Editor's note: TSN announced on March 1 that the network would welcome back Jay Onrait and Dan O'Toole.
Jay Onrait and Dan O'Toole were lured away from TSN to jump start Fox Sports 1 in 2013. Fox Sports Live was going to be the kingpin of an attempt to compete with ESPN.
Their contract with Fox Sports 1 was set to conclude at the end of March. Their last show aired last Wednesday.
Fans of the duo would correctly argue that the beginning of the end came about a year ago. Fox Sports 1 retooled the show by removing the tools and ripping the heart of the show.
Jay and Dan were on TSN's SportsCentre from 2003-2013. The speculation is that the duo will head back to TSN. Let's suggest some options:
ESPN The channel has a minority ownership in TSN along with Bell Media. The channel likes personalities in its highlights show. But ESPN has had their money woes thanks in part to cord cutting. The ESPN of 5 years ago would have been very interested.
Rogers Sportsnet If ESPN doesn't have the money, Rogers is having more trouble but in an competitive market against TSN. We've seen with the dismissals of Glenn Healy and Mike Johnson that fun and interesting isn't a part of the Rogers way, so Jay and Dan wouldn't make sense.
CBC Jay and Dan wouldn't be able to do sports at the public broadcaster, but we did think they could be a part of a late-night show. They could summarize what is happening in sports to a broader audience. They could do interviews or perhaps do a variation of Dan Rowan and Dick Martin (think Laugh-In).
TSN Jay and Dan have a built-in audience. They didn't burn bridges at TSN. Their return would be seen as a goodwill gesture by TSN. To justify their money, they might contribute to ESPN through TSN, as opposed to the many shows on TSN that come straight from ESPN. After all, Jay and Dan are know entities in the United States.
People like to put labels such as "success" and "failure" on those types of experiments. Or they ask questions such as whether "the Canadians were in over their heads."
Jay and Dan were offered a lot of money because Fox Sports felt like it could compete with ESPN. Fox Sports needed something different to make a difference and Jay and Dan were perfect.
The chances of the success of Fox Sports weren't great in 2013 even if Fox Sports did everything perfectly. ESPN had a lot going for it because of its established track record, rights to events, and personalities.
The state of sports media has changed in the 3 years Jay and Dan were in the United States. Regional and national sports outlets are moving away from doing highlights to inane sports argument shows. For non-sports fans, think Crossfire but more obnoxious.
Even up to that point, Fox Sports didn't utilize Jay and Dan to their potential, hardly promote them, and didn't give any of their ideas, which were bad, a chance to even work.
Given where the sports media market is in the United States, Jay and Dan took advantage financially and got some name recognition in a larger country. Even sports fans who might hate Jay and Dan can't blame them for the last 3 years of Fox Sports 1.
The best scenario, other than going back to Canada, would have been if ESPN has become jealous and tried to steal them from Fox Sports 1. The only reason that didn't happen is that Fox Sports 1 overall ratings are tiny and the marketplace changed dramatically in the U.S.
Did Jay and Dan fail? They got a lot of money that wouldn't be available now. They took a chance that isn't usually offered to Canadians. They burned no bridges on either side of the 49th parallel. They get no blame for an experiment that has no reason for long-term success.
While TSN will be the logical choice, Jay and Dan have shown they have the talent and options for continued success.
photo credit: Fox Sports 1