What Fox Needs To Do To Ace Its Champions League Coverage

fox soccer channel1 What Fox Needs To Do To Ace Its Champions League CoverageIt was one of the industry’s worst kept secrets, but now that the news has officially leaked that Fox Soccer Channel has acquired the US TV rights to the UEFA Champions League, what does Fox need to do between now and September to surpass the quality of the ESPN broadcasts that we’ve become accustomed to watching?

Here are my 7 recommendations of what Fox needs to do to raise its game:

  1. Go high def. Fox Soccer Channel is scheduled to be available in HD by the end of 2010, but this needs to happen sooner, much sooner. If Fox is serious about its Champions League coverage, the network needs to have a HD signal by this summer in time for the Champions League matches beginning in September.
  2. Hire better commentators. There’s a massive gulf in class between ESPN’s commentators and the commentators at Fox Soccer Channel. At ESPN, they have the world-class Derek Rae as well as the very decent Adrian Healey. Fox Soccer Channel has no one even close. To bridge the gap, Fox needs to acquire Derek Rae from ESPN, and Phil Schoen and Ray Hudson from GolTV. As of press time, only 1% of poll respondents wanted Fox’s current crop of commentators to be picked for the games. The majority voted in favor of the commentators from the international feed.
  3. Increase its penetration. While Fox Soccer Channel is in 34 million homes, that’s nothing compared to the 98 million homes that ESPN and ESPN2 are in. While there’s talk about Fox making their Champions League games available across Fox Soccer Channel, Fox Sports Net and possibly FX, those channels are all over the dial and harder to find than the ESPN group of TV networks. Also, while it won’t happen overnight, Fox Soccer Channel needs to be added to more cable networks nationwide.
  4. Improve its production quality and on-screen graphics. Watching soccer on ESPN and/or GolTV is a far superior experience than watching it on Fox. While its logo is well designed, Fox needs to greatly improve the rest of its on-screen graphics and make its production far superior.
  5. Revamp its soccer analysis. Other than its meagre line-up of soccer commentators, the weakest aspect of Fox Soccer Channel’s coverage is its poor analysis before and after games, as well as at half-time. The addition of Warren Barton has been an improvement, but everything is still too scripted, too glossy and lacks the critical insight and analysis whereby viewers actually learn something from watching the broadcasts.
  6. Add a quality wrap-up show. ESPN’s Press Pass is a fine example of a football discussion show that Fox desperately needs. Fox needs to put Bobby McMahon, Steven Cohen, Derek Rae and Ray Hudson into a studio and you would have a show that most football fans would appreciate.
  7. Improve its online product. One of the major benefits of ESPN360 is the ease of access to its Champions League coverage. FoxSoccer.tv, in comparison, is light years behind. Fox has a long way to go to create an online product that is as state-of-the-art as ESPN 360.

What are your opinions about the above recommendations? And what ideas do you have that aren’t listed above? Click the comments link below to share your opinion.

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 →
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19 Responses to What Fox Needs To Do To Ace Its Champions League Coverage

  1. daryl says:

    I’d love to see FSC do something similar to Premiere in Germany, where they simulcast all the games at once, hopping between matches and showing every goal.

    Nothing worse than watching a group game that turns out to be dull, only to find out all the other games that matchday were full of action.

    Of course, doing this would require having the rights to all the games, so if Setanta has some of the rights too then this doesn’t work.

  2. Panda says:

    The idea of games across many FOX networks is an intriguing one. I’ve thought in the past that the FOX network should carry a Premier League game before NFL Sundays.

    FSN and FX are available in HD to a lot of homes so that’s how they could work HD into the mix before the launch of FSC-HD. During the group stages they’d have an opportunity to show 3 games at once and at the moment 2 could be in high definition…uhh, yes please?!?!

    “Fox needs to put Bobby McMahon, Steven Cohen, Derek Rae and Ray Hudson into a studio and you would have a show that most football fans would appreciate.” By studio you mean a fake pub right?

  3. Ray Hudson says:

    I have it on good information that if I’m hired as commentator, nobody will watch

  4. J says:

    I’m almost positive that FSC is only going to use Sky Sports coverage and pundits. Similar to how they do their Premier League coverage.

    Has ESPN won Premier League TV rights yet? Maybe theyre putting all their chips in getting that package.

  5. caliculer says:

    Agree that Rae and Healy would be ideal. FOX should poach ESPN’s English (minus Smyth) AND Spanish talent. 100% disagree about Schoen and Hudson. Absolute crap. Luckily, I can get an Internet radio feed in Catalan (also available in Spanish and English), it’s the commentary you hear on FSC’s Barca replays on Fridays) and synchronize it with GolTV for Barca matches. I don’t know why they don’t just use the quite excellent English language commentary that comes with the international feed. Schoen’s mediocre style and delivery are more suited for American sports, and he has just enough knowledge to think he knows more than he actually does. Hudson is actually pretty clever. In being annoyingly bombastic like Dick Vitale, he distracts people from the fact that he has no fricking idea what he’s talking about. I realize this is primarily a Premiership blog, but if you followed La Liga like you do English football you would see my point in a half second.

    Fox should maintain ESPN’s model of four live matches on each matchday (2 on tues/2 on wed). FSC can show an English team v whomever like ESPN2 did, and FSE can show Barca and Madrid like ESPN Deportes did. FSC, being a dedicated footy channel, could do in English what ESPN Deportes has been doing in Spanish for a few years, which is to show consecutive delayed matches all day each matchday. Hell, they could repeat the matches all damn week. That is something that just wasn’t viable on ESPN Classic (where they showed only two delayed matches each matchday).

    One thing I definitely won’t miss is the stupid ESPN ticker. It takes up screen space, it’s distracting, and it often spoils the result for a match you may want to watch on delay (and sometimes even the match you’re presently watching). This is 2009, people can get live scores on any number of gadgets if they so choose.

    If FOX can poach ESPN’s talent, broadcast the matches in HD without tickers crawling everywhere, and improve the on-line aspect so that fans of non-English and Spanish teams (let’s face it, business dictates that those will be the live matches) can watch matches live, then they will ace their coverage.

  6. Eladio says:

    EPL TV Rights in the US won’t be announced until April.

    FSC does currently use the Sky Sports announcers, but I’d consider a “pundit” to be in-studio hosts/commentators, and FSC currently has their own shite.

    As long as half the CL games are still on Setanta, which obviously uses the Int’l feeds/studio hosts, etc, I’ll be happy. FSC completely sucks in its coverage, IMO.

  7. Kartik says:

    FSN is the best option. Regional cable networks have good penetration and will probably approach the number of homes ESPN2 was in.

  8. W says:

    GolTV’s on screen graphics and sound effects are annoying, especially during live games.

  9. Phillip says:

    Why…

    “Go high def. Fox Soccer Channel is scheduled to be available in HD by the end of 2010, but this needs to happen sooner, much sooner. If Fox is serious about its Champions League coverage, the network needs to have a HD signal by this summer in time for the Champions League matches beginning in September.”

    ESPN has only aired the Final in HD. To my knowledge, UEFA doesn’t even send out a HD for every single group stage match.

  10. GC345 says:

    I wish this site had a way to rate comments…this one would skyrocket to the top:

    Ray Hudson 03.31.09 at 1:33 am
    I have it on good information that if I’m hired as commentator, nobody will watch

    I don’t like the idea that the bulk of soccer is moving to specialty cable channels. I already pay enough for the privilege of sifting through commercials, when I pay $5 – $15 a month for one channel the amount of commercials needs to be reduced. I also agree that not having an HD feed is one of the reasons I don’t have FSC. Their channel looks like crap on a large screen.

  11. James says:

    What caliculer said.

    In particular: “FSC, being a dedicated footy channel, could do in English what ESPN Deportes has been doing in Spanish for a few years, which is to show consecutive delayed matches all day each matchday.”

    As for HD: the games aren’t broadcast by ESPN in HD anyway.

  12. Tim says:

    FSC doesn’t use Sky announcers, FSC uses the announcers for the international feed (or whatever it’s called).

  13. The Gaffer says:

    TWI, yes.

    Cheers,
    The Gaffer

  14. Juan-John says:

    Posted this on a different thread, but it probably belongs here:

    The problem for ESPN in losing the Champions League right now is that it comes at an awful time: right before the switchover to a SATURDAY date for the final. That fact ALONE will most likely help increase viewership in the Western Hemisphere beyond anyone’s expectations, and if Fox is smart, they’ll air that game on the REGULAR Fox local over-the-air affiliate channels (Channel 5 in the Washington, DC area) for more exposure.

  15. ossie's dream says:

    FSC won’t use Sky commentators because Sky doesn’t air the Champions League in the UK. ITV does.

  16. LJ says:

    Sky airs every champions league game live via their interactive menu where you choose the game you want to watch, with the exception of 2 games on a tuesday which ITV get to broadcast. So they obviously have commentators at every decent match as do ITV for highlights shows etc.

  17. mike says:

    agreed with most all of your points except Fox adding Ray Hudson and Phil Schoen. They are terrible commentators. Hudson is ridiculous and incapable of objective analysis, while some might find him “fun,” to me he is extremely annoying. Derek Rae is amazing, best announcer they could possibly get. Healy is decent as well. Schoen is a joke.

  18. Sasuke says:

    Ray Hudson 03.31.09 at 1:33 am

    I have it on good information that if I’m hired as commentator, nobody will watch

    Hey Ray I could care less what anyone one else thinks I would prefer you and Phil Schoen to commentate on any match i watch …..especially Barca’s
    all you hater’s go to hell

  19. Mike says:

    Doesn’t Rupert Murdoch own Fox AND Sky? Seems like a logical fit if that’s true. They will use the international feed, at least at first. That’s how they do the Prem. GolTV blows BTW. I don’t speak spanish so half the commercials and graphics are wasted on me. Though the chicks on the info-mercials can be hot compared to the American “women”

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