What is it about the Premier League which makes it so much more exciting than other leagues? And what is it about those Premier League broadcasts on ESPN that make them more exciting than similar matches on Fox Soccer Channel?
For ESPN, maybe it’s the fact that the games are shown in HD (I’m still annoyed that my local cable provider, Comcast, hasn’t made Fox Soccer Channel HD available in my area)? But besides from the HD aspect, there are a few other reasons why I believe their broadcasts of the Premier League are more exciting than on Fox. Here’s why:
- ESPN features their own commentators. You would think that this wouldn’t make much of a difference. A commentator is a commentator. But without a shadow of a doubt, ESPN commentators are more excitable than the typical TWI/IMG commentator we hear on the international feed for a Premier League match (which is what Fox Soccer Channel uses). Ian Darke is the best example. The man has so much excitement in his voice. You can tell that he really loves the sport and that he’s benefited from commentating boxing matches in the past. His delivery packs several punches. When shots go agonizingly wide or in the back of the net, you’re so much more excited because Darke is excited, too. Even Saturday, with Derek Rae stepping in for Darke, he has that passion running through his veins. With Rae, games feel like a matter of life and death. They’re that important and his commentary keeps you glued to the screen. As for the commentary on Fox, it all depends who you get. For the most part, it’s more of a traditional English commentary which can be too quiet and sedate at times.
- The crowd noises seem louder on ESPN. Maybe it’s me, but it seems that the crowd noises on Premier League matches shown on ESPN are much louder than Fox. I realize that the matches ESPN2 show are usually only the big matches of the weekend. But even when ESPN2 shows a 10am ET game on a Saturday, which is sometimes less intense than an early Saturday kickoff or a Monday evening match, the decibel levels seem much higher. Not only does the crowd noise sound better on ESPN, but there’s far fewer crackles and pops than what I experience when listening to a Premier League broadcast by Fox. Throughout the match, the volume seems to go up and down during spells as well as the annoying crackle and pop noises.
- The production value on ESPN is far better. The on-screen graphics, the music, the titles, the cohesion of the production… everything seems so much better on ESPN than Fox.
- There’s more build-up which adds to the excitement. ESPN does a better job of listening to its viewers and taking action. When viewers last season and this season mentioned that they loved the pre-match build-up, instead of being rushed into each broadcast, ESPN has been giving us more and more features such as pre-match interviews and shots of the players in the tunnel. Fox Soccer Channel, meanwhile, seems like they have no clue at times. In the build-up to the Newcastle United against Liverpool match, everyone wanted to hear what the crowd’s reaction was when Alan Pardew walked out on to the pitch. Fox didn’t show it. Instead, they had Nick Webster rambling on and on about the team line-up that only minutes earlier Christian Miles and Warren Barton had told us all about.
- Each episode seems so different. With ESPN, you never know what to expect with their Premier League broadcasts. Will we see Ian Darke and Macca live from the gantry at Anfield? Will we see Rebecca Lowe in studio in London giving us her thoughts? Will there be a half-time feature on Bolton’s hotel at the Reebok Stadium or the pies served at Villa Park? Will there be pre-match interviews with David Ginola, Sir Alex Ferguson or Gerard Houllier? And so on. With Fox, their Premier League broadcasts have been so predictable for years that they lack spontaneity and excitement. You can set your watch to exactly what will happen before the match, at half time and after the match is over.
- Having the cameras at the ground adds more excitement. It’s one thing having ESPN UK’s crew at the ground where the broadcast is being beamed from, but I’ve also enjoyed seeing the crowd shots that ESPN show before matches and during half time of just regular fans enjoying the game. It makes the broadcast seem more human and something you can relate to a personal basis. Bottom line, it’s a nice touch and it’s something that Fox can only do when the IMG/TWI cameras oblige.
What do you think? Is watching Premier League matches on US television on ESPN more exciting than Fox Soccer Channel? If so, are there more reasons why ESPN is more exciting other than those that I’ve listed above? Share your opinions in the comments section below.