Premiership Countdown: 11 Days to Go.
Now that Setanta Sports has sublicensed many of the rights to the Premiership matches from Fox Soccer Channel, what impact will this have on Fox Soccer Channel and what does it say about their coverage of the English Premier League and football in general on FSC?
Here are my thoughts on the matter:
- Improved schedule. Fox Soccer Channel will now have 7 hours of continuous coverage on Saturday’s from 10am until 5pm ET. They’ll be showing the 10am and Noon matches live, followed by the 2:15pm ET tape-delayed match, and then their “Super Saturday +” show from 4:30-5pm ET.
- Live match on Sundays. Last season, Sunday was anti-climatic when watching the Premiership on FSC because the match was shown tape-delayed at 1pm ET. Now the live matches on Sundays at 11am ET will definitely add to the excitement, allowing us to watch live battles between sides such as Man United v Arsenal (Sept 17), Spurs v Chelsea (November 5), and Arsenal v Liverpool (November 12).
- Fewer high profile matches. While the 7:30am ET kick-off was inconvenient for many Premiership fans, especially those on the West Coast, the majority of the matches scheduled at this time tend to be more high profile. For example, FSC will miss out this season by not being able to show the following 7:45am ET matches: Everton v Liverpool (Sept 9), Liverpool v Spurs (Sept 23), Arsenal v Spurs (December 2) and Man United v Man City (December 9).
- Competition. While I realize that Fox Soccer Channel and Setanta are working together to bring us more Premiership matches than ever before, the two channels will collide during the 10am ET timeslot on Saturdays when both FSC and Setanta will show their respective matches. The key here is that Setanta has first choice and will decide which match they’ll want to show, while FSC will then broadcast a different one.
- Brand loyalty. Up until this point, Fox Soccer Channel has owned Premiership football in America. There was no other choice. But while there has been criticism made against the way Fox Soccer Channel broadcasts its matches, the vast majority of people are massive fans of the channel. With Setanta Sports, Fox is now more likely to lose part of the brand loyalty it has. New viewers to Setanta may feel the channel does a better job at presenting the EPL and, with the huge amount of European football on Setanta, FSC may look like a pale comparison.
At the end of the day, both networks will work together and the Premiership football fan will reap the benefits. Deep down, though, it makes me wonder whether this was the right move for Fox?
Fox has been slowly moving their target demographic away from the expatriates and more toward the American male. When Fox Sports World changed its name in favor of Fox Soccer Channel, sports like rugby were dropped. Now, Fox has made the conscious decision to drop some of its rights to Premiership matches, and drop France’s Lique 1 and German Bundesliga in favor of adding Major League Soccer matches to its programming.