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Why ESPN's BottomLine Ticker Annoys Soccer Fans

espn bottomline ticker Why ESPN's BottomLine Ticker Annoys Soccer Fans

If I had to count the number of times that ESPN has ruined Premier League games for me this season by running latest scores on their BottomLine Ticker while I’m recording games on Fox Soccer Channel or Setanta Sports, it would be definitely number more than a dozen.

Yes, before the readers respond by saying that you should be lucky ESPN shows any games, let me add that I appreciate everything ESPN has done this season in terms of Premier League coverage by raising the bar. But the one criticism that still exists is the annoying BottomLine Ticker.

I’ve gotten into debates with younger generations of soccer fans about the ticker before, so let me put my argument a different way. I simply believe that ESPN doesn’t get it. They don’t understand what the fuss is about. They don’t understand how soccer fans experience games differently than American residents who watch other sports.

Let me explain.

I’ve never been to a NFL game before in my life, and I’ve probably watched an entire NFL game on TV maybe once or twice. So when I spend time with my in-laws on Sundays, I usually find myself observing how my two brother-in-laws watch a NFL game rather than watching the game itself.

The biggest thing that strikes me is how the game of American football is made for channel flipping. On a typical Sunday afternoon my brother-in-laws are constantly flipping back from channel to channel as they watch 10 to 15 minutes of a NFL game before switching to another NFL game on a different network. I realize this is not always the case especially when their favorite team is on, but the majority of time they’re using the remote control to flip channels.

The other thing is that it’s easier to predict when there’ll be big plays in American football. If you’re switching between channels and you noticed that the game is in a fourth down situation, you’re already anticipating that there’s going to be a big play to get a touchdown.

With soccer, it’s the opposite. You never know when and where a goal is coming from, so it’s more vital to pay attention throughout the 90 minutes.

Yes, in American football, there may be an interception or a hail mary throw that will make you jump out of your seat, but the highs and lows of American football are more predictable. Plus with the number of TV commercial breaks, Americans are more customed to switching channels.

Because soccer is more unpredictable and features no commercial breaks, except for half-time, it’s more likely that soccer fans will watch the entire game than to channel flip back and forth. And nothing ruins a soccer game more than knowing the latest score or result before you’ve watched a game (thanks BottomLine Ticker). Soccer fans are more likely to watch game after game in its entirety than to change channels back and forth even when Premier League games are being shown simultaneously such as on Saturday’s when there may be as many as four games on at the same time.

Some of the readers here will argue that the ESPN BottomLine Ticker isn’t much of an issue because ESPN2 rarely shows games at the same time that other matches are on. However, with the upcoming World Cup and the likelihood that ESPN will increase the amount of Premier League games it televises in the future, the issue of the BottomLine Ticker needs to be addressed now so we can ensure improved viewing experiences on the worldwide leader in sports.

This entry was posted in General, Leagues: EPL and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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 →

89 Responses to Why ESPN's BottomLine Ticker Annoys Soccer Fans

  1. Richard says:

    All it offers is a distraction. In England, Sky or ESPN will have a ticker at the very beginning of the game to show the teams to late-comers. This is done at the start of each half.

    The evening game (ESPN) will then wait for a lull in the action to scroll the earlier games results across the screen.

    I’m happy with both of these.

    One nice little innovation ESPN have had this season, is to have a tiny red dot underneath the team name at the top of the screen to indicate whether a team have had anyone sent off.

    A few seasons ago Sky tried to make ‘innovations’. They moved the score from the top-left to the bottom-left. Furthermore they reduced the amount of letters of each team to 2 (Chelsea = CH, Bolton = BW). This was a total failure. A few televised games later and the score moved back to the top-left and then months later the allocation of letters per teams was increased to 3.

    If it aint broke, don’t fix it.

    • Richard says:

      What was really annoying about the 2 letters per club was that it was hard work deciphering what game was on, especially on those occasions you walk into a pub and a random game is on that you decide to keep an eye on while socialising.

      For example CH Vs. BR. What game am I watching?

      Chelsea, Charlton, Chesterfield, Cheltenham or Chester Vs. Brentford, Bristol City, Bristol Rovers, Brighton or Bradford.

      • Gary says:

        Honestly, you should be able to tell the difference between Chelsea, Charlton, Chesterfield, Cheltenham ,Chester, Brentford, Bristol City, Bristol Rovers, Brighton or Bradford if you are in anyway clued in to English football.

      • Dave C says:

        I realize I’ve come to this conversation 7 months late, so no-one will ever read this. But your comment about the 2-letter abreviations just reminded me about a funny (to me at least) personal anecdote. I was watching a game at a friend’s house, it was West Ham versus Blackburn Rovers. My friend’s mum (who obviously isn’t really a big football fan) came into the room, saw the WH-BR abreviations, and said in all seriousness “oooh look, it’s West Ham versus Brazil”.

  2. man99utd says:

    Can’t stand the ticker for the reasons stated. When it comes on I either close my eyes or turn around, that way I can hear any goal build up. As far as flipping channels, it’s more suited to American sports because of the stop-start nature. With the recent advent of simultaneous matches, I’ve learned to switch channels just after a dive/foul or during a throw in (except for Delap’s). But normally, there is no channel flipping.

  3. John says:

    typical “eurosnob”…people like you disgust me

  4. Jesse says:

    In years past, I’ve gone so far as to place black tape on the bottom of my TV to cover up the ticker. The worst time for me is during the Tuesday/Wednesday Champions League group stage matches. ESPN itself will often show scores to matches that they’ll then repeat on other stations, i.e., ESPN Classic. I’ve never understood this.

    In an age where most viewers can easily check their mobile device or laptop just as quick, why even run a ticker? The game of football/soccer must be understood as different and unique to that of other American sports. These differences must be recognized by the powers that be and taken into consideration when presenting the game to it’s audience.

  5. Matthew N says:

    It is annoying and unnecessary. I like watching the game in full screen glory. It really is beautiful sometimes.

  6. man99utd says:

    John,

    Its not a matter of being a Eurosnob, just that the sport is different, and as such is experienced in a different way. (This applies to MLS as well) I do not want to know the scores of a match to be shown later in the day.

    • Grant says:

      As the Gaffer has conceded, this is not an issue for 95% of ESPN games. They are mostly shown early on Saturday before any other game has started, or on Monday when all the other games have already happened. This simply isn’t much of an issue, and it certainly isn’t worth whining about every three weeks for the last few months like this blog has done.

  7. TheLaffer says:

    Who the heck watches delayed games? Yuk. I’ve been a diehard sports fan my whole life and have missed huge games. I would NEVER watch a game delayed. It’s either live or nothing.

    • masterblaster says:

      A lot of people watch delayed games, friend. Even with ESPN, Setanta and Setanta Xtra, and FSC…they can usually only show 4-5 games live, while the other 2-3 games can only be shown on delay. If Aston Villa is being shown on delay, I will surely watch this game later on if it’s live.

      Secondly, I’ve stated before that if games are played in the States at 2pm or 3pm, many people are at work and cannot watch the games. Thus, it makes perfect sense to record the game and watch it upon getting home as if it just started. What has happened to me before is that after work we went out to dinner and planned to watch a recorded game when we got home, only to look up at a TV in the restaurant and ESPN showed the final result on the scroll.

      Then the Champions League games like the Round of 16 coming up, where some games are shown live and the others are shown on delay immediately following the current match. Only ESPN would show the updated scores for those games they are showing an hour later! My strategy was to line up DVD cases along the bottom of the screen and stand them up to block ESPN’s ticker.

      • masterblaster says:

        that should have read “If Aston Villa is being shown on delay, I will surely watch this game later on AS IF it’s live.”

  8. Elliott says:

    I agree that due to a low number of goals, a good portion of the excitement is not knowing how many will be scored.

    I have a wood contraption to cover the bottom part of the tely to block ESPN’s spoilers

  9. mike says:

    I always just get a piece of paper, the darker the better, put some scotch tape on the top, and cover up the bottom ticker, it takes a minute to do and prevents your eyes from wandering to the bottom and ruining your day of taking in taped games.

  10. HaggsTheRed says:

    Wow, this was a very narrow-mindedly written column. I’ll watch somewhere between one to five live matches any given weekend. If there is a match I really want to watch (i.e. the club I’ve supported since my grandfather told me as a child to support or become homeless) and I will not be able to catch it live, it is my fault if the match is ruined by knowing the score.

    I want to know what is happening elsewhere in the league as it happens. I want to know what is happening, because if the match I am watching is “over” (say, 3-0, or 4-0 at half) I want to be able to choose if I want to watch the rest of that match or switch over to see Liverpool losing again to a side in the drop zone. I also want to know what is happening and how it will be effecting the table in real time, especially when it gets down to the end of the season and league titles are on the line.

    What did the Gaffer miss? ESPN predominantly has matches during time slots where there are no other live matches. Therefor the ability for them to “ruin” a match is non-existent, unless there is not a noontime kick-off. What about Setanta’s live goal updates during matches? Does that bother you all too?

    • TheLaffer says:

      Exactly. It’s nothing more than people wanting to complain and specifically complain about ESPN and how they “don’t understand soccer”.

    • The Gaffer says:

      Haggs, the reality is that soccer fans experience games in different ways. Some watch everything live and channel flip, but the most will tape all of the games and then will pick and choose which ones they’ll watch. The ESPN BottomLine Ticker ruins the latter option.

      Like I said, the problem isn’t as bad as it could be right now. But with ESPN very likely to acquire more rights to the Premier League in the United States, the problem is going to get much worse.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • HaggsTheRed says:

        Gaffer,

        You assumption, incorrect as it may be, that the latter way of watching the beautiful game is the correct or “better” way to experience the game.

        Couple that with ESPN reporting on all sports with their BottomeLine, including football, creates a problem. Hmm, I always thought it was important for a company to do what they are suppose to do, or what they market themselves as. But I guess you are saying that is not the case, maybe pubs should stop selling beer and start selling soft-served ice cream.

        At the heart, ESPN is a cable-network equivalent to a real-time sports section from the daily newspaper. It is at their heart to report scores, match/game reports, and provide commentary and opinions.

        • The Gaffer says:

          Haggs, in previous articles and tons of comments on this site, we’ve ascertained that many soccer fans will watch Fox Soccer Channel games first before watching Setanta Sports games because Setanta’s broadcast features spoilers (latest results of other games).

          When ESPN2 has shown 10am ET games at the same time as FSC and Setanta shows games, many soccer fans will watch the FSC game first and then either the Setanta or ESPN2 game – because the ESPN2 game runs the scores across the ticker.

          It’s in ESPN’s best interest not to show the scores along the ticker if they want to increase their ratings. I don’t think soccer fans are NOT going to watch ESPN2 because the ticker was removed.

          Cheers,
          The Gaffer

          • Grant says:

            I think the bigger issue, Gaffer, is that you are blabbering on and on and on about ESPN’s ticker, which isn’t hard to keep your eyes off of, and you’ve yet to make one post about Setanta’s updates which include a tone to let you know that a goal has been scored. To make matters worse, Setanta’s bug shows the updated scores right under the scoreboard bug on the screen for the match you’re watching.

            To Americans, it appears that you’re only interested in ragging on an American broadcaster.

      • sucka99 says:

        why do you say they’re more likely to acquire more EPL matches? the ones they have don’t get above a .4 rating. And will they care about the EPL with no world cup to promote in 2011?

        • The Gaffer says:

          Fox Soccer Channel has the rights to the Premier League in the US for 2010-2013 but they haven’t announced yet who will be sublicensing some of the games away from them. Fox can’t afford to own them all and don’t have the number of channels necessary to show most games. So ESPN and Setanta will divvy up the rest. It’s my understanding that ESPN will show more games in 2010-2013 than they are in 2009-2010.

          As for TV ratings, this summer’s World Cup is going to be the highest rated World Cup ever for ESPN. The Premier League will begin soon after the World Cup ends and will be the perfect vehicle to continue promoting the sport and selling advertising space. The Premier League TV rating will grow significantly in 2010-2011 and beyond.

          Cheers,
          The Gaffer

          • sucka99 says:

            especially if Setanta NA isn’t around, I suspect. But what makes you think that DirecTV wouldn’t want to throw their hat in the ring like they did for Champions League and Europa League. I don’t think it’s a slam dunk that ESPN/ESPN2 shows the Prem next season. And why do you think it’ll be the highest rated world cup? just because of ESPN promotion? What if the US goes out in 3 games or gets embarrassed by England? I think ESPN deals in economic realities first, second and third and passion fourth. If there’s a business model to support it, they’ll show the games.

    • masterblaster says:

      Yes, most of us who don’t like ESPN’s ticker also can’t stand Setanta’s live updates either. That’s been covered before here as well.

      How would this be narrow-minded? It’s an opinion. One that many are agreeing with.

      In an age where the Internet is available for scores and updates, it at least gives the viewer a choice…so if you want live updates you can get them but I can avoid them if possible.

      • The Gaffer says:

        Grant, I’ve written about Setanta in the past before and complained about their live flash score updates. However, they have a much smaller audience than ESPN. And Setanta could get rid of the flash score updates and provide you with the TWI broadcast instead of the Setanta Ireland feed, but you wouldn’t get the pre-game, half-time or post-match analysis from Paul Dempsey and Pat Dolan.

        My opinion about ESPN’s ticker has nothing to do with wanting to rag on an American broadcaster. Far from it.

        Cheers,
        The Gaffer

  11. DZ says:

    We have a group that gets together to watch futbol once a week. Since we are in the US and a quarter of a day behind Europe, rarely is any of it live. We have resorted to the infamous tape/paper over the bottom of the screen method, but when the shiny new HD TV comes in, I can’t see a piece of paper and tape on it. ESPN, it’s as simple as not showing any results on the ticker for futbol, please. PLEASE.

  12. Ivan says:

    I hope ESPN reps are reading this blog so that they get a hint! No more ticker during Premier League or any other soccer games!
    I DO NOT care how the Crocodiles and the Vagabonds are doing in the northeastern division of flip cup, or whatever ludicrous game they are trying to forcefeed onto Billy Bob!
    And, as already stated, these days we have DVRs and the internet, so some of us are taping games, and don’t want to know the score in advance. Come on, it’s the XXI century! Get a hint, ESPN! No more ticker during soccer games!

  13. Grant says:

    Gaffer,

    I’m getting sick of this kind of whining.

    Don’t get me wrong, I really like your site, and I have visited it multiple times daily since I found it a few months ago.

    I’m not coming back if there’s another story about the bottom line.

    You readily concede that this isn’t an issue 95% of the time with ESPN broadcasts games, and there couldn’t have been anything this weekend that got you riled up, as ESPN didn’t cover any FA Cup matches this weekend.

    This means that you have two or three of these articles a month qued up and ready to go no matter what happens. I for one will be very happy that ESPN is showing every game live and in HD as well as with commentary from Martin Tyler on the most important matches.

    It’s really not such a big deal not to look at the ticker. If you say that football forces you to concentrate on the match for 90 minutes, then pay attention to what’s happening on the field and ignore the damn ticker.

    And if ESPN is sending you Group of Death boxes and whatnot, then get on the horn to them and let them know that this bothers you. That’s what World Soccer Daily did several years ago when the bottom line was ruining Champions League games. They will listen to you, but you have to do more than whine about it.

    • The Gaffer says:

      Grant, sorry if it comes across as whining but all I’m doing is sharing my opinion and trying to improve the viewing experience for soccer fans in this country.

      Yes, there were no games on ESPN this past weekend, but the article came out of watching my brother-in-laws watching NFL games which made me think about the NFL vs EPL experience on US television.

      Sorry, Grant, but I can tell you now that there will be at least one more story about the BottomLine Ticker – when ESPN decides whether to use it or not in the World Cup, and I report that news.

      As for the other comments you made:

      “It’s really not such a big deal not to look at the ticker. If you say that football forces you to concentrate on the match for 90 minutes, then pay attention to what’s happening on the field and ignore the damn ticker.”

      – that’s precisely the problem. it’s almost impossible to watch the match and not see the scores running across the ticker. Try it the next time it happens and tell me you’re able to pay 100% of your attention to the game and 0% to the ticker.

      “And if ESPN is sending you Group of Death boxes and whatnot, then get on the horn to them and let them know that this bothers you.”

      - I’ve been in contact about them about it, and they read the articles on this site and read the comments from the readers, which is another reason I wrote this article to see if other people out there agree with me or not (so ESPN can hear their voices).

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • Grant says:

        Gaffer,

        I’m able to ignore the ticker all the time. Unless I’m looking for a specific story or score, I just watch the game (or whatever I’m watching on a news or sports channel) without any problem whatsoever.

        I agree with you that if you are unable to do this, the bottom line would present a problem. But the problem is mitigated 95% of the time, so the amount of time and space you devote to this issue every few weeks is completely disproportionate to how serious this issue actually is.

        Simply put, its not that big an issue, and this is the fourth or fifth post you’ve made about it in the last few months.

  14. Steve A says:

    I said this before on a different post, but it also applies here. A couple of weeks ago, the bottomline ticker came up on the early game. It scrolled through all the upcoming EPL matches, which was fine because none had started. However, they had every match starting at 10 AM EST, except for the 12:30 Arsenal/Hull match. Yet, 3 of the matches were on Sunday, and 1 (Wigan/Bolton, which was postponed) was supposed to be on ESPN on Monday! Please give me a reason for doing that. Someone there really doesn’t understand.

    In ESPN’s mild defense, the bottomline ticker has rendered their programming useless for a while now. A favorite of mine is when the anchors on Sportscenter are trying to build up suspense on the result of a game for which they’re showing the highlights. They’re almost to the point where they’re going to reveal who wins, and the ticker shows the result. FAIL!

  15. Brian says:

    The sports ticker is something that has exploded on just about every sports channel. ESPN started it all when they debuted ESPN2, where it had the moniker “The Bottom Line.” Only ESPN2 had the ticker as it was no where to be found on any ESPN program. The only thing ESPN would do would run a score update twice an hour.

    One thing that contributes to the overuse of the ticker, is that, we as consumers of American sports (baseball, football, basketball, et al) want to know the scores of games at all times so that we can flip to them and watch them. There are a ton of sports packages available to watch many games at the same time (NFL Sunday Ticket and MLB Extra Innings are two examples), so we like to change the channel to see what is going on in that game and then flip back to another one. In a game with lots of starts and stops, this is very easy to do.

    For soccer (aka football), this is something that one cannot do if they want to get full enjoyment out of a game. During the Confederations Cup this past summer, I was flipping between USA-Egypt and Italy-Brazil on the final match day, and it was near impossible to enjoy either game. Yes, it was my own fault for trying, but as I found out, it wasn’t a great idea.

    The problem with the ticker becomes apparent because of how we watch games from England and Europe here in the USA. Because of the time difference, many games are on in the morning and afternoon, and we have to DVR them, so we can watch later. This problem is magnified since we want to watch more than one game that could be on a 10AM on a Saturday or 2:30pm on a weekday. We are acting just like most consumers of soccer, we want to watch as many matches as possible. But unlike, football or baseball, we DON’T flip between games. This is the subtle difference that I don’t think ESPN has picked up on yet.

    In defense of ESPN, when a game is over I have no problem with them posting the score on a ticker, because the game is over. When a game is over, people who didn’t watch it want to know what the score was. If you don’t want to know what the score was, then don’t turn on ESPN or look the score up on the internet. I have done this before and it seems to work pretty well if you have the necessary self control and discipline to do it.

    However, I think the larger point is, why on earth is there a ticker at the bottom of the screen while a live game is going on? Personally, I think it takes away from watching the game because there is a distracting element in there with it. If you watched ESPN Monday Night Football (ie the NFL), you would notice they had no ticker during those broadcasts. The same was true of the Rose Bowl on Friday. It was so much better.

    Unless we as viewers of soccer start writing and making our feelings know to those at ESPN or Setanta or FSC, they will continue to do what they are doing. When we spend all of our energy complaining on blogs like this one in the comments section, instead of writing to the content providers, all of our sound and furry will not change the status quo.

  16. One of the best things about football is when you don’t know the scores of any of the games that have been played and you watch the highlights at night on match of the day, its brilliant if you can avoid knowing results!

  17. Rich says:

    Gaffer,

    Unless you know for certain that people at ESPN read this blog, why don’t you write or call them instead of continually irritating your readers with these wasteful posts about BottomLine tickers and score updates and tv ratings.

  18. James says:

    With AT@T Uverse, they have a zoom feature, I set the zoom to the 2nd setting and this removes the bottom ticker and I can enjoy the game without fear of seeing a score which allows me to enjoy the games I recored as well.

  19. boringarsenal says:

    Gaffer, ESPN has always suffered from attention-deficit syndrome; the annoying ticker, the endless ‘whoosh’ graphics zooming across the screen. All of this busyness was created to fill in the endless dead time that is inherent in American sports. All the so-called big four (baseball, football, basketball and hockey), have made a Faustian bargain with television; endlessly dragging out games with capricious stoppages for commercials, and more ‘whoosh’ and noisy effects, all of this is to compensate for the lack of any real action on the field.
    I agree that that the bottom ticker is annoying, but the blinking ads that FSC runs throughout it’s football matches is even more annoying, and frankly a wee bit tacky. I’ve preferred Setanta’s ‘pure’ feed to FSC’s cheap ads; no flashing adverts, thank you.

    • The Gaffer says:

      BoringArsenal, good point about the Fox ads on the bottom of the screen. But I find those easier to ignore and they’re pretty harmless. Sure, my eye seems them but I know they’re not going to run latest scores across the bottom and ruin my experience.

      Some of you may remember that Fox ran a ticker at the beginning of the Premier League season a few years ago and it was a disaster. They quickly removed it, thank god.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

    • Grant says:

      Your take on American sports is, quite simply, ridiculous, and it shows just how little you know about which you speak. Everything you just said is the same as the dumb American fans who talk about how “boring” soccer is, what with its low scoring and all. If you don’t like it when they do it to the sport you like, don’t do it about the sports they like. What, your mum never told you two wrongs don’t make a right?

      More to the point, American sports are full of action. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t have millions of fans. There’s also no reason to call them the “so-called” big four, as they are clearly the most dominant sports in the U.S. I’ll give you that there are more stoppages and TV timeouts, but, just FYI, hockey doesn’t even them; just three periods with TV commercials between just like footy.

      As for FSC’s ads, I agree that they’re tacky, but they bring in revenue, so if you want to watch more games in HD on FSC and ESPN, I would get yourself in the headspace of dealing with them, because there are only going to be more of them from here on out.

  20. Marc says:

    As I do not get Setanta or FSC, I like having the ticker so I know what is going on in the games I can’t see. Sure I could check them on the computer, but that would require leaving the room and missing a good portion of the only games I can see…Also feel this is more a lack of self-control problem on the viewers’ parts than ESPN’s problem. Simple ignore it if you don’t want to know.

  21. robert says:

    amen brother! if i want up-to-date info on games at that very second, i’ll go to the internet. the last thing i want is that ticker giving me info i don’t want or need, and yes, sometimes even wrecking a viewing experience because i had a game on dvr that it just gave me the score to.

    argh.

  22. HDSports says:

    During the EPL matches, ESPN2 only brings up the ticker every 15-20 minutes or so, and I can avoid seeing other scores. The lighted dots on the lefthand side allows you to tell when it is safe to look at the entire scrren again. However, the ticker is constant on ESPN Deportes and their ticker is mostly soccer scores, so I find myself not watching Deportes. I fhtere is a must watch match, I goon my computer to watch it on ESPN360 instead.

    However, the biggest offender are the EPL games on Setanta when they are simulcasting the Setanta Ireland feed. These games are Saturday at 10 am (ET) , and every time a goal is scored in the half dozen matches going on at the time, they will pop up a “Flash Goal” message with the updated scoring below the time/score box on the left side of the screen. Unlike ESPN2′s intermittant ticker, these messages are hard to avoid. Perhaps this is acceptable in Ireland, where I belive it is the only match being telecast for that time period, but here it ruins not only the game on FSC (and possibly on ESPN2), but also ruins the three or four other matches shown on same-day delay.

  23. sucka99 says:

    As a fan of the NFL as well as Euro soccer, I have to say that the characterization of NFL games being made for channel flipping or that scores are more predictable is a bit off. Big plays happen in the NFL unpredictably just as they do in soccer and set piece scoring opportunities are almost as predictable scoring situations as red zone opportunities.

    Since historically I was an NFL fan first, I will admit that the presentation of soccer over the years has me more and more upset with the broadcast of American football – even cursing the frequent commercial breaks that you know are coming on change of possessions or timeouts especially early in the game. And I admit trying to watch one game live while watching a recording of another one simultaneously for viewing later is a near impossibility. But why this particularly annoys followers of the beautiful game here, I figure, is just due to the historical nature of how supporters followed European leagues – what with people watching tapes of games days or even weeks later. I don’t suspect it’s quite that way overseas – with the previous example of Setanta’s goal flashes. And doesn’t RAI show video of all the goals for their Sunday CET3pm broadcast?

    Either way, the predisposition for statistics/numbers/fantasy football in American sport, the frequent commercials and the availability of games here is almost certainly going to clash with that for the beautiful game. So of course you’ll have 1-size-fits-all broadcasters like ESPN playing their 1 champions league broadcast of the day along with repeated ticker announcements that Bret Farve retired, or unretired, or that Alex Rodriguez was on steroids – over and over and over again. That’s ESPN’s deal. They’re getting better catering to the discerning soccer fan, but you’re not going to go to Burger King and expect a Big Mac.

    And it’s not only soccer fans who hate the bottom line. I’ve heard Fox Sports Radio’s Steve Czaban (far from a soccer fan) decry this and other ESPN “features” intruding on his ability to watch a game. So we’re not alone.

  24. Jose Hernandez says:

    Finally a topic that is bothering me so much. I love HD, and the 2010 World cup is going to be in HD in both ESPN & Univision, and guess which channel I will be tuning to.

    Yes, It will be Univision, because of the the lack of distraction on the screen. On American sports, baseball, football and bascketball, the info bar at the botton works, because all american sport games have a great deal of pauses, and after a couple of them, you may want to catch up on other news or scores. But,”Soccer” or Football, the game is none stop, and all it takes is a second for you to either miss a goal or an important play.

    ESPN Info bar at the bottom is their signature icon, and they are having an issue of changing their formula for success or maybe is just the way it is at ESPN.

    But thank god I have other options, and I am sure that Univision will do a great job by not distracting us from the real game.

  25. ju-ac says:

    I was just on Setanta Sports website and any mention of Premier League is gone, including TV listings. What’s up with that? Is Setanta US losing EPL rights or something?

    • ovalball says:

      Interesting. Other than the two Carling Cup semis Tue. & Wed. Setanta-i is not showing any EPL matches on its Calendar screen. Sometimes they’re just slow to post. We’ll see.

  26. Brett says:

    On Saturday in the normal 10am timeslot they have a Championship match between Chrystal Palace and Brystol City instead of their normal EPL match. In this case it would be Arsenal vs Everton.

    If their Premier League sublicensing contract with Fox ended with the end of 2009, the who will be showing those games? And if Setanta doens’t have the EPL anymore, I’ll be cancelling it immidiately.

    • Brett says:

      This is just a thought and I have no information to support this but could ESPN have bought Setanta’s EPL matches? With college football season over ESPN could be searching for something to fill the rest of the morning and early afternoon timeslots.

      • Jay A. says:

        That’s what I was wondering, too, but I just watched the Setanta commercials from yesterday and they definitely said that for 2010
        “the Barclays Premier League continues as the season passes halfway.” But must be something going on because their website no longer lists EPL as one of the sports they offer.

      • sucka99 says:

        espn has college basketball

  27. Ivan says:

    Gaffer:
    What’s the word on Setanta and Premier League games? They simply disappeared from their schedule. If no Premier League on Setanta, I will be cancelling immediately (unless they drop the monthly fee to $1.99).

  28. TheLaffer says:

    Why do soccer fans think they’re different? I hate when people think because they watch soccer they’re somehow different than other sports fans. There’s plenty of people that are into other sports just as much as you are into soccer. It’s no different. The only difference is soccer fans in this country have this inferiority complex.

    They do it for every other sport and there’s a minority out there for those sports where people whine just like you. Stop making this a “ESPN doesn’t understand soccer fans, we’re different” issue.

    • sucka99 says:

      but soccer fans are different. so is every other sport that doesn’t (or didn’t) get much of a run in the US. Think ESPN would cover cricket the right way initially? especially to the satisfaction of those used to coverage from other countries?

    • Grant says:

      I agree with you mostly, but this issue of having to watch taped or delayed games comes from not having many outlets for the sport and the different volume of matches.

      There are simply so many more soccer games every weekend, due to the number of leagues people care about. From the Premier League, Serie A, and La Liga to Major League Soccer, the Scottish Premier League, and the Primera Division de Mexico, there are just too many games to watch live.

      Plus, soccer is the only major sport in the U.S. (that I know of) where games are even shown on tape delay. If you’re a Browns fan and the Browns game is not being shown in your area, you’re not ever going to see it, so you want to know how the game is going at all times while you watch the next most important game. Same goes for all the American sports. Soccer’s not like that, at least in this country. I might be wrong, but in the U.K. I don’t think Sky Sports shows repeats of Premier League games after they’ve happened, just like ESPN doesn’t usually show repeats of games (unless they’re rebroadcasting a game once on the same night for the graveyard shift crowd, which I have seen a few times).

      Part of it is that soccer is such a niche sport in this country (so soccer channels have to fill their hours with repeats of games), part of it is the time difference, and part of it is the number of games.

      My beef with the Gaffer on this issue is simply how much time and space he has devoted to this, in my opinion, relatively minor issue.

      • Grant says:

        The only other thing I was going to say was that I wouldn’t be suprised if, now that DVRs are widespread, there were people taping and watching American sports. I would think that this issue will have more to do with the future of the bottom line during live events. Obviously on things like SportsCenter it’s a non-issue.

  29. nog@aol.com says:

    Uh oh. Or maybe this is good, we’ll have to see. But Setanta has removed both Premier League games that were to be shown after the Carling Cup semifinals over the next two days and have replaced this weekend’s games with Championship games. Plus, there is no sign of the Premier League being covered by Setanta anymore.

    Perhaps Setanta should let us know about this, eh?

  30. vermaelen5 says:

    Right on guys. This drives me CRAZY!

  31. Brian says:

    Maybe because I am an American and dont know better, but I like the ticker during live games. When I am watching my team play, I would like to see what my rivals are doing at the same time. It adds more perspective to the game.

    The comparison to American football about the ticker doesn’t make sense. If people know the scores ahead of time in American football, they would be less willing to watch a replay of the match too. There is more anticipation for the build up of big plays in American football, but the results are just as unpredictable and exciting. It has nothing to do with the way the game is structured.

    The issue is more just about people who watch delayed games than concerning a specific sport.

    • Grant says:

      I generally agree with you, but the lower scoring nature of soccer means that this is a bigger deal in that sport than others.

  32. Robert says:

    Delayed games! com’on! What else do you have to avoid to not find out scores? Wake up early if you live in the states and watch the games live. You my friend are what we call a Football Geek.

    • Grant says:

      If you knew anything at all, which I’d honestly be suprised to learn, you’d know that there are a number of games each weekend that are only shown on tape delay. This means that they are going on while the other matches are being played, but aren’t shown on TV until afterwords.

      My issue with the Gaffer, is that for the ESPN games, this is rarely a problem, since they mostly show the early games on Saturday or the Monday games, which are almost always the only games played at the time. This means that the issue is moot, despite the 5th or so time this has been brought up.

  33. Gedo says:

    To me, the bottom line is that if the team you support is tape-delayed and you choose to watch another match that is on, you shouldn’t have to go through the shenanigans of trying to “not to look at the ticker” or taping paper to the television. So now, I don’t watch any other games that are on if my team is tape-delayed (a rarity I admit). Just my preference but then I don’t watch any other games which is not what the networks want. Then again, if they get rid of the ticker the announcer can simply say “Fabregas has just put Arsenal ahead at Bolton” and I’d be pissed. There is more of a risk of this happening during the CL matches, in my experience…although they generally don’t say a word until halftime with a word of caution that their going to show highlights of another match. A tough situation (relatively speaking) to resolve.

    I do agree that watching Soccer is a different experience and I rarely, if ever, flip the channel to another match unless a player has gotten cleated in the face and the strecher is out. Not a Eurosnob or a insecure soccer fan, here…I live in Chicago, Illinois, USA and watch all US sports adamantly (with a lot of channel surfing in-between).

    Gedo

  34. steve says:

    My favorite was the champions league coverage on ESPN (5pm ET delayed broadcast), where they showed the final score of the game I was watching in the ticker! After that disaster, I taped a strip of paper on to my TV.

    I think they believe there are some fans that like to know all the scores as soon as possible, for instance the classic replay games on some channels that list the score in the program description.

    • Grant says:

      Yeah that was bad, but people called in from World Soccer Daily and got that sorted out. Less of an issue now, though, as ESPN doesn’t even have the rights anymore.

  35. dlink09 says:

    for f**ks sake Americans are used to bottom line.. who gives a shit about how it is watched in UK or Europe.. if you don’t want to watch it in USA then hop on a plane and get across the pond mate..

    • ovalball says:

      Have you not read all the posts? This is about how we Americans watch soccer, not the Brits.

      At any rate, it is a decent topic for discussion. No reason to get your shorts in a knot.

  36. dlink09 says:

    most of the americans don’t give a shit about football.. most of these whining fans are expats or wanna be’s..

  37. Mike says:

    This is an american tv station broadcasting to american audiance. It’s not specific to Br. expats. Stop whiningggggggggggg.

    ESPN programming is not about Brit. expacts who like their soccer a certain ways!

  38. Jason says:

    Greetings Gaffer.

    First off let me say this: I’m not a Euro snob nor am I a British Ex-Pat. I am an American who has played/watched soccer most of my life.

    With that being said, I will agree with you about the crawler (the technical term for the score updates at the bottom of the screen) — I really don’t care for it. With that being said though, I would almost gladly keep the crawler for a solution for the following: The score posted continually during the game and plugs for other shows coming back from a halftime intermission but during the game you are watching (not a separate/actual commercial).

    Why does ESPN/ABC feel the need to keep the score posted at all times let alone make it so damn big w/other extemporaneous information appearing from it? Have you ever noticed that with that it will end up covering some part of the action or player during a close-up shot? Why is it that the Mexican broadcasts (Univision, et al) understand this and can present the score on occasion in nice “flashy” eye-catching ways (flag graphics in center circle w/the score in them or similar towards the bottom of the screen for a few moments)?

    I understand why ESPN/ABC do it — they are/have shaped their soccer broadcasts for those who know nothing/very little about the sport in hopes of increasing viewership. To this I ask that they stop. Please stop treating your viewing audience like a bunch of uneducated school children who know nothing to very little about the sport of football you lovingly refer to as soccer. Instead, to increase viewership, work on capturing the games beauty and passion by focusing on its simplicity rather than trying to keep the viewers “entertained” and their A.D.D. at bay with useless graphics that ruin the product.

    With that being said, I don’t feel there is a sport more simple/beautiful than that of the game of soccer; (a ball, shirt, shorts, socks, shin-guards and cleats — go!) yet I also enjoy great production value that can be placed into pre-game, halftime and post-game show as well as the color-commentators for the game.

    I only hope with the coming of the 2010 World Cup that ESPN/ABC will do the beautiful game justice and give it its due respect by hiring commentators that know the game and don’t clutter its airing with useless graphics and crawlers. Keep it simple like the game and don’t talk down/dumb down your product for your viewers.

    To sum it up, I will use a line from Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come.” ESPN/ABC if you present a beautiful product w/o cluttering it up with crawlers that display extemporaneous information, a constant score board that seems to take 1/4 of the screen and instead rather, focus on giving us only the information required for the match at hand during said match — your viewers will come in droves. The casual American soccer viewer is not a dolt — they will get it. They will follow it. They will understand it and they will love the sport. Keep it simple.

  39. Ben says:

    “With soccer, … you never know when and where a goal is coming from.”

    This, precisely, is the second-biggest problem with the game of soccer. The biggest problem with soccer is that in too many games nobody ever actually scores.

    Before you accuse me of being a stupid American, let me say that I’ve tried many times over many years to like soccer, and when I find it on TV I’ll even watch for a while just to make sure my opinion hasn’t changed. I’ve even dated two soccer players. After all this, I honestly can’t imagine how it’s the world’s most popular game except to guess that there might not be much of a choice in many places.

    Soccer would be a lot better if it were more like basketball. Indoor soccer is a step in the right direction, with the smaller field and fewer players, but I’d go a step further and take away the goalies. As it is, soccer is just a lot of chaotic running that more often than not goes nowhere. Even basketball usually isn’t that interesting until the fourth quarter.

    The reason baseball and football are superior—besides the fact that someone is definitely going to score during the course of the game—is that they deliver so much anticipation. You say that they’re predictable, which is true, but the other side of the coin is that there are no guarantees. For example, say it’s late in the game and your team is down by a run. You get a man on third with less than two outs. Easy score, right? Well, maybe, maybe not. Maybe there’s a wild pitch and your guy barely beats the tag. Or maybe their pitcher gets a clutch strikeout and escapes the inning. In football, say it’s first-and-goal, and the other team has the ball, but your team is able to put up a goal-line stand. In all these situations, your stomach is in your throat the entire time.

    Like a good story, sports needs an ebb and flow. You need to be able to see what’s coming, so that when it doesn’t, the impact is that much greater.

  40. The Gaffer says:

    Ben, when you get a chance, read this article from The Wall Street Journal at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704281204575002852055561406.html The cliff notes version is that American football games, even though they drag on for 3-4 hours, have only 11 minutes of action where the ball is in play. Compare that with soccer where you have 90 minutes and you’ll quickly see which is the more entertaining sport.

    Cheers,
    The Gaffer

  41. Chuck says:

    I disagree with you’re perception of American NFL viewers based on your brother-in-laws. Like most fans, I have my team and I religiously watch every second of their games whenever I can. I also record every other game I can and end up with pieces of tape on my TV screen so avoid seeing any of the tickers/scores. Then you have to watch out for them “checking in” with the broadcasters from the other NFL games that show the big plays so I have to watch NFL like a paranoid person with my finger on the mute button whenever I hear a “check in” about to happen.

    Big plays can happen at any time in a game, could be the opening kickoff that is the difference or it could be a 99 yard run for a touchdown, you never know. There are true fans and then there are people that flip through channels and I bet there are people who flip through soccer games in the same fashion hoping to land on something exciting.

    • The Gaffer says:

      Chuck, thanks for the insight. For me, how I see my brother-in-laws watch NFL is the only frame I see, so it’s good to know that there are diehard NFL fans who watch entire games instead of flipping through channels like my relatives do.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  42. Cricketlover says:

    ESPN Deportes also does the same thing and what’s worse is that in the studio they will not give the score to a match they have scheduled on delay but will give the score on the ticker before the match is shown and it also shows up while the match is being shown. Talk about stupidity. This happens all the time with their Bundesliga and Dutch coverage. I wonder if ESPN knows how dumb they are.

    • plbb11 says:

      In the free market economy that defines the USA and determines its financial health (as well as a good bit of the rest of the world), you sell what you have when you have it. That includes real-time info like sports scores.

  43. SoccerLimey says:

    Couldn’t agree more with the post. Annoying in its utmost which is surprising because ESPN and FOX do work together in promoting each others games. Has anyone bothered to tell them ?

    The main issue is that the average American sports fan lives in the moment. It’s all about “the play”. Their major sports are structured around TV commercials which allows the couch potato fan to play with his remote all day.

    As an ex-pat, I can’t criticize too much because I do it myself.

  44. Pissed with ESPN says:

    ESPN are bad news for footy. They create entire shows around SPOILERS!

    It wouldn’t be so bad but ESPN has no interest in screening the games they give spoiler information out for and the games on other networks

    ESPN need a smack

  45. Inga says:

    I am an American currently watching the Australian Open on ESPN. For the last three marches ESPN has put the final score and the name of the winner on the ticker from the march that already happened but that is currently being broadcast.

    i hate this. If you need to know all results at all times turn on your Blackberry, iPad, cell phine, lap top.

  46. steven h says:

    Stop bitchin about espn. soccer is irelevant to 90% of americans and it should stay that way! watch a real sport…nfl, mlb, nhl

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