Somewhere in the corridors of Fox Soccer Channel’s headquarters in Los Angeles, California, an executive or two must have wondered whether Fox should consider adopting ESPN’s approach to Saturday morning Premier League soccer. While Fox has continued its same proven formula for several years, ESPN raised the bar significantly this season by hiring pros Ian Darke, Steve McManaman and others to bring an English production exclusively to an American audience.
The consistency of Darke being the familiar voice each Saturday morning is comforting as well as the pre-match interviews with the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson, David Ginola, Gerard Houllier, Ray Parlour and others. Then you have the post-match wrap-up, the half-time segments with Rebecca Lowe and so much more. ESPN has really pulled out all the stops to bring a top-notch production to viewers in America. It’s almost as if this is the dress-rehearsal for when ESPN may one day in the future usurp the TV rights for the Premier League in the US away from Fox and back to Bristol, CT.
Meanwhile Fox is continuing to go through the motions and delivering the vast majority of Premier League games to America. The productions are predictable but reliable. There are very few frills. And we get to hear a range of commentators courtesy of who is behind the mic for that particular game courtesy of TWI in England.
But based on the success of ESPN’s new model this season, it makes you wonder if the execs at Fox are considering their own changes. Fox has already made the commitment to hire on-site talent such as Warren Barton, the former Newcastle and England international, and others such as Kyle Martino, Keith Costigan, Christian Miles and Christopher Sullivan. So for Fox to change its tactics and start hiring British talent to present its games live from England would be a massive U-turn.
Of course, Fox Soccer Channel and Sky Sports are owned by the same media giant. So it’s quite possible that Fox could strike a partnership deal with their colleagues in the United Kingdom, but I don’t see it happening. Unless, of course, ESPN’s TV ratings for the Premier League go through the roof and it makes economic sense for Fox to change its tactics to bring in more ad revenue dollars.
What do you think? Will Fox stay the course or should they consider adopting ESPN’s tactics of bringing an English production to an American audience? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.