Fox and Setanta Face Tough FA Cup PPV Choice

fa_cup_eon.jpgGuest editorial by Jeff Hash

When it comes to broadcasting the FA Cup in Britain, broadcasters always face a dilemma of who to highlight and who not to take a chance on. This can lead to choices that come back to bite them, as shown when nobody carried live Barnsley’s upset of Liverpool in the fifth round. Earlier today, the BBC made their last decision as an FA Cup broadcaster for at least three years, selecting West Bromwich Albion vs Portsmouth in the upcoming semifinal round. This means the other semifinal, between Barnsley and Cardiff City, will be on broadcast partner Sky.

But in this round, they aren’t alone in making a tough decision. The American broadcasters also face it’s own dilemma. Under the joint rights deal between Fox Sports International and Setanta North America, one of these two matches will only be available live on pay-per-view in the United States. The other will be shown live on Fox Soccer Channel. And neither match is truly an automatic choice.

Why select WBA vs Pompey? Name recognition. Portsmouth is seen on American TV a number of times thanks to being in the Premier League, while West Brom is only two seasons out of the same and are still somewhat familiar. Meanwhile, Barnsley hasn’t been in the PL in 10 years, and Cardiff never have. Known names are more likely to have a fan base who will make the effort to watch, even if it means paying.

On the other hand, Barnsley vs Cardiff has the shock factor. Would anybody on Earth have picked these two to be alive at this point? Portsmouth making the semis is nice but not a surprise, and WBA didn’t face any Premier League opponents in their four rounds (though, to be fair, the only one Cardiff faced was Boro). That shock factor, and worry of missing the next dramatic part of the story, could fuel buyers out of soccer fans. It also has one other factor on it’s side: start time. Barnsley and Cardiff will start at 4PM British Time Sunday, meaning an 11AM start in the east, 8AM in the west. WBA and Pompey, on the other hand, start at 12:15PM Saturday, translating to an early 7:15 AM start in the east and a near-comatose 4:15 AM in the west. Will fans without a commitment to either club get up that early, and then pay on top of that, to get their cup fix? I’m going to guess not.

Honestly, this is a lose-lose situation as far as Fox and Setanta go. With a lack of top four teams in either match, there isn’t going to be a lot to make in PPV sales. But it’s required, and they have to put up the match they think will do best. In this case, just like the ones made by their British counterparts, that choice could end up being second guessed by fans for a long time.

8 thoughts on “Fox and Setanta Face Tough FA Cup PPV Choice”

  1. I would encourage any US soccer fan to watch both games if they can, despite the lack of big names.

    Some of the most exciting games I can remember have involved teams from the lower leagues, admittedly mostly during the end of year playoffs. But these guys have everything to gain and nothing to lose, so there is never any of this tight, cautious, canceling-each-other-out type football you often see when the top PL teams face each other. The skill levels may not be the best but these games rarely lack for passion and excitement as both teams really go for it.

    Now I’ve said that, both semis will be drab 0-0 affairs, settled by penalties.

  2. This FA Cup semifinals prove that money is bad for the sport.

    From a fans perspective, a match-up of these four clubs is an amazing novelty. But because money is such an issue now, the games are terrible from a tv-perspective.

    I know I want to see a Barnsley/Cardiff final. Do the networks? Hell, no!

  3. Maybe they will smarten up and show both games live, NOT on p-p-v. I don’t see anybody paying money to see a semi-final on p-p-v, or the final, for that matter.

  4. Going to respond to a few comments here.

    Kartik- Thank you. We’ll see what the future holds as to writing more.

    Ossie- That’s always the way. Both matchups look good on paper, which means it’ll be won in a 2-1 penalty kick shootout.

    IIB- I was refering to the British broadcasters at that point. The match was available live in America, but not in Britain (and they got to hear a lot about that after the fact).

    Timmy- Actually, I think Cardiff-Pompey would be the worst case scenario for the TV people. There’s no major storyline there in my opinion. I like Harry, but him finally get a cup as manager is not an epic. With Barnsley-WBA, you have the Barnsley dream run and the once in a lifetime event of 2 teams not from the top division making the final. I don’t have the info in front of me, but I’ll guess that certainly hasn’t happened in the PL era, and probably not for a while longer.

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