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Hell has arrived for UFC fans: Fox Sports 1 morphing into Fox News with Skip Bayless

By Zach Arnold | April 26, 2016

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Fox Sports 1 looks to Fox News for Inspiration

The murder-suicide pact between Fox Sports 1 and ESPN is going to financially reward those who deserve it the least. It’s going to torture sports fans and sports executives alike. ESPN created the fertile conditions for the ugliness ahead and the Fox empire is going to inflame an already polarized playing field.

With fees for sporting events escalating to an unmanageable monstrosity, sports networks are slashing & burning budgets for production staffs while shifting their cash into opinion talkers. Spend less on hard news, more on blather. Go for emotion, tribal identity, and analogies over reason & logic on the persuasion scale. We’ve reached a point in television consumption where Skip Bayless is considered as iconic, if not more so, than Mike Tirico.

UFC is likely going to stay with Fox Sports, although ESPN certainly would have interest under any normal circumstance. We’re not living in normal times. ESPN is bleeding talent. They’re slashing & burning production employees. Disney, which is making money hand over fist, is scared to death of what is going to happen to ESPN in the future. UFC should be a sure-fire target for ESPN acquisition. The acceleration of losing personalities could play either way here for Bristol.

UFC wants to maintain creative control in their next television deal. That’s something that Fox will likely continue giving Zuffa, much to the detriment of fighters like Conor McGregor who needs to change this equation in order to create more labor leverage. UFC helped launch Fox Sports 1. It was considered a cornerstone. Several years into the deal, Fox Sports 1 remains as lost as ever. Nobody has any idea what kind of strategy to use to help build shoulder programming on the network.

Enter Jamie Horowitz. He’s now building Fox Sports 1 around Colin Cowherd, Jason Whitlock, and Skip Bayless. He’s throwing tons of cash at “big names” and turning the network into a money pit. Meanwhile, web site & production staffers are losing their jobs with Fox.

The Wall Street Journal pointed out that the new creative direction Fox Sports 1 wants to embrace is Fox News. The initial poison pill emphasis is on “opinion.” That’s not what made Fox News the Fox News everyone knows today. What made Fox News was opinion + political identity. When the opinion side fails, political identity trumps all in market persuasion. The new injection of opinion is going to fail for Fox Sports 1 and it is going to fail spectacularly. When this new strategy fails, the only option left for Fox is to turn the channel into the conservative sports network. This development is going to make a lot of sports executives extremely uncomfortable but you can blame ESPN for helping creating this atmosphere.

Bob Arum has gone after UFC fans for being Donald Trump supporters. The NFL is as corporate as you can get. In response to all the talk about concussions, we have the “war on football” debate. MLB has an older, conservative audience. NASCAR just backed Donald Trump. Guess which network has major television deals with these sports properties? Fox. “Embrace debate” isn’t enough to build brand loyalty. Politics will. It always does.

You can already see the war-gaming political playbook that Fox Sports 1 will use at its disposal to attack ESPN. Label ESPN as the “Social Justice Sports Network” and claim their big names are race & gender hustlers. Go after speech & public particiipation issues, such as the Curt Schilling/transgender bathroom rights controversy, with flame-throwers like Clay Travis. You can smell it a mile away.

ESPN will become the “liberal” sports network. Fox Sports 1 will become the “conservative” sports network. The two networks will be invested in nuclear hot takes all while their footprints shrink due to cord shaving, cord cutting, and skinny bundles. The sports networks and their contracted business partners will end up getting tarnished with political labels. UFC fans, in particular, are now stuck being associated with a group of talkers who are horribly clueless about their sport and play up the worst stereotypes.

Stephen A. Smith has managed to infiltrate virtually every talking segment about every sport on ESPN. I’m sure there are already Megyn Kelly/Donald Trump-style plans on having Skip Bayless debate Dana White over Conor McGregor. Hell has arrived.

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 9 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

9 Responses to “Hell has arrived for UFC fans: Fox Sports 1 morphing into Fox News with Skip Bayless”

  1. david m says:

    I would never wish injury on a fighter, but let’s just say that if Jon Jones’ foot x-ray from UFC 197 shows that he has a broken bone and won’t be able to compete at UFC 200, I wouldn’t be upset. Not because I don’t want to see Jones v Cormier 2, but because the UFC are incredible assholes for screwing the fans out of the fight they really want to see at UFC 200. UFC having to cancel the main event would be so delicious; I can see the look on Dana’s HGH-inflated head as he struggles to figure out who can take the main event slot before he is forced to grovel at McGregor’s feet.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      A lot of people, including me, did not care for McGregor/Diaz 2.

    • Chael's Roided Left Nut says:

      “screwing the fans out of the fight they really want to see at UFC 200”

      I think “David M” is secretly Connor McGregor.

      Anyways, as said above, the only people getting screwed would be those who were dumb enough to pay ridiculously inflated prices to watch the Connor McGregor hype wagon get knocked over a second time. That’s about it. Any somewhat intelligent, reasonably educated fight fan has no interest in seeing Connor waste more time at 170lbs. The experiment is finished. It’s an idea for morons now. The only business this hype-clown has left is going back to 145 to defend his title. That’s it.


    Dana from ufc 200 PC
    “I didn’t prevent Connor from fighting” “thats the truth”

    Dana likes the black hating black dynamic of the new main event for sure. Too bad the dc jones fued is so stale a rat wouldn’t touch it. The first time im watching a press conference with the mute on whenever they speak.
    They’re like a school on a holiday…

  3. rst says:

    “The Wall Street Journal pointed out that the new creative direction Fox Sports 1 wants to embrace is Fox News.”

    Its popular to blame all the animosity and tribalism and propaganda and social division on Fox News, but it seems to me that Fox News is brought to you by the same people who bring you the wall street journal. They’re all north east based and part of the same few corporate conglomerates, Fox news just plays the heel to make the new york times seem reasonable in comparison. But the new york times is just as biased and inflammatory as fox news, they just play the “good guy” in their north east based scenario. But they have to keep making Fox news crazier and crazier to make CNN seem less crazy.

    Although I thought it was a telling break in kayfabe that Fox news hates Donald Trump just as much as the new york times does.

  4. 45 Huddle says:

    All of the sporting networks will be in for a world of pain as cord cutting becomes more and more popular.

    A few things I have noticed about the UFC for 2016…

    1) The UFC had 33 events in 2013…. Hade a huge increase to 46 events in 2014…. and then 41 events in 2015. Right now the UFC is on pace for around 38 events for the year. They certainly have scaled back their huge expansion from a few years ago.

    2) About half of their PPV’s are finally starting to resemble supercards again. UFC 198, 199, and 200 are all respectable cards in terms of depth. And we know that UFC NYC will be stacked as well.

    3) While UFC 200 does not have one major blockbuster fight, it certainly is a PPV worth ordering. It is really 2 legit title fights, a #1 contender fight (Aldo/Edgar), and then 2 very good fights besides that. Can’t really ask for more then that from a PPV.

  5. jim allcorn says:

    I don’t know about anyone else, thus far, I’m really rather underwhelmed by the UFC 200 card. I would think that for such a momentous achievement & event that Dana & the boys would pull out all the stops & make sure that 200 was stellar from top to bottom.
    Instead, they’re giving us virtually meaningless matchups that are several years past their sell by date like Jim Miller vs Takanori Gomi. Seriously?!!
    Even if this just winds up as a part of the FS1 prelim show it’s garbage. Miller has lost 4 of his last five fights. Gomi, 3 of his last 4, 5 of his last 8.
    How does it warrant a spot on what’s supposed to be one of the, if not THE biggest UFC events ever?
    Then there’s another bout between two used up, shot, battered opponents in Diego Sanchez, who’s lost 5 of his last 7 ( though the record book says he beat Ross Pearson, we all know that that decision was an absolute travesty ) vs Joe Lauzon, who, although he has managed to be a .500 fighter over the course of his last 10 fights, has soaked up an almost ridiculous amount of abuse & taken some truly frightful beatings while going 5-5.
    I fail to see how these are the sorts of bouts that belong on a supposed “mega show” like 200 ought to be.
    They’re actually the sort of fights that one would expect to find headlining a weekly installment of Bellator some random Friday night.

  6. Cutch says:

    ESPN & Fox Sports work together a lot, they have Big 12, PAC 12 & MLS and the Fox just bought half of the Big Ten rights they can work with each other for the right price.

    Fox could take the evening fights and ESPN could take afternoon cards if they wanted too, especially if they run more European events, put the Asian cards on fight pass and if the TV contract is big, cut down. On PPVs.

    Diaz Jones fought OSP and no race was mentioned, Jones & Cormier have hated each other for years, Jones didn’t get his title took off him by a fighter, certainly not Black on Black crime, who was Cormier meant to fight Husteffson again who is 1-3 In his last four digits.

    Jim look at UFC 100, the main card was amazing but the prelims which your fighters are on will probably be on fight pass.

    It has two and a half title fights, Cai-Browne

    The majority of the card has ranked fighters and they still have a spot for someone, perhaps Nate Vs a decent name


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