The 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.