Jamie Horowitz has made it his mission to take down his former employer and, now more than ever, he believes he has ESPN right where he wants them.
The Fox Sports president, who spent eight years at ESPN before moving on to work for NBC and now Fox Sports, seemed pleased by ESPN’s uncharacteristic display of pride and anger in a public relations campaign last week.
“What causes a company to put something like that out?” Horowitz rhetorically asked a reporter Tuesday, according to USA Today, in the Super Bowl media center, suggesting ESPN was showing its vulnerability by engaging in a ratings spin battle with Fox Sports.
ESPN’s would-be takedown of Fox Sports was its angry response to the rival network’s habit of presenting its ratings to suggest the gap between the two is closer than it actually is. But Horowitz said the accusation wouldn’t deter him from celebrating those victories, especially now that the sports behemoth has deigned to engage.
“I always tell the team, ‘Little by little, better and better,’ ” Horowitz said, according to the paper. “Even when you take a micro view, you can’t help but also take a macro view. And it would seem that based on some of the press releases at our competitor, we’ve got their full attention now.”
Skip Bayless would appear to be in the middle of the drama. Horowitz, 39, promoted the LeBron James-hating provocateur while at ESPN then plucked him away from “First Take” to headline Fox Sports’ “Undisputed.”
Two days before ESPN’s public relations arm snapped, Fox Sports’ own PR team released a statement declaring FS1’s “Undisputed” beat “SportsCenter” in viewership for the third time in January. The release downplayed the fact that “SportsCenter” had moved to ESPN2 to give a stronger platform to “First Take.”
“Skeptics continue to point at each individual success at FS1 as a one-off,” Horowitz said. “But how many one-offs do there have to be before people have to start admitting it’s a pattern? People have said ‘Undisputed’s’ success is a one-off and Colin Cowherd’s success is a one-off and the baseball post-game success is one-off. OK, how many of these before we start to say they’re really building something? I think we’re at that point.”