New Fox Sports head Jamie Horowitz speaks at Williams College

Jamie Horowitz

WILLIAMSTOWN >> The new president of Fox Sports National Networks says he understands that the road to catching sports leader ESPN may not be quick.

But Jamie Horowitz said while the road may not be easy, it is navigable.

"Obviously, the easiest path to increased ratings for any company is to have premier live events. It's indisputable," he said. "However, there is proof in the pudding of what's happening at Fox News. If you put compelling studio programming on, with people saying interesting and informative things, people find it. It's not because there's an event going on.

"I still believe content is king. If we deliver good content in that regard, people will find it."

Horowitz spoke at the 26th Frank Deford Award and sixth Aaron Pinsky Award event at Williams College on Thursday night. The Deford Awards are given to student writers in Sports Information, while the Pinsky Awards are given to student broadcasters in memory of Aaron Pinsky, who was a sports broadcaster at Williams.

Horowitz, a 1998 Amherst College graduate and a former basketball player for the Lord Jeffs, will be taking over the Fox Sports Network programming later this month. He will oversee all programming, marketing and scheduling for Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2.

He joined Fox after spending a short period of time as the senior manager of NBC's "Today" program. Before that, Horowitz was vice president of original programming and production at ESPN, where he helped create "First Take," "Olbermann," and the "Numbers Never Lie" program that has morphed into the "His and Hers" program.

"Here's a trivia question," Williams College sports information director Dick Quinn said to the gathering. "Pete Rose and who were hired at Fox Sports in the same week?"

The answer was the guest speaker.

As an Amherst graduate, Horowitz got the capacity crowd in Parensky Auditorium laughing right off the bat.

"What will be good news for all of you, I should mention at the start that I did not get into Williams," he said. "And in better news for me, I should also tell you I did not apply."

Speaking of his new job, the big challenge is challenging ESPN, just because the sports network has been around for so long.

"ESPN has been such a monopoly for so long. Media and fans are so eager to talk about this like a horse race," said Horowitz. "It's ESPN and it's Fox Sports. Fox just bought the World Cup [rights]. How are the ratings? They haven't even started airing yet."

Horowitz's tenure at ESPN includes what he called "compelling debate shows." One of those programs is "First Take," that seems to be the lightning rod at ESPN.

TV sports critics and media bloggers have, on more than one occasion, pounded on the program which regularly features debates between ESPN personalities Skip Bayliss and Stephen A. Smith. Both of them came to ESPN after lengthy careers as print sportswriters and columnists.

"It does seem that a lot of people write about that show," he said. "When I used to go the road with 'First Take,' and then see the reception for Skip Bayliss and Stephen A. Smith — take my opinion off the board entirely — as a reporter observing, it certainly seems like there are passionate fans that love them.

"People tell me that's not the case. I just say, I don't know what to do to that. I'm looking and I'm seeing people chanting their names and asking for autographs and wanting their opinions."

Horowitz, a native of Newton and a graduate of Newton South High School, also took questions from the audience and was asked about the Olympics coming to Boston.

"There's something wrong with the system. The notion, if you ask a kid 'Hey would you want the entire world to come to your town and put on the most magnificent sporting event in the world?' That does sound good," he said. "As you acquire information, 'Oh, I don't want it in my town.' There's obviously a fault in the system.

"I'm from the Boston area. I assume it's some combination of the reveal, maybe it's not a great economic boom for the area and some people are obsessed with traffic. Personally, I'd put up with traffic for a couple of weeks to have such an amazing event in my hometown."

Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.

Sportswriter-Columnist

Howard Herman is a sports columnist at The Berkshire Eagle. The dean of full-time sportswriters in Western Mass., he has been with the Eagle since 1988, and is a member of the New England Baseball and Basketball Hall of Fame.