You have to wonder if the people at Fox actually believe they have a chance of drawing viewers away from ESPN’s College GameDay.
Does the network think it can cash in on its Erin Andrews hire by making a deep blow to GameDay’s numbers every Saturday morning?
Well, that’s precisely what Fox aims to do, to go where no other network has gone before, to duke it out in the 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Saturday morning time slot against ESPN.
Saying that Andrews and Eddie George will inspire a legion of fans to switch the channel from Kirk Herbstreit and Lee Corso is a bit like thinking that Arsenio Hall was going to dethrone Johnny Carson from late-night TV.
And this has nothing to do with hating on Andrews or saying that Fox Sports 1 will crank out an inferior product.
The lopsided nature of this head-to-head battle comes down to three key areas that are, at this point in time, quite indisputable.
When you stack up the hosts, The Fox Sports 1 pregame show doesn't offer much competition for ESPN’s College GameDay.
Well, at least in terms of star power.
It’s simple, read off the names of the cast for each program and rate them—as a group—on name recognition, years on the air, exposure and the “trust” factor.
Fox: Erin Andrews, Eddie George, Joe Klatt and Petros Papadakis.
ESPN: Chris Fowler, Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit and Desmond Howard.
Ummm…ESPN has the edge.
ESPN’s advantage in building rapport has two angles.
First, the GameDay crew has been together since 2005 when Desmond Howard came on board. This means that the four guys at the ESPN desk have had seven seasons to develop a unique brand of camaraderie.
This results in an on-air product with depth, humor and genuine fellowship that Fox won't be able to immediately replicate.
Second, in the same way that a trusting, comfortable bond between cast members takes times to develop, a link between viewer and host takes more than a couple of Saturday mornings. The ESPN guys have earned our trust and our regular viewership, while the Fox crew is just getting started.
And who wants to turn the channel away from old friends and a familiar format unless something superior awaits on another station? Perhaps you’ll switch over for a moment, during a commercial, but not forever.
Especially when Corso is going to pick the winner of the game of the day at 11:58 a.m..
College Football Credibility
Comparing ESPN and Fox in this area is a lot like comparing the football programs at Arkansas State and Arkansas.
Both schools play the same game in the same division in the same state—but other than that, it’s two different worlds.
Think about it this way, where ESPN will broadcast 42 FBS games in Week 1 of the 2013 season, Fox will air five. This means that ESPN will have 8.4 times more guys (and girls) out in the field. This makes battle grounds such as access, unique story lines, first-hand reports, etc. not even competitive.
On opening weekend, ESPN will have broadcast personnel in 20 states, while Fox will only be in five.
Really, what will Andrews, George and company have to say that ESPN hasn’t already said, complete with live video?
Though it’s harsh to say, ESPN GameDay’s coverage of college football will be superior to Fox Sports 1’s pregame show.
Because at least for now, ESPN has the big guns to rule the airwaves on Saturday mornings.
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