On July 24, 2015, Colin Cowherd signed off from ESPN. Eight years later, a lot has changed but Cowherd remains on top.
Colin Cowherd is one of the most popular sports media personalities in America. He is most widely known for his TV and radio program The Herd With Colin Cowherd as well as his stint as the co-host of ESPN’s SportsNation. Viewers and listeners tune in to The Herd for Cowherd’s strong – sometimes controversial – opinions on all things but particularly on the NFL, NBA, and college football.
Eight years ago this week, Cowherd made a significant career move when he left ESPN to join Fox Sports. Persuaded by then-president of Fox Sports National Networks Jamie Horowitz to shift The Herd out to Los Angeles and join the team at FS1, Cowherd gave up the safety of being part of The World Wide Leader in Sports to see if could have similar success with ESPN’s biggest rival.
Is he happy he made the move?
“I’m the busiest I’ve ever been. I like to be busy,” Cowherd told the New York Post in a recent interview. “I’m wildly in love with my wife. My kids are healthy. It all starts there. You know what I have? Really good support systems, and that allows me to just do content and be in my head all the time. Fox, Premiere [Networks, which distributes his show on radio], and The Volume [his multimedia startup] staff are really good at that. Support matters.”
From Radio to Star of the Small Screen
Colin Cowherd began his career in sports radio in the early 1990s as the play-by-play voice for Major League Baseball’s San Diego Padres and the Las Vegas Stars, a minor league baseball team. After that, he became the sports director at KVBC in Las Vegas, where he was named Nevada’s Sportscaster of the Year five times.
In 2001, Cowherd’s radio program The Herd began airing on KFXX, an AM radio station based in Portland, Oregon. Unlike other sports radio shows, The Herd was a blend of talk show, celebrity interviews, analysis, and opinion. Cowherd had a unique point of view on the world of sports and he built an intimate connection with his audience.
The Herd was picked up by ESPN Radio in 2004 and quickly gained a national following. Then Cowherd gained further attention when he was selected to launch and co-host SportsNation on ESPN. He was bullish on SportsNation from the very beginning: “I want eyeballs,” Cowherd said at the time. “(Horowitz) has a keen, objective sense of what works on TV. He has terrific television instincts.”
Cowherd was right. SportsNation became a wildy popular afternoon program and made him (and his co-host Michelle Beadle) into bonafide stars.
Considering his success at ESPN, and his ascending popularity, it was surprising to many that, in 2015, Cowherd annonced he would be moving The Herd to Fox Sports. He’d spent over a decade at ESPN and seemed like he could spend the next twenty years as the #1 radio personality at ESPN. But Cowherd said at the time that he needed a new challenge and Horowitz, his longtime friend, was had moved from ESPN to Fox.
Moving The Herd West to Fox Sports
When he arrived at Fox, Cowherd continued hosting The Herd With Colin Cowherd on Fox Sports Radio while introducing a significant change — the show would now be broadcast on TV as if it was intended to be tv-first content. The show maintained its format and style, but it could now reach a broader audience.
Horowitz’s involvement in the move to Fox Sports was critical. He joined FS1 in 2015 and the daytime line-up was non-existent. He recognized the potential for Cowherd’s strong opinions and unique perspective on sports-related issues to help reimagine Fox Sports. Horowitz wanted Cowherd’s show to be positioned as the first step in a series of moves to give FS1 a robust line-up of daytime talk shows. He worked closely with Cowherd to develop The Herd as a TV show that could anchor a series of similar shows.
Horowitz’s strategy and Cowherd’s expertise behind the mic resulted in a big viewership bump (about 28%) networkwide at FS1. According to the Associated Press, “FS1 has built its fortunes around Colin Cowherd.” And that play paid off in a big way. The Herd continues to enjoy a healthy viewership on FS1 of over 160,000 daily viewers, and the radio show (now available as a podcast) is the No. 1 sports podcast on iHeartRadio.
The Voice of Sports Broadcasting
For over 20 years, Colin Cowherd has made a name for himself as the voice of sports broadcasting. Thought-provoking, personal, and sometimes controversial, Cowherd’s strong opinions resonate with audiences in a different way than many other shows – his sports content is something more than just news and analysis.
Apart from his unique voice, Cowherd’s business movements have also impacted the sports broadcasting industry overall.
With the help of Horowitz, Cowherd’s move to Fox Sports positioned the network to effectively challenge ESPN, which it continues to do. As a result of the success of The Herd (and similar shows on FS1), daytime sports shows are less focused on yesterday’s highlights but instead dive deeper into opinion and analysis.
Cowherd’s departure from ESPN also paved the way for other sports media personalities to make similar moves and challenge the dominance of established networks. Popular commentators such as Dan Le Batard and Skip Bayless also left ESPN in search of new challenges.