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ESPN2 Shows EPL Teams Too Often In Champions League

champions league logo ESPN2 Shows EPL Teams Too Often In Champions League

I love watching Premier League teams on television just as much as anyone, but I must admit that I’m a bit sick of EPL teams monopolizing ESPN’s Champions League coverage in their Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon timeslots.

This has been happening for a couple of years. I’m sure ESPN thinks that the more often they show Premier League teams that the greater the likelihood that TV ratings will increase, but by doing that they risk losing the neutral soccer fan who enjoys English football but wants to see some of the other great games.

Take this week for example. ESPN2 showed Aalborg against Man United yesterday and will show Liverpool versus PSV Eindhoven this afternoon. Instead of showing these two predictable matches, ESPN2 would have wiser to show Zenit St. Petersburg against Real Madrid, Bayern Munich versus Lyon, and Inter Milan against Werder Bremen.

Why not relegate the matches involving Premier League teams to ESPN Classic and show the bigger matches on ESPN2?

It didn’t used to be this way. A few years ago, the opposite was true where it was pretty difficult to see Premier League teams in action on ESPN on Champions League days. All I’m asking for is a fair and balanced offering of quality football matches that we all can enjoy and learn from.

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About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013.
View all posts by Christopher Harris →

20 Responses to ESPN2 Shows EPL Teams Too Often In Champions League

  1. Eladio says:

    Did you ever think that perhaps the games with EPL teams garner higher ratings, and therefore ESPN has the responsibility to their advertisers to show the game that will have the highest ratings?

    TV stations are not socialist centers to give equal time to everyone; they're out there to make money.

  2. DoublePivot says:

    I have Setanta broadband so I was able to watch Bayern-Lyon, which was 10X more intriguing than United and Alborg.

    Not necessarily entertaing, mind you, as Lyon made Rangers look like Arsenal.

    But ESPN only hurts themselves in these days of myp2p and justintv, where you don't have to be force fed the big four. I'll find Werder-Inter tongight and ESPN won't have the chance to berate me with division four college scores and news that some hitball shortstop is doubtful for Thursday.

  3. Raatzie says:

    If they're considering acquiring EPL rights, they'll want to expose their audience to, and prime their interest in, EPL clubs.

    Plus, casual American fans, and non-fans, likely are more familiar with, and, thus, more interested in, EPL clubs than even the continental giants. I say this as an American fan who four years ago would have guessed that Celtic was in Ireland (or Boston) and knew Real Madrid as “that team Man. U. 'traded' Beckham to.”

    EPL interest is a gateway to overall football interest for the neophyte American fan. At least, it was for me.

    Seems like a good business strategy to me.

  4. DoublePivot says:

    Do you have numbers to back up your claim? I am sure that Juve, Inter, Bayern, Real and Barca would produce equal if not better numbers as they are more likely to pull in Latino viewers than English teams and have just as big of followings.

    Maybe you're right, but without the numbers, we don't know.

    My bet is that they want the EPL during the next television rights negotiations and are trying to brand themselves as friendly to league.

  5. tyduffy says:

    I think that the reason is probably that Chelsea and Man United are more likely to draw in the neutral viewer. They do normally show Real Madrid and Barca on ESPNdeportes

  6. lsmetana says:

    TSN here (which carries ESPN feeds of the games) showed Real-Zenit, ManU-AaB, and Arsenal-Porto. Today is Liverpool-PSV and I think Shakhtar-Barca

    I was quite happy with the selection. Plus Setanta has rights to some of the games that you're referring to.

    The Zenit-Real game was pretty entertaining for my money. Real were desperate to hang on to the lead and break their winless streak away from home. Zenit were unlucky to not get something from that match.

  7. Todd says:

    the neutral viewer on ESPN is not likely watching soccer. just a few days before at the very same time on the very same channel, Jim Rome was ripping a guy for wearing a Brazil jersey. this isnt about them..

    its about people like you and I who tune in specifically for the matches. and if you can tell me that american soccer fans would rather see lyon bayern (a good game) over their beloved united, liverpool, chelsea and arsenal…then id be shocked.

    just last week i was watching NFL football and everyone was talking about Brett Favre playing the patriots. unfortunately i was stuck watching the broncos and chargers as they were selected for my market…even though the hyped match was on at the same time. as it turns out, my game was the better game that everyone was talking about the next week (the bad ref call) and the other game was a huge disappointment. but everyone thought they wanted to see the other one so most of the country missed it live. whats my point? you live and die by the selection of the channel and your own market. had they not showed manchester united (something they have only done once at any stage last year) and the match they did show sucked…it would be hell for ESPN. in fairness though i did see the real madrid match on deportes before the other matches began

  8. AtlantaPompey says:

    I'll admit as a Pompey supporter, I'm most interested in watching the EPL teams in the Champions League, but I have Setanta and will watch the other matches as well. Who gets first pick: ESPN or Setanta? What are the ratings for matches involving EPL teams and matches involving non-EPL teams?

  9. Weston says:

    To be fair, ESPN Classic played Zenit v Real yesterday and are showing Shahktar v Barca today So for this week at least, its pretty balanced.

  10. The Gaffer says:

    True, but the focus of the article is on what ESPN2 is doing — which is not much for the European teams outside of the Premier League. Not everyone has ESPN Classic, but ESPN2 is on everywhere.. in homes, sports bars, etc.

    Cheers,
    The Gaffer

  11. Simon Burke. says:

    I dont know Gaffer – your article mentions throwing the English sides onto Classic and didnt make mention fo the fact you could see Barca and Real there… just being fair and balanced.
    England produced 3 semi finalists and had Arsenal avoided Liverpool it may have been a clean sweep. In that sense they deserve to be televised as its likely they will go further.

    THat said I wouldnt have picked United v Aalborg to show, on ESPN2 or classic – but then ESPN knows how many Man United fans there are so catered to them rather than the informed fan of the sport . At the end of the day they have to sell commericals too. inter v Bremen wont have as big an audience despite the superior match. I'd rather have seen Arsenal V Porto than United and the real match was at an unusual time so maybe had that been at 2.45 EST it would hve got the nod. ESPN used to show the Spanish sides far more but there has been a definite shift to English sides – though English sides are doing very well in it lately. 5 finalists in 4 years.

  12. Kevin says:

    Theory Time

    Gaffer it's a puritanical hold-over from Early America. Some broadcasters assume English clubs are more akin to everything Americana, while neglecting the ever increasing Spanish-American reality and of course the large Italian-American minority.

    I enjoy watching English sides but when it comes to Champions League play previous Cup winners such as Real Madrid, Juventus etc must get equal billing and not just when their opponents are an English side.

  13. elisaFF says:

    That's why I have ESPN Deportes or online look to Rojadirecta.org for La Liga and Serie A Champions League games. Much more entertaining.

  14. elisaFF says:

    That's why I have ESPN Deportes or online go to rojadirecta.org for La Liga or Serie A team Champions League games or league games. So much more entertaining.

  15. Al says:

    It's not only the television channel that's biased towards the EPL.

    The EspnSoccerNet main page always, ALWAYS has the main headline something about an EPL club.

    The best example of this was the day in December in which both El Clasico and the Milan derby were being played on the same day. At the end of the day, the main headline was “Viduka rescues Toon from Derby”. On a day of two intense derbies, I don't give a DAMN about Newcastle drawing to Derby. Newcastle fans care, but I'm sure everyone else cared more about the other matches. And the match synopsis for both matches were buried at the bottom of the other headlines, below the EPL news of course.

  16. The Gaffer says:

    ESPN Soccernet is based in London hence their English bias. But Al, I agree. Their coverage needs to be more well-rounded.

    Cheers,
    The Gaffer

  17. vic says:

    ESPN showed real-zenit live yesterday since it was before the rest of the matches and then it showed villareal-celtic with manchester united-Aalborg…maybe thats why those matches weren't on ESPN2

  18. JLay says:

    My knee-jerk reaction was to disagree, Gaff – but I do see where you're coming from. I'd rather watch a closely contested match than a blowout featuring a team from the PL. To be completely honest, it doesn't affect me too much because I work during those hours. Fairly easy to find whatever I want to watch online when i get home.

    I think that the earlier poster had it right when they mentioned ESPN bidding for PL coverage rights next year… yes, they get to look friendly to the league – but more importantly they are building brand equity for a future (planned) offering.

  19. Charlie says:

    I really don't think it matters if Man United were playing Cupcake FC, ESPN knows a United match is going to pull in viewers. There's a reason why United is one of the biggest clubs in the world — lots and lots of fans around the world. To spin it in a different direction… if you were an Aalborg fan, wouldn't you think it was pretty cool knowing your side wound up playing a match live on ESPN, the biggest sports network in America? I would.

    Having said that, I'm sure ESPN is also angling to get a shot at Prem TV rights when they come up for bid again.

  20. Shazback says:

    TheGaffer, you make an interesting point. However, should the clubs you mention not also have a duty to perform in order to be chosen as top picks? Although I am French, I don't see any problem in ESPN choosing Man U vs Aalborg over Bayern vs Lyon. Yes, Bayern and Lyon are current champions of their countries (so are Man U and Aalborg, mind you), and although Man U's interest dwarfs Bayern or Lyon's, both the latter are an order of magnitude ahead of Aalborg.
    However, Lyon -and furthermore Bayern- did not perform well in the Champions League last year. Man U beat Lyon in the last 16, and Bayern didn't even compete in the Champions League. Manchester United are the current champions. Surely when you watch the US Open you're more interested in watching the reigning champion (or the #1 seed) as early as the round of 32, instead of a game between seeds 16 and 12, that is probably more exciting.
    Similarly, Liverpool last year went further than Werder Bremen and Inter Milan. In fact, to be fair, PSV has over the past few years consistently performed better than Bremen, and Liverpool better than Inter… So it's hard to see even a sporting reason that would call for Bremen vs Inter being broadcast instead of Liverpool-PSV.

    Broadcasters in the USA apply I find a relatively logical broadcasting logic : take the top teams from last year, and broadcast them. Real Madrid have a massive fanbase, but that doesn't stop them from having not featured in the last eight for the last four editions of the Champion's League. That's a record worse than Lyon. I understand that they have a long history and so forth, but surely there comes a time when people (often people who like football) realise that teams have better and worse times. In the early nineties Marseille were one of the biggest clubs in Europe, and yet I wouldn't even dream of saying that they should recieve even a fraction of the interest vested in Arsenal (even though Arsenal has yet to lift the Champions' League trophy), simply because Marseille today is not as good as Arsenal. Nottingham Forest were great at one time, but surely that's no reason to complain that when choosing what FA Cup games will be shown in America, the broadcasters choose Premier League teams (or even “Big 4″ teams!).

    ESPN probably does have a strong interest in EPL rights, but the choices in themselves are nothing strange. People who aren't particularly interested in a sport will often prefer to watch the best team, even if their opponents aren't as good as they are. When you watch rugby, do neutrals prefer to watch South Africa vs Uruguay or Argentina vs Romania? The latter is by far the more interesting match for people who follow Rugby, but the appeal of South Africa (Reigning World Champions) is probably enough to sway those who don't follow rugby.

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