menu available.
In FS1’s second year they added regular and postseason Major League Baseball, the NASCAR Xfinity series and three Sprint Cup races, Gold Cup soccer, Women’s World Cup and USGA events including the US Open to the schedule. In doing so, the total number of sporting events being aired by FS1 rose 17 percent, going from 664 in Year 1 to 779 in Year 2.
That has helped FOX Sports 1 grow in the ratings. FS1 saw an increase 40 percent on total day viewership and 38 percent increase in prime time during the span. Over the same span, the competition dropped. ESPN was down 9 percent for total day, and down 2 percent in prime time viewership, ESPN2 was down -3%/-12% while, NBCSN came in at -19%/+2%.
For live programming, the results are more impressive. FS1 is up 54 percent over the same span (494,000 viewers vs. 390,000 viewers), and has surpassed ESPN2 and NBCSN to become the clear #2 network for live events behind The Worldwide Leader.
To add, FOX Sports 1’s reach, which is people watching at any point over the last year, is up 11 percent or 9.2 million viewers in FS1’s second year (96 million total viewers vs. 86.8 million). Meanwhile ESPN’s reach is down 8.9 million (down 5 percent), ESPN2 is down 8.7 million (-6%), and NBCSN is down 6.1 million (-7%) when excluding the Olympics.
The October 15th Game 4 of the NLCS between the Cardinals-Giants posted a FS1-record 5.092 million viewers, breaking the 5 million viewer mark for the first time.
The FIFA Women’s World Cup games on FS1 were winners. The USA-Colombia FIFA WWC Round of 16 match set a new record for men’s or women’s soccer (4.716 million), and is No. 3 on FS1’s all-time list.
The first-ever regularly scheduled NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points race on FOX Sports 1 set a new record for a motorsports event on FS1, drawing 4.061million viewers which ranked at No. 5 on FS1’s all-time list.
So, is FS1 at a point where they can say they are at or better than ESPN? No. But, as a fledgling network goes, if FOX Sports 1 continues to grow at the pace it has, it should catch ESPN in a few short years. That should make ESPN look over their shoulder, and give FOX Sports added incentive to provide good programming to allow them to compete in not only Year 3 of FS1, but beyond.
Credit to Forbes who originally published this article