The most dominant team in college football is not Florida State, Auburn, Alabama, Ohio State, Oregon or Stanford, it's ESPN's College GameDay. Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Lee Corso, Desmond Howard and company is an annual nominee for the Sports Emmy's "Best Studio Show", and it dominates its ratings competition like Baylor versus a six-man high school team.
According to Sports Business Journal, GameDay averaged 1.83 million viewers in 2013, compared to 73,000 for Fox's Fox College Saturday. That's 25 GameDay viewers for every one on Fox College Saturday. Worse yet, as Deitsch reports, Fox College Saturday debuted to 107,000 and then saw viewership dwindle to 44,000 in late November.
Rather than spending another autumn slamming its cranium against the wall, Fox will reportedly switch up its college football studio show strategy. According to Richard Deitsch of SI.com, Fox College Saturday will change its time slot (along with its title) by moving to Friday night. In addition to GameDay, Saturday mornings this fall will also feature SEC Nation on SEC Network and a growing audience for English Premier League games on NBC Sports Network. Fox greatly reduces its competition by moving from Saturday morning to Friday night, but in doing so it also greatly reduces its potential audience. Friday night is the least valuable time slot in the world of television, and it still puts Fox up against a live college football game on ESPN. People go out on Friday nights, and stay in on Saturday mornings. At least that's the conventional thinking among programmers. But when 80,000 viewers represents a nearly 10 percent increase year over year, it's a gamble worth making.
Speaking of gambling, Fox is also reportedly considering a Saturday morning college football gambling show from Las Vegas if Fox College Saturday moves to Friday night. Fox Sports 1 tried the same strategy during the NCAA Tournament, and apparently liked what it saw. The Vegas show, similar to March, figures to be anchored around Clay Travis.
Deitsch also reports that Fox is considering changing up the talent for Fox College (Day To Be Named Later). The guess here is that Bruce Feldman will be prominently involved whether it be on Saturday morning or Friday night, and that Joel Klatt will be the one analyst most likely to stick around from Year 1 to Year 2. The former Colorado quarterback earned high marks both inside and outside the network for his work in 2013.
One FCS staff member that may not stick around for this fall is Erin Andrews, the network's biggest college football hire a year ago. Awful Announcing theorizes that Andrews would not be interested in anchoring a show in the low-prestige Friday night window, and the network would not want to associate one of its top talents with an unsuccessful show.
Fox always faced an Everest-like uphill battle in challenging GameDay, and it was never going to dent GameDay while doing the same thing as GameDay... only in studio instead of on campus. Fox has to be different, and moving its pre-game show to Friday and offering a gambling show is certainly different.