It 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.