One of the promises of FS1's flagship highlight show Fox Sports Live was that unlike ESPN's flagship show SportsCenter, they were going to show plenty of hockey highlights and treat the NHL like a major North American sport. Deadspin studied SportsCenter for a year and found just 2.7% of its airtime was dedicated to the NHL, placing it behind golf and just ahead of NASCAR. They also found the word most associated with "hockey" were the names of anchors Linda Cohn and Steve Levy, speaking to just how rare hockey coverage is on ESPN.
The lack of hockey on ESPN and the combative relationship between hockey fans and ESPN is nothing new. Bristol's belief that hockey "doesn't translate to a national discussion" opens a door for Fox Sports 1 to better serve hockey fans with their own highlight show. And given how disappointing ratings have been for the upstart network, they need all the viewers they can get.
ESPN and FS1 anchors are even competing over who's going to be showing more hockey. Check out this interaction between ESPN's John Buccigross and FS1's Jay Onrait after an Onrait tweet to a Colorado Avalanche player.
So with three games taking place on the NHL's opening night, did Fox Sports Live live up to expectations? Did they show more hockey highlights than SportsCenter? We compared the 1 AM ET episodes of Fox Sports Live and SportsCenter head to head. Here's what we found...
Time dedicated to hockey
Fox Sports Live: 8 minutes, 8 seconds
SportsCenter: 3 minutes, 45 seconds
Fox Sports Live analysis
At the start of the 1 AM program, FS Live made it clear hockey highlights are going to be a pillar of the show moving forward. The first words spoken by Charissa Thompson before handing it over to Jay & Dan for Reds-Pirates highlights were these:
"Can the Blackhawks repeat last year's magic plus the Pirates and Reds finally settle things, I'm Charissa Thompson. Coming up on Fox Sports Live, plenty of hockey…"
That's right, FS Live led with a hockey tease.
The first segment of the show consisted of Pirates-Reds highlights and a full panel discussion as well as news on Josh Freeman. 15 minutes in to FS Live, the entire second segment of the show was dedicated to highlights of all 3 NHL games with Jay Onrait and Dan O'Toole. Both Caps-Hawks and Leafs-Canadiens were given about a minute while Jets-Oilers got about 20 seconds of highlights. After the highlights, Chris Chelios joined Dan O'Toole to spotlight his top goalies, defensemen, goalscorers, and young players this season. And they even joked that Chelios was going to pick all Red Wings players. Thankfully, he didn't, nor did he call them "our team" so that was a step in the right direction.
A full segment of hockey highlights and analysis is definitely an indication of FS1's commitment to more diversified highlights. Charissa Thompson's intro was an immediate statement to hockey fans to kick off their shoes, make themselves at home, and try out the hors d'oeuvres.
Believe it or not, SportsCenter did hit hockey highlights faster than Fox Sports Live did. 9 minutes into the show in the first segment, Barry Melrose joined Neil Everett. After brief idle chit-chat, SportsCenter aired 90 seconds of Caps-Blackhawks highlights, definitely the longest for any single game.
After Barry Melrose listed his fantasy hockey team, the segment was over at the 2:40 mark.
42 minutes into the show, SportsCenter returned to hockey with a Leafs-Canadiens highlight focusing on the news of George Parros' scary fall and concussion in a fight. That highlight lasted 1:05 bringing the total time SportsCenter dedicated to hockey highlights at 3:45.
It's only one night, but Fox Sports Live had more than twice the amount of hockey highlights in comparison to SportsCenter. They also showed Jets-Oilers highlights while SportsCenter neglected to do so. Perhaps that's an indication you'll see more NHL games mentioned on FS Live and not just the big market, big star teams that SportsCenter is likely to focus on.
The biggest test in this study will come in November and December when the NHL is going up against the NBA and college basketball on a nightly basis. If FS Live continues to give NHL prominent placement on a more crowded sports night then they'll have a great case to make for any hockey fans still watching SportsCenter to make the switch.
@JennyTaft by the way, hella excited for the Wild home opener tomorrow! GO WILD!!
@JennyTaft I guess hiring all those Canadians, and Minnesota natives paid off!!! THANK GOD!!!!!
ESPN always pushed hockey to the background even when they had the broadcast rights, so the argument that they show little because they don't carry the NHL means diddly.
@awfulannouncing And I'm sure Fox Sports Live had less viewers.
@awfulannouncing hockey got a .70 on opening night- .70 give the people what they want
@awfulannouncing difference between being a sports network and a sports promotion nerwork
@awfulannouncing > not surprising at All !!
@awfulannouncing you figured out how to divide by zero? Nice.
@awfulannouncing Wait, SportsCenter had NHL highlights?!?
Three games on and SC can't even cover one of them! Pathetic. Melrose needs to leave there and gain prominence somewhere where hockey is covered, like NBC or FS1. Fox Sports 1 doesn't have any hockey rights either so it doesn't excuse ESPN from ignoring it.
The obsession with ESPN not covering the NHL is mind-boggling. Who cares?
NBCSN is almost literally nonstop hockey coverage. If you want to watch hockey coverage, CHANGE THE CHANNEL!
@smmikkelson I love it! FS1 is doing good things!
@jennifer_lee07 haha, thanks! The way it began, I thought they were teasing there was no difference, but definitely a cool breakdown.
Thanks for this reporting on reporting.
Possibly worth a note, and something that supports the immediacy of ESPN's NHL coverage, is that ESPN.com actually was leading with hockey last night: http://aldland.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/espnnhl.png. (If they had the broadcast rights to the NL Wild Card, that's probably not happening.)
They probably pay Barry Melrose $500K a year so that he can talk about hockey for 1 minute a day. He probably has the easiest job in the world.
After my Red Wings broke the NHL record for most home wins the only thing they got was a 10-15 second clip on a congratulations and then went onto something that wasn't even important.
@MC_Larry_blunts we shall see what happens tomorrow since they're 8 games tonight
@Buccigross thanks for being the only analyst I've seen pick the Jackets to not only make the playoffs, but get to the conference finals
@rossco3131 We regret the confusion, DISH does carry Fox Sports 1 as part of the top 200 package on channel 150. *JS
@MatthewElick no shot, they'll keep talking basketball training camp and football
@dish_answers Should be included with top 120... Stupid how ESPN is included in that but not Fox Sports 1...
@MatthewElick oooo, hahaha. Ill just put on NHL Tonight and I get all the updates
@MC_Larry_blunts I'm talking about Fox Sports 1
@rossco3131 We will be happy to forward that feedback to the programming department. *JS