Behind the scenes at Fox Soccer Channel, there was a significant signing last year when Fox recruited Bhavesh Patel from the NBA to head up the channel’s FoxSoccer.com and FoxSoccer.tv websites, among other duties. While so much of the attention is on what happens on the screen at Fox Soccer Channel, we thought it’d be interesting and helpful to our readers to interview Patel and learn more about what’s happening with the Fox websites and what the future plans are.
Here is our interview with Patel:
EPL Talk: Hello Bhavesh, thanks for taking time out of your busy day to be interviewed. Since you’re relatively new to Fox Sports International, can you tell our readers more about you?
Bhavesh Patel: I serve as Vice President of Interactive Media for Fox Sports International (FSI), which encompasses emerging media platforms such as Internet, broadband, IPTV and wireless. In this role, I’m responsible for the daily operations, business development, and editorial strategy for all interactive and digital media business of Fox Sports International.
I oversee four Fox-branded network Internet sites currently serving approximately nine million unique users, broadband video, mobile marketing and content distribution and production of VOD and IPTV content. I also identify and develop potential digital content partnerships and acquisition targets and negotiate digital programming rights for all FSI properties.
Most recently, I served as the Director of Global Digital Media for the National Basketball Association, where I handled the digital strategy for all non-television platforms. This included negotiation of the league’s video syndication agreements with companies like Yahoo and YouTube, fantasy license renewals and the leagues’ first mobile WAP site in the United States.
EPL Talk: As a former NBA executive, what for you has been the biggest surprise about Fox Soccer Channel or the popularity of soccer in the United States?
Patel: Soccer has an incredibly passionate fan base in the U.S., and FSC has a laser-sharp focus on serving its core audience. Our viewers asked for UEFA Champions League, they got it. They asked for HD, and it’s coming in January 2010. And fans want more coverage in more places, so we give them twitter updates @championsonfox, match recaps at Hulu, a community channel on MySpace, a live call-in show on FSC and blogs from other footie fans at foxsoccer.com.
EPL Talk: There’s a lot of confusion and lack of information out there about what FoxSoccer.tv provides in terms of Premier League coverage. Can you give us more details about the broadband coverage — whether games are shown live, how much it costs, etc?
Patel: Our Premier League coverage continues into the 2009/10 season with On-Demand matches from Fox Soccer Channel. There are 3 ways to watch: $99.95 for the full season through May 2010, $14.95 for a 30 day pass, and $4.95 for day pass with unlimited viewing for 24 hours.
EPL Talk: A question from James, one of our readers: Could you explain how extensive the archive of games available for viewing is?
Patel: Barclays Premier League matches are available on-demand for one week after airing on FSC. Our archive coverage also includes Serie A, UEFA Champions League, World Cup Qualifying, and more top programming selections to choose from.
EPL Talk: Who has the online rights to the EPL games that are televised on ESPN2? According to ESPN, they don’t own the broadband rights to those games.
Patel: That is correct, the Barclays Premier League sublicense to ESPN for the 2009/10 season does not include any Internet rights.
EPL Talk: A question from a reader whose handle is US Cherry. Are there any plans to make some of the fox shows available online e.g. Fox Football Fone-In?
Patel: Foxsoccer.tv is our central hub for full-length matches. Video segments from FSC shows are available on the foxsoccer.com website, including custom web-only features from Fox Football Fone-In. These 3-5 minute wrap segments will keep fans up to date about the latest stories and talk from the FFF show.
EPL Talk: One of our readers had a customer service question regarding his account. Which e-mail address should be contact?
Patel: Check the foxssocer.tv FAQ first which has troubleshooting tips. There is also a live online chat tool and users can email FSC directly at email@example.com
EPL Talk: How is FoxSoccer.tv different than Setanta-i and ESPN360?
Patel: Season pass holders on Foxsoccer.tv have the ability to watch on-demand matches aired on Fox Soccer Channel. Our coverage includes Premier League, Champions League, Serie A, World Cup Qualifying and more – comprehensive soccer coverage from the top leagues and tournaments that you cannot find on the other services. Foxsoccer.tv also has live chat and Facebook integration which allows users to watch matches with their friends online.
EPL Talk: How is RayV better or different than Vividas?
Patel: Significantly improved video player with support for higher quality bitrates, pause/forward/rewind of on-demand matches, and social network integration are just some of the new features in the RayV powered product.
EPL Talk: FoxSoccer.com has been very busy promoting the Champions League coverage over the past few months. What can soccer fans, who are craving Champions League news, find on your website?
Patel: CL coverage on foxsoccer.tv spans from game previews, recaps, original editorial and features from FSC writers, goal highlights, match highlights, and photo galleries, to live play-by-play coverage on twitter.com/championsonfox, live streaming at championsonfox.com and on demand matches at foxsoccer.tv.
EPL Talk: FoxSoccer.com recently changed the platform you’re using for blogs and the community. What are some of the advantages of the new system?
Patel: The new community platform is more flexible and allows users to interact more with the foxsoccer.com site. Users can create groups to support their favorite club, upload content including photos & videos, vote & comment on content, as well as share their views with the soccer community through our blogs area. Fans now have a better place to be voice their opinion and show their fan support in the community.
EPL Talk: What plans does FoxSoccer.com have for covering the World Cup next summer?
Patel: FoxSoccer.com will be the top destination for fans to get news, in-depth analysis and 24/7 coverage of the tournament match-ups. Our goal is to deliver the best and most in-depth analysis of the games through foxsoccer.com with original editorial, news headlines, statistics, photos and video features throughout the tournament. The site will serve a purpose for every type of fan with daily coverage of every game, interactive site features, and detailed facts and history surrounding all 32 competing teams.
EPL Talk: How much of a problem is the issue of soccer fans watching pirated streams of games instead of paying to watch them legally?
Patel: As with other media platforms, piracy is a concern to our business. We work closely with the leagues to protect our investment as a rights holder.
EPL Talk: How do you see the online consumption of the Premier League growing in the future and whether there’ll come a day where more people are watching the games on FoxSoccer.tv than on Fox Soccer Channel?
Patel: I believe that television will always be the top outlet for fans to watch the beautiful game, especially today with HD television standards. I do think however online game viewership will grow significantly with continued improvements in video quality and easy access to games at your fingertips.
EPL Talk: Anything else you’d like to add about FoxSoccer.com or FoxSoccer.tv?
Patel: Soccer fans have a lot to look forward to with Foxsoccer.com. A site-wide redesign is taking place later this year allowing easier navigation and an enhanced video product. Our coverage of the UEFA Champions League will only continue to grow and expand with new product roll-outs and increased coverage. Foxsoccer.tv is also a growing product that will continue to improve with enhancements to product features and functionality to better serve the fan.