Fox Soccer Channel Drops The Ball With Premier League TV Coverage

fox-soccer-channel.jpgThe opening day of the new 2008/2009 Premier League season is over, and there was plenty of entertainment in store. We’ll share our opinions of what we saw on the pitch over the next few days. But first, for viewers in the United States, I want to share my thoughts on the coverage from Setanta Sports and Fox Soccer Channel.

Without a doubt, Setanta Sports showed today why they’re a must-see channel for followers of the Premier League in the States. First, they had the exclusive TV rights to the Arsenal against West Bromwich Albion season opener. Despite some technical problems in the first minute, the rest of the TV coverage was flawless.

Second, the network showed live coverage of the two biggest storylines from the day: the sensational performance by Middlesbrough in their throughly deserved 2-1 win against Tottenham, and the surprise 2-1 win by Hull City over Fulham.

Third, the pre-game, half-time and post-match analysis by Setanta Sports is simply better than that offered by Fox Soccer Channel. We’ll discuss that in more detail later in this article.

Fox Soccer Channel, in contrast, showed two matches: Everton’s 3-2 loss against Blackburn Rovers and Liverpool’s 1-0 win against Sunderland. The second half of the Everton against Blackburn game was very entertaining with plenty of chances from both sides to win the game including a header by Premier League debutant Jose Baxter, the 16-year-old for Everton. As far as entertainment value, the game wasn’t as good as Middlesbrough against Spurs, but it was definitely watchable and had a stunning finale.

For Fox, the 12:30pm ET/5:30pm GMT kickoff always seems to be cursed. It’s very rare that the match shown in that timeslot entertains, and this was no exception. Apart from one moment of brilliance by Fernando Torres deep in the second half that led to the goal, the game was pretty tense and filled with an avalanche of sloppy mistakes by Liverpool. Sunderland battled hard and deserved to at least get a point out of the game.

But while the Everton match thrilled and the Liverpool match bored, Fox has other issues to worry about. First, if someone already has Setanta Sports, they’re never going to watch the 9:30am ET Fox Soccer Match Day show because the 7:45am ET match doesn’t end until 9:50am ET. Second, the stiffness that Christian Miles and Warren Barton evoke by wearing suits and ties is in direct contrast to the comfortable and laid back banter that Setanta Sports features with Paul Dempsey and Pat Dolan.

The issue with Fox’s show is that hosts Christian Miles and Warren Barton are too polished, too squeaky clean, too scripted and don’t give the viewer many, if any, reasons to watch.

While Fox’s hosts are too nice to each other, Dempsey and Dolan banter back and forth, engage in more spirited arguments and are definitely more watchable.

Other benefits of Setanta’s coverage is that during half-time of the 10am ET/3pm GMT kickoff, the network provides half-time match reports from reporters around the grounds so you get more than just the scores which Fox provides. As an aside, Fox can’t even get the scorelines correct. At half-time, they showed Bolton beating Stoke 1-0 when the half-time score was actually 3-0.

The other challenge for Fox is that at the same time they’re providing previews and analysis between the Noon and 12:30pm ET timeslot in the run-up to the kickoff between Liverpool and Sunderland, Setanta Sports today expanded its coverage and kept the cameras running from their Dublin studio to provide more match analysis, even up to the point of the sides coming out of the tunnel.

When you’re faced between Setanta’s pre-match analysis compared to Fox, you have to go with Setanta each time — which is worrying news for FSC.

One last point and this is something that has upset a lot of Fox Soccer Channel viewers in the past. When Fox shows games live, they need to be shown live. For the Sunderland against Liverpool match, Fox started the kick-off almost two minutes after the game had actually started. For those of you who watch games on DVR, that’s not a problem. But when fans around the world are chatting online or trying to listen to the radio coverage of the game from Sirius Satellite, it’s a massive problem when you know a goal is going to be scored two minutes before you even see it on television!

There’s no excuse why Fox can’t show the games live, or delayed by a few seconds. Fox has 30 minutes to get in as many commercials and previews between Noon and 12:30pm ET, so to show the game delayed by two minutes is absolutely unacceptable.

I’ve finally figured out the biggest difference between Fox Soccer Channel and Setanta Sports. If you’re a passionate follower of the Premier League or one of its 20 teams, the difference between both TV networks is Setanta is meant for die-hard football fans while Fox Soccer Channel is aimed at relative newcomers to the sport or league.

Fox’s coverage is dumbed down, while you usually learn something with what Setanta provides.

What are your thoughts about the opening day coverage from Fox Soccer Channel and Setanta Sports? Share your feedback below by clicking the comments link.

18 thoughts on “Fox Soccer Channel Drops The Ball With Premier League TV Coverage”

  1. Believe it or not I’ve heard of FSC delays as long as 15 minutes.

    Now, the Match Day program is terrible, Warren Barton should’ve stuck with calling games for Sky at the stadiums instead of being with Christian Miles (cringes).

    The halftime show is something that has always bugged me. Two minutes of highlights of Everton/Blackburn, commercial. Highlights of Sunderland/Scousers, other scores from the Premier League, commercial.

    They don’t even know who the commentators are half the time (I’ve heard Bretos and Miles get the commentary names wrong before).

    And in case you’re wondering, in Canada (and I’m 2 1/2 hours away from the border), Rogers Sportsnet gets 1 Saturday game and The Score gets the main Sunday game, while Setanta gets everything else.

    I bring this up because both channels are on basic cable for most companies up north, and what would you prefer to have, FSC giving you poor broadcasts for 4 low rate matches and having to pay extra for digital? Or the Canadian networks providing more in-depth coverage for 2 games on basic cable and ends up costing you less?

    I haven’t looked at Setanta, and I don’t think Comcast even has it, but I’m hearing plenty of good reviews.

    For Sky Sports: Very big day for Bill Leslie, getting to commentate with Andy Gray for I believe his first live Premier League game.

    Finally, this is a list of SOME OF THE TWI commentators for today, and all were at the stadiums instead of in London:

    Arsenal v West Brom – Ian Crocker and Efan Ekoku
    Bolton v Stoke – ?
    Everton v Blackburn – Daniel Mann and Davie Provan
    Hull v Fulham – Rob Hawthorne and Brian Marwood
    Middlesbrough v Tottenham – ?
    Sunderland v Liverpool – Alan Parry and Paul Walsh
    West Ham v Wigan – John Anderson and Tony Gale

  2. I miss Andy Houlihan. He was quality.

    The new guy seemed like he was going to start talking runs and wickets and other things that I have interest.

    The problem I have with Setanta besides the price, is the egg chasing.

    I don’t care about it. I want football. I don’t want live coverage of the Paddy games, or any other game where they pick up the ball with the hands.

    and I have a problem with the fact that I have to pay 15 bucks a month and don’t get the internationals, well the England international matches.

    also why no extra match today????

    I didn’t actually watch today, I woke up late and then watched the FSC matches, but what really bothered me about Setanta last season was the picture quality. Drop outs, sound loss, bad feeds etc.

    FSC is not up to par and you did hit the nail on the head in regard to approach. Setanta is done by Europeans ( Irish) who talk about the game like persons who have it ingrained in their culture. While FSC, present the game as foreign and exotic.

  3. Dolan is quality. Barton did OK for his first time, I thought.
    But I was talking to my friend from Sweden during the L’pool game and he told me Torres had scored a minute before I saw it “live” on FSC. Can anybody tell FSC to stop delaying the broadcast. Gaffer, do they have an excuse for it? I think not!
    It bugs the be-Jeeesus out of me.
    Setanta’s programming is a class of its own(never mind the rugby) FSC is a joke in comparison.They are learning, maybe in another decade or so…
    Dear FSC: stop delaying the broadcast! stop delaying the broadcast! stop delaying the broadcast!!!

  4. Gaffer,

    Fantastic analysis. You’re spot on when you say Setanta is for the serious fan while FSC is for the casual American viewer.

    As already mentioned, I was extremely disappointed Setanta didn’t have a match on Setanta Extra today. Do you know if that will change next weekend?

  5. In my area, North Carolina, here is the problem. You can get Fox Soccer on cable but not on Satellite. And you can get Setanta on Satellite but not on cable, and there is only one cable company, so all of us soccer fans in the area are screwed either way. To be honest, I usually DVR the games and watch them on a delay and skip the halftime show. And in this area, there aren’t many places where i can watch whatever game i want. I guess it’s what i get for being a yank that loves english soccer.

  6. RaleighVillan and Brian:

    The solution you may want to consider is Setanta Broadband which shows the matches via Internet and includes the “Xtra” match as it did yesterday featuring Hull against Fulham.

    No Setanta Xtra scheduled next week because of rugby, but the Xtra match may be shown on Setanta Broadband instead.

    Here are the Setanta schedules for TV and Xtra:

    The Gaffer

  7. I don’t know if you’re aware, Gaffer, that the Setanta studio coverage is a simulcast of Setanta UK. And that part of the reason the show was good after the 10AM games to the runup to Sunderland v Liverpool was because in the UK, Setanta has the rights to show that game (they have rights to the Saturday early evening game (12:15 here).

    So if you’re watching Setanta USA, you get the Arsenal/West Brom match at 7:30 (TWI coverage), then it switches to Setanta UK coverage for the Boro/Spurs match, right up to the runup to the Sunderland/Liverpool match. One dead giveaway is the Boro/Spurs match had Setanta graphics and announcers, not TWI (the ones you get on every FSC match, and all the other Setanta matches).

    So one of the reasons the coverage is superior is that you’re watching a studio show produced in the UK, which has a much higher production value, and is made to appeal to a more knowledgable viewer.

  8. How does FSC pick which feed of the game they are going to air?

    I ask because I found a feed online (ARRRRRR!) that had Tyler and Gray calling the United Game and that is different than the two guys calling the game on FSC right now.

    I also agree with Chris that Miles and Barton looked way too stuffy in those suits yesterday morning. They should wear clothing that is a bit more casual. Of course Pat Dolan always looks stuffy but it fits his character!

    I will be interested to see how today’s Sunday Afternoon Wrap Up Show comes off………………………….

  9. You really don’t have control over what to watch with Fox. What you see is what you get. I would like to get more individual team coverage..also it would be nice to know what the freakin’ announcers look like!

  10. CFTV, the feed you found is the SkySports (UK) feed. They always have different announcers than the ones on FSC (which are from TWI). SkySports always shows the 2 marquee Sunday matchups in the UK, and you’ll usually hear Gray and Tyler on them.

  11. Someone in a previous thread bashing Fox Soccer Catastrophe made the observation that FSC was like a public access channel trying to cover football. It’s such a perfect analogy that I’m going to repost it in this thread.

    I had already knew better than to make the mistake of watching FSC’s pre-match show over Setanta’s. When it comes to studio analysis, FSC isn’t fit to shine Setanta’s boots.

    If it weren’t for Bobby McMahon on that mess FSC calls a “Soccer Report,” I wouldn’t watch that either.

    I better sign off before I get *really* upset. 😛

  12. This weekend was the first time I’ve ever watched Setanta (it was a free weekend on DirecTV) and I have a major problem with them.

    I was watching Spurs-Boro live and planned to watch West Ham-Wigan, Fulham-Hull City and Bolton-Stoke later on. Unfortunately Setanta was updating the scores of the other games every time a goal was scored which ruined the games for me.

  13. Did you see their games on Sunday? I thought the Newcastle – Man United stalemate and the Villa thrashing of Man City both very enjoyable and entertaining. 7 minute hat trick from Agbonlahor! I kinda agree with you on the dumbing down thing, but I thought they showed some great football on Sunday.

  14. CFTV,

    Super Sunday + from Fox wasn’t too bad. Main criticism is that the blokes are now wearing suits. What pub do you go to where punters wear suits? This ain’t South Beach!

    Rest of the coverage was OK. Interesting to hear that Gary Richards predicts Mark Hughes will get the sack and David Moyes will be leaving soon. Much too early to be making predictions like that, I believe.

    The Gaffer

  15. Why does FSC pick up the TWI feed? Aren’t Fox and Sky owned by the same corporation? After a summer with Andy Gray (not to mention his voice on the FIFA game) he’s really my preferred color guy.

  16. Obviously FSC has a deal with TWI since they are the producers of the Preview and Review Show. I know for sure we have had Tyler call games on FSC before.

    Does he post anywhere where he will be calling games for the coming weekend when he finds out his assignment or is there a place on the net that posts the commentary pairs? And is it just me or has Tyler in the past called games solo without a color guy in the booth?

    Oh and Gaffer if you get Dermott from FSC back on the interview podcast again ask a follow up about getting the old episodes of the Highlight Show as filler programming? He seemed interested in the idea when you brought that up last year………………….

  17. Why does fox soccer channel insist on having such poor commentators such as Nick Webster and the other Amaericans – they are poor, they are amateurs. Hey you need ot watch out for ESPN – take a look at how the y do it – some tips – they use the international feed, they show prematch such as walk out onto the pitch, they show national anthems (why do you not show this its the most interesting part of internationals). I am sitting here and have almost switched off the sound. Nick is completely useless, its clear he is not even at the game. Come on guys do yourself better – we heard the international feed at the start then it was replaced with Nick. We dont want ot hear this shoddy American voices (English in Nicks case). You need ot wake up or you will never be a major channel – thank goodness for ESPN the yhave HD, they have great commentators and they cut over when the players are in the tunnel .They don’t overlay huges team sheets over the whole screen with silly music. Wakey wakey touo

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