Demise of ‘Crowd Goes Wild’ shows why so hard to develop good sports programming

Really no surprise that Fox Sports 1 is cancelling Crowd Goes Wild. The last show is next week.

The crowd didn’t go wild over the show. Using 82-year old Regis Philbin as a centerpiece was a weird move, and the whole thing seemed doomed from the beginning.

Crowd actually had some decent pieces. Definitely expect to see more of Georgie Thompson elsewhere on Fox Sports 1, and I liked Jason Gay and Trevor Pryce.

However, Crowd was too much of a hodge-poge of segments that didn’t work and too many people on the set.

The demise of Crowd once again shows that producing interesting and compelling sports programming is a difficult endeavor. It isn’t just Crowd. NBCSN couldn’t get it done for two Michelle Beadle vehicles.

ESPN also has had some flops along the way. But they do have hits with Pardon the Interruption, Around the Horn and First Take.

The network found the right formula for those shows. Generally, less seems to be better with a limited number of panelists and a narrow focus for the discussions. Also, in the case of PTI and Horn, the 30-minute format removes the need for excess clutter.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Fox Sports 1 already is altering its lineup. That’s the way it works in sports TV.

The new network needs to figure out what works. It already knows what doesn’t.






Good retort: Yes ESPN, there is a kid named Fox Sports 1

Fortunately, the trash talking between ESPN and Fox Sports 1 continues. Earlier this week during a Disney investors meeting, Artie Bulgrin, a Senior VP of Analytics for ESPN noted there have been parents who have named their kids ESPN. Beyond weird, but….

“Let’s face it, nobody’s naming their kid ‘Fox Sports One.’” Bulgrin said.

Give credit to Fox Sports 1 for a pretty good comeback. Jay Onrait does the honors.

Joe Buck, Greg Norman reportedly to lead Fox Sports’ coverage of ’15 U.S. Open; Who will join them? Gus Johnson?

John Ourand has the exclusive on Fox’s new golf team:

Joe Buck and Greg Norman will be Fox Sports’ top on-air voices when the network debuts its golf coverage next year, according to several sources. The two will be set up in the 18th green tower at the ’15 U.S. Open, when the event will be held at Chambers Bay outside Seattle. The decision to tap Buck and Norman comes as somewhat of a surprise, as neither has announced golf on television before.

Actually, it really isn’t much of a surprise. Buck is Fox’s lead voice, and reportedly a good golfer. It was a natural that he would be tabbed for the high profile assignment.

While Norman hasn’t formally worked as an analyst, he has appeared in the booth of golf telecasts of many occasions. He hardly is shy about his views, and as a two-time major winner and a many more-time near-miss in the majors, he brings a big-name presence that is essential for Fox’s golf coverage.

However, unlike football or baseball, this isn’t a two-man operation in the booth. Fox still will need to find more play-by-play voices, analysts and on-course reporters to fill out their coverage team. It remains a daunting task for Fox to do this endeavor from scratch. The network has to be good on so many levels beyond the 18th tower.

It will be interesting to see Fox brings Gus Johnson into the mix. If it does, definitely put him on a par 3. I’d love to hear Johnson’s call on a hole-in-one.




Why Fox went with three in the booth for its A baseball team

Ultimately, Fox decided it would take two men, Harold Reynolds and Tom Verducci, to replace Tim McCarver with its A baseball team.

Why the threesome with Joe Buck navigating extra traffic? The principles explained yesterday in a teleconference.

From Richard Deitsch at

Fox Sports management said it has known that Buck, Reynolds and Verducci would be its lead MLB team for a couple of months after the three had a practice broadcast together in St. Louis late last year. Rehearsal games often do not go well in sports broadcasting, but management said it was particularly impressed by the chemistry between the three men. Said Shanks: “The thing you look for in television is, do the guys like each other? Do they respect each other? Do they work hard to make the guy next to them look good? That’s what we found. It was surprising right off the bat that it was there, so we have high hopes.”

Network executives said they did not enter the search with a preconceived notion about using a two-person or three-person booth. John Entz, the executive producer for Fox Sports, said that he was impressed by the hundreds of hours Verducci and Reynolds worked together in the studio at MLB Network.

“It would be a heavy decision in any case but when you have someone taking the mantle from Tim McCarver, I think we all felt an extra layer of pressure,” Entz said. “We had several meetings on it and it was the topic of conversation over dinner, hallway conversations. This was not a simple one and done meeting where we decided it.”

Buck said he was nervous during the practice broadcasts because he had developed such an innate feel with McCarver over 18 years together. But he came away feeling very positive.

“I can tell you literally, within five minutes, this was going to be the combination if my opinion had anything to do with it,” Buck said. “This felt very easy, and three-man booths are not easy. But I think the three-man booth can work when the two guys come at it from different perspectives and they can debate something or they look at different parts of the game or different parts of a pitching sequence or whatever it might be. I told anyone I knew: We found it and this is going to be really, really special.”

Special? Obviously, that remains to be seen.

As I wrote previously, the sportswriter in me is hoping the Tom Verducci component works. If it did, it might open the door for more sportswriters to sit in the analyst’s chair for games in all sports.

This is different: Fox Sports hires noted analyst to analyze ‘sincerity’ of athletes, coaches

Is this Fox Sports’ answer to Nate Silver?

The network is bringing in Frank Luntz to, get this, to assess “the validity and sincerity of what people say.”

What, coaches and athletes aren’t always sincere? Wish Fox Sports had Luntz for Tiger Woods’ famous “I’m Sorry” confession that aired on national TV.

Another question: Will Luntz analyze the sincerity of Fox’s analysts when they express their views on controversial topics? Are they holding back at criticizing former teammates or coaches? Now that would be interesting.

From the Fox Sports release:

World-renowned communications expert Dr. Frank Luntz, CEO of Luntz Global, an international research powerhouse, joins FOX Sports 1 as its exclusive sports communications analyst, effective immediately.  The announcement was made today by Scott Ackerson, FOX Sports 1’s Executive Vice President, News.

“Frank Luntz is an expert in reading between the lines and assessing the validity and sincerity of what people say, whether it’s said during press conferences or off-the-cuff,” said Ackerson. “We’re looking for him to apply his unique expertise to what’s said by sports newsmakers.  He’s also an expert in conducting focus group research that gets to the heart of what people are thinking.  He’s been measuring America’s political pulse for decades, and now he’ll be measuring its sports pulse.”

 Dr. Luntz’s contributions to FOX Sports 1, primarily during FOX SPORTS LIVE, the channel’s nightly program providing news, highlights and commentary, are essentially two-fold.  He is available either live in-studio or via remote location to provide analysis on breaking news, press conferences and current events pertaining to sports.  Separately, Dr. Luntz hosts a segment called Sound Off, which features taped focus group discussions featuring audience members that cover a range of sports topics.  Offering viewers independent analysis on important sports issues, Sound Off also gives fans an opportunity to be heard on the day’s most controversial sports topics.  Sound Off premieres tonight on FOX SPORTS LIVE (11:00 PM ET), with the panel addressing the question, “If you were an NFL GM, would you draft Michael Sam?”  Results are certain to create discussion and debate among the nation’s millions of sports fans.

“It may surprise people, but sports are my passion, and I love the excitement and intensity on and off the field,” offered Dr. Luntz.  “There is a right way and a wrong way to communicate to viewers, fans and players, and I plan to bring analysis and accountability to the language of sports and those who play them.”

If you watch Fox News, which I don’t, you are familiar with Luntz.  He has served as a Republican party strategist, helping to write Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America” in the ’90s.

There’s this passage from a story on Luntz in The Atlantic:

Luntz is not sure what to do with his newfound awareness. He’s still best known for his political resume, but politics hasn’t been his principal business for some time: He still advises his friends here and there, but he no longer has any ongoing political contracts. (Corporations and television networks, not politicians, are his main sources of income.) He goes to as many NFL games as he can, where he sits in the owner’s box courtesy of onetime client Jerry Richardson, the owner of the Carolina Panthers, with whom he has developed a close rapport. “I don’t like this. I don’t like this,” he says, meaning D.C., the schmoozing, the negativity, the division. At football games, “People are happy, families are barbecuing outside, people are playing pitch and toss. A little too much beer, but you can’t have everything. They’re just happy and they’re celebrating with each other and it’s such a mix of people.” The first week of football season, he went to four games in eight days: Sunday night, Monday night, Thursday night, and then Sunday again.




Breaking news: NFL Today dumps Marino, Sharpe; adds Tony Gonzalez

This is not unexpected. The show needs to be improved to keep up with the competition elsewhere.

CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus told John Ourand of Sports Business Daily:

“We believe (Tony) has all the attributes. He’s got a real passion and enthusiasm for the NFL and has a way to express that passion and enthusiasm. It’s impossible to teach likeability in a TV person. Tony has that.”

McManus also told Ourand that he is close to a deal for another studio analyst.

From CBS Sports:


Former Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons All-Pro tight end Tony Gonzalez joins CBS Sports as an analyst for the CBS Television Network’s NFL pre-game show, THE NFL TODAY, and will contribute across multiple CBS platforms including INSIDE THE NFL on SHOWTIME and CBS Sports Network’s Sunday pre-game show, THAT OTHER PREGAME SHOW (TOPS). The announcement was made today by Sean McManus, Chairman, CBS Sports.

“Having just stepped off the playing field, Tony brings a fresh and insightful perspective,” said McManus. “As a future Hall of Famer, we are excited for him to share his knowledge, experiences and opinions with our viewers. Tony was one of the most respected and hardworking players in the NFL and a tremendous teammate. We look forward to him bringing these attributes to CBS Sports.”

Tony will join James Brown, Bill Cowher and Boomer Esiason on THE NFL TODAY.

“While we welcome Tony, we want to acknowledge Dan Marino and Shannon Sharpe who have contributed greatly to the success of THE NFL TODAY for more than a decade,” added McManus. “Dan and Shannon are true Hall of Famers on the field and in front of the camera. As they pursue other professional opportunities, we thank them for their hard work and dedication and wish them nothing but the best.”

Gonzalez’s NFL career spanned 17 years, 12 with Kansas City after being their first-round pick in 1997, and five with Atlanta before his retirement in 2013. He is the NFL’s all-time leader in touchdowns (111) and yards (15,127) by a tight end. He also is the NFL’s all-time leader in consecutive starts (120) and Pro-Bowl appearances (14) by a tight end, and ranks second overall among all players in catches with 1,325.  Known for his strength and durability, Gonzalez missed only two games during his 17-year career.

Gonzalez attended University of California, where he played football and basketball and majored in Communications.  During his junior season he recorded 46 receptions for 699 yards and five touchdowns, earning him first-team All-Pac 10 and first-team All-America honors.  That year he also helped lead the California basketball team to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship, averaging 6.8 points and 5.4 rebounds.

Gonzalez started his television career as host of the local television show, “Chiefs Locker Room,” and went on to appear on numerous national programs.  He also is an author, writing two books, and entrepreneur, developing multi-media programs that celebrate and advocate sports for children in an educational format.

Gonzalez’s philanthropic endeavors include a partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs, along with Shadow Buddies, an organization that provides emotional support through education regarding illness, disability or medical treatments. He is very active in health, wellness and fitness space. Tony is an investor and trainer in the fitness app FITSTAR and is on the board for Fusionetics which utilizes a state of the art, evidence-based sports science process to optimize human performance.

The Sporting News named Gonzalez the #1 NFL Good Guy in 2004.  Additionally, he won a Presidential Volunteer Award for his work on the “Books and Buddies” project, which sought to promote understanding between teenagers and seniors.

Tony and his wife, October, reside in his hometown of Huntington Beach, Calif. with their children.



Newsday: Francesa’s show to air on Fox Sports 1; Will rest of country care about NY show?

The big guy is going national, according to Neil Best of Newsday:

Mike Francesa, whose 12-year simulcast run on the YES Network ended on Super Bowl Sunday, soon will bring his WFAN radio show to Fox Sports 1, a radio industry source with knowledge of the agreement said Sunday.

Terms of the contract could not be determined, nor could a starting date. But Francesa said on the air last week that an official announcement could come early this week, and that he could be back on TV in time for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in March.

It is an interesting move by the new sports network. How much whining about the Yankees, Mets, Giants, Jets, etc. will a national TV audience tolerate?

Then again, a simulcast of a local radio show will be much cheaper to produce than the national shows on ESPN.


Jeff Pearlman apologizes for Erin Andrews post: She doesn’t deserve this nonsense

Jeff Pearlman said he realized over the weekend that he went too far in a post in which he called Erin Andrews “The Kardashian of sports TV” in the aftermath of her interview with Richard Sherman.

Pearlman writes that he fell into the trap of doing a blog: The dreaded quick post without completely thinking through the post. As a result, Pearlman became a target himself, and what he was trying to say got lost with the Kardashian comparison.

Pearlman writes:

In a word: Awful.

Writers are responsible for their words. They’re supposed to measure what they write, then measure it again and again and again. Sometimes, unfortunately, I fail to measure. An impulse shoots through my brain, and I fire away, press SAVE, then press PUBLISH. I have an idea of what I want to convey, but I don’t bother to make sure it’s conveyed properly.

Guilty, times 1,000.

Later, Pearlman writes:

Furthermore, when it comes to women reporters, networks (in my opinion) place too great an emphasis on looks. I know … I know—it’s a visual medium, and attractiveness draws viewers. Still, it strikes me as an awful double standard. Nobody’s demanding beauty and sexiness from, say, Chris Berman or Joe Buck or Stuart Scott. Yet it seems that—bottom line—women with sex appeal have an inside track over women with fantastic knowledge and poise but, say, a belly. Or a mole. I get it. Really, I do. It just infuriates me, because I’ve known very talented women who have felt they don’t really have a shot.

So … that’s what I meant to convey. And, interestingly, I received several e-mails from women in sports media, thanking me for making the point. But, ultimately, I failed miserably. I blasted Erin Andrews and killed the entire intent. The post wound up being juvenile and stupid. Some accused me of being sexist—which fucking tore at my insides, in that the whole goal was to speak on behalf of women. Boy, that went over well.

I don’t know Erin Andrews. I’ve heard she’s a nice person who works hard.

She certainly didn’t deserve this nonsense.

Pearlman’s last thought is correct. Say what you will about her, from what I’ve heard, she is a hard worker and is completely dedicated to doing a good job. Unfortunately, she can’t seem to avoid being in the line of fire.



Fox producer cut Sherman because it was ‘getting dangerous’; supports Andrews

During a conference call today, Fox Sports producer Richie Zyontz explained why he abruptly cut away from the now infamous Richard Sherman interview with Erin Andrews.

“I saw a train coming down the tracks,” Zyontz said. “It was compelling television…It started crossing over a line that I did not want to see us go. Erin handled it very well, but I kind of said, ‘Let’s end this thing.’ He’s a good guy, an intelligent guy, an emotional guy and it was very compelling  to watch. But it started getting a little dangerous for us.”

That’s what I figured. It still is remarkable that Sherman could go off like that and not go on a F-bomb barrage.

However, Zyontz couldn’t be sure the language would stay within the acceptable realm for network TV. If Sherman did start unleashing the naughty words for all those young kids to hear, Fox would have been obliterated. Hence, he pulled the plug.

As for Andrews, under the circumstances, there wasn’t much else she could do.



Hey, good news on ratings for Fox Sports 1; Baylor-OU leads to big week

Dumping on Fox Sports 1 for its lack of ratings figures to be good sport for quite a while on the media front. So the network will seize on any opportunity to report some good news.

As I have previously written, for all its studio shows and its version of SportsCenter, it is going to take strong live programming to drive viewers to Fox Sports 1. Fans will come for the game, race, or fight and then perhaps stay to sample other items on the network’s menu.

Last week was a perfect example. Here’s the official rundown from Fox Sports 1:


Powered by a record-setting audience for Oklahoma – Baylor, plus major UFC and NASCAR events, FOX Sports 1 posted its most-watched week ever from Nov. 4-10, both in prime time and total day.  The channel averaged 630,000 viewers in prime time and 157,000 viewers total day last week surpassing its previous best week, Aug. 26-Sept. 1 (384,000 prime; 153,000 total day), and beating SPEED’s fourth quarter 2012 averages by 237% in prime and 60% in total day.  Highlights are as follows:

Oklahoma vs. Baylor on Thursday (11/7) is now FOX Sports 1’s most-watched telecast ever with 2.1 million viewers, surpassing every college football game on FX in 2011 and 2012, and the channel’s previous record of 1.8 million viewers for UFC FIGHT NIGHT on launch day, Aug. 17.

Wednesday’s (11/6) UFC Fight for the Troops scored 641,000 viewers (FOX Sports 1’s most-watched Wednesday evening card), while Saturday’s (11/9) UFC Fight Night delivered 722,000 viewers, +443% compared to SPEED’s fourth quarter average  in the time period.

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series from Phoenix scored 602,000 viewers, up 4% from its delivery on SPEED last November (578,000).  Through 10 NCWTS races on FOX Sports 1 average viewership is +11% compared to the 10 races that ran in the same span on SPEED in 2012 (729,000 vs. 657,000).

FOX Sports Live recorded its best weeknight viewership ever for the first and second hours, averaging 161,000 and 85,000 viewers, respectively. Thursday’s show, which followed Oklahoma-Baylor, and Friday’s, following the Phoenix NCWTS race, are the two most-watched weeknight episodes of FOX Sports Live to date with 341,000 and 285,000 viewers respectively.


As you can see, viewers tuned into Fox Sports Live in larger numbers after watching the football game and race. Fox Sports 1 now hopes the trend continues as it ramps up its coverage of Big East basketball.