Sunday’s battle between Chelsea and Manchester United is being promoted in FOX TV commercials as the “Greatest live Premier League match in US television history.” Unfortunately the advertising may irk some soccer fans in the United States who will be unable to watch the game live because their local FOX station has decided to show infomercials, local shows or religious programming instead.
Just like the Arsenal-Manchester United game shown by FOX on January 22, several FOX stations in large markets have decided to show the game on delay. The 17 who won’t be showing the game live are:
- WITI (Milwaukee) — Shown on delay at 12:30pm local time,
- WBRC (Birmingham) — Shown on delay beginning at Noon,
- WGXA (Macon) — Shown on delay starting at Noon,
- KPTM (Omaha) – Broadcast begins at 11:30am local time,
- WXXV (Biloxi) — Shown on delay at 3pm local time,
- WICZ (Binghamton) — Shown on delay at 11:30am ET,
- WTRF (Wheeling) — Shown on delay at 2:30pm.
- WFXR (Roanoke) — Shown at Noon,
- KHMT (Billings) — Shown at 10am,
- WVNS (Bluefield) — Shown at 2:30pm,
- WZDX (Huntsville) — Shown at 11am,
- WVFX (Clarksburg) — Shown at 2pm,
- WTIC (Hartford) — Shown at Noon,
- KNDX (Minot) — Delayed until Noon local time,
- KEVN (Rapid City) – Delayed until 10am local time,
- KWKT (Waco) — Delayed until 10am local time.
Programming subject to change. Check local listings.
UPDATE: WSVN will show the game live on its D2 sister station.
“We hope our affiliates always take network programming, especially live offerings, in-pattern, but the decision rests with them and sometimes depends on local programming obligations,” said a FOX Sports spokesperson. “The good news is that fewer affiliates are delaying this week’s match than on Jan. 22, so we’re moving in the right direction. We feel pretty good that game will be live in over 90% of the country, and delays, wherever they occur, aren’t expected to negatively impact the audience.”
“FOX Sports is committed to EPL, UEFA and the World Cup down the road more so than any other network and will continue look for and find more opportunities to run significant matches on FOX,” added the FOX Sports spokesman. “We’re looking at the glass as better than 90% full, and that’s a big step forward, but we won’t be happy until the glass is filled to the top and we’re 100% live from coast to coast.”
I’m sorry, but it’s absolutely ridiculous that a game, touted as “the greatest live Premier League match in US television history,” won’t even be shown live in many major US cities.
It’s vitally important that you contact your local FOX station and either voice your outrage (if your station isn’t showing the game) or voice your support (if the station is carrying it). Contact your FOX station by Twitter, Facebook, phone, e-mail or via a web-form.
Here’s the contact information for 17 of the FOX stations nationwide. Note that this list is far from complete. If yours isn’t listed, please post the contact information in the comments section below and let me know whether the game is being shown live or not. I’ll update the spreadsheet as I get more information from you, the readers.
Two more important points about this game:
1) I believe that advertising this game as “the greatest live Premier League match in US television history” is misguided. Why does FOX believe it’s going to be the greatest? Based on what? The coverage, or the actual game itself? While I hope it’s an entertaining match, Chelsea currently sits in fourth place, 12 points behind Manchester City and Manchester United who are joint top. Chelsea’s Premier League title race has long been over. If it’s not the game that will be the “greatest live Premier League match,” maybe it’s the coverage? But we have little to base that on other than the inclusion of Rob Stone and Piers Morgan, who both have their attributes but none that would make this game the greatest.
It’s pure over-exaggerated hype. It’s not even close to being the greatest game unless it ends up being a firecracker of a match, which — given Chelsea’s current form — I extremely doubt.
2) It’s time to question whether FOX’s strategy of showing select Premier League games live on the free-to-air network is wise. The jury will be out until the ratings come in for Chelsea against Manchester United, but based on the data we’ve seen so far, the best strategy for FOX would be to show all Premier League 11am ET games live on FOX Soccer in the morning, and then show select Premier League Super Sunday matches on delay in the mid-to-late afternoon hours. The best rating FOX received so far this season was the tape delayed broadcast of Chelsea against Liverpool, which was shown at 2:30pm or 4pm (preceding or following a NFL broadcast, depending on each local market).
Showing Premier League games live on the free-to-air FOX network creates several issues: (1) Local FOX stations have other programming which takes priority, (2) the time of the live game isn’t conducive to the highest ratings possible for Premier League matches, and (3) it infuriates soccer fans who are unable to watch live games in their local markets.
I believe that it’s important that FOX handles you, their core soccer audience, with care. You are the viewers who have been watching Premier League games on FOX Soccer for more than a decade. You are the soccer fans who have helped FOX Soccer grow into what it is today. Without you, FOX Soccer would not exist. FOX is at an important crossroads in their history where they are looking to attract the mainstream audience, which is where the money is at. However, FOX risks upsetting its core audience, i.e. you.
At the end of the day, all we want is to be able to watch Premier League games live. Having them available on tape delay is simply not good enough. In fact, if anything, it creates a situation where tape delayed games will force soccer fans to find illegal means of watching the game live, which is something that none of us want. If I have a choice of seeing a game live on FOX Soccer or seeing it live on FOX, I would have to choose FOX Soccer even though I realize it means that the sport (and league) may not grow as quickly as I would like in this country. It’s vital that soccer fans are not at the mercy of their local FOX station. With FOX Soccer, we can guarantee that if they say they’re going to show the game live, it’ll be on.
Nevertheless, I believe it’s of massive importance that each of you who live in the United States contacts your local FOX station and either thanks them for showing Sunday’s game live, or issues a complaint if they’re not showing it live. There’s no excuse why these stations should be showing the game on delay. And it’s important that they know that there is a vocal soccer audience out there who demands the best possible live viewing experience. Anything else is unacceptable.