FOX’s Americanization of the English Premier League

Most fans of the Premier League in the United States want the game to grow, and broadcasting games on a major network is a tremendous step forward. Unfortunately, this means soccer is jeopardizing one of the major areas where it breaks from every American sport. In a country where almost every televised game is sandwiched by balding men shouting declarative presumptions of questionable logic, where animated robots jump around 30-foot television screens flexing metal-muscles, we have to ask ourselves, is this the path we want the EPL to follow?

Soccer is a graceful and beautiful game to watch. For the most part, FOX Soccer’s coverage reflects that. They tend to have two people talking rationally (relatively speaking) before every game and briefly at half, otherwise letting the game absorb the majority of the spotlight. FOX Soccer tends not to make itself the center of attention, recognizing people watch for the game, not for the production.

All of this is in direct opposition to the broadcast of every other American sport. Pregame shows for the NFL and NBA are laden with grandiose former stars with opinions to match, massive digital screens to make the seven-foot analysts look human, and mind-bogglingly inane pre-filmed segments. During FOX’s most recent NFL-pregame show, the host interviewed two fictitious talking babies created by a company’s marketing department. Networks like TNT, FOX and ESPN want the pregame to be a spectacle in itself, at the expense of the game’s dignity.

FOX has already begun to follow this formula with soccer. If you think my fears of soccer broadcasts getting Americanized is farfetched, you needn’t look any further than Piers Morgan. By bringing in the “noted Twitter antagonist” as a third-wheel for the main FOX broadcast, the network is following the big personality-big declarations formula, and he didn’t disappoint in that regard. Aside from Piers, the network used the same theme music as the NFL broadcast, and consistently tried to market to the NFL crowd. Not only does this demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding about NFL audiences, but it shows FOX’s aspirations consist of applying the NFL broadcasting formula to the EPL.

First and foremost, we all love and appreciate the game of soccer. I have tremendous respect for the game, and want it to remain the central theme of each and every broadcast. I want the EPL to grow in the US, but I want it to lure people with its subtle complexity, beauty, and exuberance. I don’t want it diminished by big screens and shouting dolts.

All I ask is, when championing the growth of soccer in the US, be careful what you wish for. We might be getting it.

62 thoughts on “FOX’s Americanization of the English Premier League”

  1. First of all….enough with the posts about TV coverage, Fox, etc. More about the game!

    Solution…don’t watch the pre/post game coverage. Easy.

    1. FCAsheville, we’re going to be writing more about TV coverage moving forward and writing less about the actual games. There will still be some coverage and analysis regarding team-specific stories, but there are 100’s of websites with articles about the games themselves.

      The Gaffer

        1. I felt the need to post a second time….Gaffer are you serious? I’ve been viewing this site for some time now and I have to admit some of the coverage discussions aren’t bad but to say the direction you’re headed in is more about television coverage than the game itself is ridiculous to me. I’m sorry but if you decide to go that route you will lose traffic.

      1. That’s your decision of course. Just like I can choose to not watch pre/post game shows, I can choose to not visit this site. Sincerely, good luck to you if that’s direction you choose. I’m just not interested in reading analysis of the analysis.

        1. It’s not going to be just analysis of TV and Internet coverage. It’ll be much more than that. But we’ll be doing less match report-type stories and less editorials about why Arsenal is great/bad, etc.

          The Gaffer

  2. Ignore the idiot above. WRITE MORE ABOUT THE TV COVERAGE. I don’t have FOX Soccer but very nice of you to notice this garbage. If you sit back and ignore it, you’ll be surprised how quickly it becomes the norm. Better to chop it off at the root. Unfortunately, these are typical, gun toting, red blooded, Americans you are talking about. If it doesn’t have glitz and glamour, it won’t be noticed.

    1. Thanks Mark for the name calling. So I guess you are making phone calls and writing letters to express your opinions with Fox? I’m sure your commenting on the internet is doing a lot.

  3. I understand FCAsheville’s comment, but the fact is that studio coverage is tied up with the game and colors the enjoyment of it for most fans. Personally, I never watch NFL studio shows because they are simply inane. In-game coverage can also be taxing with mindless chatter or celebrity drop-ins in the booth. However, like Aaron, I hope for something better for soccer in the U.S.

    I dread the day we hear, “We’ll be right back,” during an injury or after a goal…..and don’t think some bright network mind hasn’t already brought up that possibility. I am none too anxious for soccer to become big time on network TV. Aaron’s warning about being careful what you wish for is well placed.

    1. The “we’ll be right” back brings back a lot of memories. Growing up in Asia back in the 1980s, one TV station that broadcasted the live coverage of the old first Division in the 1990s tried to do it: after the goal, immediately it switched to commercials and it received so many venomous comments LOL.

  4. I thought this blog was called “EPL Talk” not “EPL on TV Talk”? I’ve been reading the blog for a long time and I don’t understand the (relatively recent) preoccupation with how the game is covered on TV. It’s fine as an interesting sidebar to, you know, *actual discussion about the league, the sport, and its development in the USA*, it’s by no means the most important aspect of soccer in the USA.

    For example: I’m English by birth and I firmly believe that the USA will win a World Cup within my lifetime, simply because the coaching programs (especially at youth levels) and sheer volume of players here surpasses almost any established soccer power in the world. And US players in the EPL is a key part of that development. THAT’s a story worth tracking as a central part of this site, versus the vagaries of US TV soccer coverage.

    For what it’s worth, I really hope this site doesn’t become a locus for people’s complaints about US TV soccer coverage. There are many other more important topics regarding the EPL in the USA.

    All IMNSHO, of course.

    1. Dave, that’s not my intention. More will be revealed in the coming weeks, but TV coverage will be just part of it (the TV coverage has long been a part of EPL Talk since we began in 2005). In recent weeks, there has been a shift from fewer opinionated articles about teams/players, and more of a focus on the culture of experiencing the Premier League — book reviews, football stickers, video games, etc.

      The Gaffer

    2. …I firmly believe that the USA will win a World Cup within my lifetime…

      Wow! DaveC, you are a true optimist. Frankly, I don’t think it will ever happen, but I guess that’s a discussion for a different blogsite. 😉

  5. With Fox you have to take the good with the bad.

    The good is they are giving more people access to the game by showing matches on the main Fox channel (except for the dopes who show pillow commercials instead). The bad is, as you say, everything else involved with the nonsense of the pregame show.

    I haven’t watched a pregame NFL show in years, and that is actually one of the nice things about the 11 a.m. Sunday match on Fox Soccer; it ends just in time for the NFL kickoff at 1 p.m. and keeps me away from pregame shows.

    As long as they don’t monkey around with the 90+ minutes of actual game action, I can learn to deal/avoid with the rest.

    1. As long as they don’t monkey around with the 90+ minutes of actual game action, I can learn to deal/avoid with the rest.

      That is what concerns me and I don’t think it is far fetched.

      1. The introduction of this great game to new audiences will have some minor annoyances to some groups but not everyone.  I think some are over-reacting to what America can do to the English game.   Its not like we are taking over, we are just spectators.   One thing I noticed during the two network games which I think is a good sign: Martin Tyler didn’t say something cheesy like “welcome Fox Network in the USA” — he treated the game as he always does.   I am not worried about American studio shows impacting the reason I watch the 90+ minutes.   As for the rest of it, you take the good with the bad.  For all the over-exposure of American sports, there are elements of the EPL that are lacking, IMO –  such as the post game press conferences.   They don’t have to make a spectacle out of it, but I would like to hear what Robin Van Persie has to say within an hour of the game ending.  Right now I don’t see any post game interviews until much later that night.   I won’t make a big deal about this not changing — but this is the type of thing American TV will do.

  6. What Fox doesn’t understand is that Amercans who do watch European football enjoy it because it’s not Americanized and the broadcasts are all about the game. Since I’ve started watching EPL, La Liga, etc. I’ve been down on NFL coverage. I just don’t enjoy the game anymore because it’s all about the pregame, postgame, commercials, fantasy football. It’s all too much over the top. I enjoy watching European football because it’s less than 2 hours of my time and it’s all about the game.

    Maybe everyone is not like me but I’m thinking many are.

    1. On the money, Jeff. And I think folks should realize that this isn’t just a discussion about studio shows. Look what has happened to our actual NFL viewing experience. More commentators in the booth. More mindless drivel that has nothing to do with the game on the field. Don’t let any second go by silently. Yack, yack, yack. Coming to a broadcast soccer match soon? God forbid.

  7. If you don’t like the pre-game show, just don’t watch it.
    I never wasted my time on Fox pre-game shows, even for NFL – the pre-game for soccer is ridiculous: the Champions League was horrible.
    The robots: I can still accept them as I don’t think Fox has a special marketing / graphic design departments soccer events. Remember, this is their first season airing soccer on the network (not including last season’s UCL final)

    1. THIS.

      Why are many of you on are completely overreacting over PRE-game shows.. I’m not saying they are top notch and the greatest representation of the game ever, but they’re just that: PRE-game.. I think many of you are taking the whole coverage thing way too personally/seriously/etc. It’s the fact that the GAME itself is being broadcast, ultimately and undeniably this is all that matters.

      I don’t mean to belittle the concerns of others, I just think it’s unnecessary and is best to not look so deep into it. Those that aren’t deep into the game, as I wasn’t before 2009, WILL become true fans regardless of what type of coverage is on TV. If they’re meant to be fans, they will be. Coverage does not determine this.

  8. Here we go again. Gaf, I think FOX is doing good on their soccer coverage. Minus Piers, I think the pregame show has improved, and I think them throwing it to the SKY Feed instead of the International Feed is also good. But, I still can’t get some of the FOX affiliates who pre-empted the live soccer on big FOX!! Do they even know what a soccer ball is??

  9. Continue to discuss this topic. It has been painful for me to watch American broadcasts of soccer matches. The analysis is weak and I’ve also noticed that FOX is treating its soccer coverage like most other sports. They have an empty head announcer introduce the coverage and act as a “moderator”. Then there are the people brought in to give their analysis. One of them tends to be an antagonist. Someone who just says things because he thinks it will garner a reaction from everyone in the studio and the viewing audience.

    I’ve grown tired of this kind of pre-game/post-game coverage. That’s why I have stopped watching these bookends to the actual sporting event.

    When I have the chance, I find the Skysports feed online and listen to their pre/post-game coverage. There aren’t any screaming broadcasters and the analysis is to the point.

    The only issue I will have with FOX (or any other American broadcaster) concerning their coverage of EPL matches, is if they decide to go with an American commentating duo for the actual match. Luckily this hasn’t happened yet. I would prefer to hear Martin Tyler, Alan Smith, Efan Ekoku, and broadcasters of this sort. They understand how to let the match speak for itself. They don’t scream over the action. And (for the most part) their commentary is well thoughtout.

    1. “I’ve grown tired of this kind of pre-game/post-game coverage. That’s why I have stopped watching these bookends to the actual sporting event.”

      That’s a good and very logical thing to do.

      Again, Gaffer and others, it’s not like American coverage on Fox is an everyday occurrence. For those that hate even FSC’s coverage, which I don’t think is THAT bad, then you’re just straight out of luck. Watch streams of Sky Sports broadcasts is all I can say.

  10. I don’t think Fox’s coverage is Americanizing anything about the Premier League.

    In England, all fans do is criticize the BBC pundits of Shearer, Hansen and Lineker. Big names that say nothing isn’t unique to American coverage.

  11. It is what it is. Football doesn’t have widespread respect here in the states, as you know. And to be honest no one i know really cares about the coverage, we are happy to have it period. Don’t fight the beast, this is how it is with all mainstream sports here like baseball and american football. Why not make a new blog for this topic? EPL talk should be talk about the EPL. This site is good for analysis. It can’t compete with anything else when there are sites like caughtoffside and thedirtytackle for media and entertainment value so making these diversions is going to detract from this sites value.

  12. I’m mystified by those who would decry the shift to more TV-oriented coverage on EPL Talk. I would guess that very few of us in America watch Premier League games at the stadium. Therefore, TV is an integral part of our experience with the game. TV is a big, big part of the story for us.

    1. That’s a quite a leap Stacy. Of course we depend on TV to watch our games, regardless if we lived within walking distance to a stadium. This doesn’t mean I want to hear about the studio shows. I want to hear anlysis and open ended posts that prompt discussion on THE GAME.

  13. Another thing…the constant criticism is going to give the site the reputation for being snobby and uptight. Football fans here already have some degree of reputation for being euro/alternative wannabe. Its seen as hipster and “yuppie liberal” mentality. We already have the huge hipster culture here where they have adopted english accents and online vocabulary and must go against anything “corporate.” Its going to come off as a counter culture argument.

    1. To be honest Juan you sound like all those things rolled up into one troll.

      Did I misunderstand or are you saying you know Americans or non-Europeasn that post hear walking around with English accents? Or was that just a generalization which gets me back to my first point.

      1. You do not misunderstand. There is no doubt the stereotype of a snobby american soccer fan. For example the type who NEEDS needs to call it football and will point that fact out. Stereotypes exist, otherwise there would be no such concept. It may not be a substantial amount of the population but mindsets like that exist. Getting uptight over fox americanizing the game runs along that notion.
        I don’t care if its called football or soccer, i don’t care if fox makes it american, i want to watch the game and they sure aren’t modifying the game in any way. I’m glad its even being broadcasted on a major network. Taking up qualms with this is indicative of an uptight and overly analytical mindset that is ignoring cultural and traditional differences. This is how mainstream sports are done here, get over it. I think i can remove this site from my bookmark folder with football links if its going to be FOXtalk.

        1. If you read my other comments I am in total agreement that I don’t want this site to be Foxtalk. I don’t want to hear about the studio shows. I want to hear in-depth analysis and read open ended posts that prompt discussion on THE GAME.

          However your wide sweeping generalizations of the American soccer fan actually makes you look like the snobby elitist one you speak of.

          Glad to see you leave the site!

          1. Take a look at the top right sidebar of this page, and you’ll see that none of the top 6 most visited stories on EPL Talk have anything to do with the game. They’re all focused on the culture and experience of following the Premier League — whether it’s video games, football shirts, or where to find TV coverage.

            The Gaffer

  14. **NEWS FLASH**

    Fox listens to EPKTalk and removes Piers Morgan from its studio panel. He is to be replaced by Nancy Grace and Bill O’Reilly.

  15. I have never ever liked the NFL Fox broadcast theme music or whatever it is, and the fact that they use if for EPL matches and other soccer matches, makes me hate it even more. And there’s certain things about Fox even during NFL games that I do not like, weird camera pans, angles, etc. all at the wrong times of the game away from play and the ball, that they should have corrected by now.
    I have come to really love the way ESPN covers soccer both the EPL matches and international matches, and I am fully dreading the World Cup being on Fox. I know there’s many more years to improve, but if there’s stuff they haven’t even improved with their in-game NFL coverage that I still notice, I am not confident in them fixing similar things for their World Cup coverage in 2018.
    Yes, I watch, and only the actual match on Fox because it’s what we’ve got, but … it could be a lot better.

    1. I have to agree that the ESPN presentation of the EPL is better than what we have seen on Fox so far. Let’s be fair and say its early in the game for them and the current schedule is not sufficient to base a opinion on.It took ESPN a while to get to its current format and what Fox may do when it has a regular game remains to be seen.

      As to the focus of EPL Talk I think the Gaffer has the right idea. Match reports are boring and over done. For the American reader who has mainly not attended a match and never will leaning more about those things surrounding the pitch become more important.

  16. Piers is a joke. They need to find the next Toby Charles. He’s out there somewhere, and that is what the matches deserve.

    Until then, I’d rather mute Piers and the rest of those goofs during the matches and listen to an audio broadcast over the Internet during the match of something like a FanZone commentary performed by a die hard U.S. fans from each team. That would be more entertaining.

  17. Great article, and it confirms my fears as well. Every time an EPL game is switched to a regular Fox sports channel, you can feel the encroachment of bombast and blather. The post from Juan is exactly the kind of passive attitude that lead to the NFL and NHL games being such painfully oversaturated sports broadcasts. Maybe if there was enough outcry, they could have been saved from turning 11 minutes of football into a 4 and a half hour broadcast. American broadcasters just can’t shut up, filling the time with talk that doesn’t even reflect what’s going on in the match. As it stands, the FSC broadcasts are a breath of fresh air, the announcers allowing space for the action to unfold and let us formulate our own thoughts on the game. FSC should also be applauded for resisting the temptation to gum up the screen with promotional graphics while the game is in play. On NFL and NHL broadcasts, there’s so much extraneous BS being barfed onto the screen, you can hardly see the game. Similarly, ESPN should be applauded for assigning Ian Darke and Steve Mcmanaman to EPL games, both knowing when to let the game breathe and when a comment is warranted.

    1. In the past few weeks, most definitely. But the majority of those 6 articles are several months old and we’ve written a few hundred posts about the game, teams and players since then. But which ones are memorable, and which stories have we written that you enjoyed? The info would be helpful.

      The Gaffer

      1. I actually like the ‘where are they now’ or ‘what happened to’ posts, general EPL news and updates, post game analysis that leads to discussion on tactics, etc. In depth posts on players – how about interviews with anyone related to the game.

        Don’t get me wrong all always check out the latest kit or check out some of the more ‘fluffy’ posts however video games are not my thing.

        I know everyone has their own taste but you did ask me. My only point is I don’t want to see this site head in a direction where they get away from the game and talk more about the production value of one channel over the other…….just asking for balance.

  18. The “NFL on FOX” music is unfortunately being rolled out for everything Fox Sports does. They apparently think it’s just FOX music not NFL music. They are using it on their new national UFC shows as well.

    UFC fans hate it equally.

    I’m a UFC fan, NFL fan, and EPL fan. I’m ecstatic that FOX wants to bring both sports to the mainstream. MMA is much closer to being mainstream in the USA than soccer is however. Either way, the FOX broadcast of every sport using an anchor that doesn’t know a thing about it is ridiculous.

    They will build the audience for both sports by putting it on national TV and letting the sport itself do the selling. There’s not need to dumb it down for anyone. I knew zero literally zero about soccer before 2010, and didn’t care about it at all. I’m a big fan now, and I didn’t need the dumbing down to get there.

    P.S. They even use robots to fight each other for the UFC intro. It’s lazy lazy lazy.

  19. Look what’s going on here is simple. The US networks only know one way of presenting sports and that’s the bloated studios with enough retina detaching lights, colours, screens, muppets with no opinion and ugly ties. The UK way is obviously not in “yer” face enough for them. It wasn’t so long ago games had American commentators trying to disguise they were at the game when in fact they were in a studio in Los Angeles. And Mario Macharte So it’s a wonder we get the UK commentary at all. Although Ian Darke is really beginning to annoy me.

    Remember it was the US who proposed dividing the World Cup games into quarters for advertising revenue. The old adage “it wasn’t invented here so we’ll shoehorn it to our ways” applies.

    Anyway enough about the pre and post shows! My TV goes on one min before and off at the final whistle.

  20. If you want the game to grow monetarily, thems the breaks. Sponsor integration is essential, especially when there are no commercial breaks during the games.

  21. Gaff I don’t think U being Far about How the soccer games are covered, especially at Pregame/post game. First of all the Robot thing is mainly Fox, its part of the Fox sports Brand, along with the Originaly FoxNFL theme. Fox network had mad numerous statements within the last two yrs, saying they are using the theme for all of their sports that are on National telecast. Even fans of the MLB on fox theme had issue of what Fox was doing. It is what it is, there is good and bad. Besides that, The selection of the studio team is kinda a win win, as much as eurosnobs complain

  22. I can appreciate not wanting to see the football in the U.S. turn into the carnival atmosphere the predominates professional sports in America. I would encourage U.S. soccer fans to be real hard on this point. Sometimes I watch NFL with all the time outs, the silly half time shows, special teams, and on and on- I just want to vomit. And grid iron football, at its core, it is a great great sport.

    On the other hand, each nation enjoys football differently. Here in Japan, football is called soccer and no one seems to get their jock strap twisted over it. They have celeb’s in the commentary box, particularly for internationals, and trust me, Piers Morgan is rather well informed compared to them. Generally speaking the Japanese present football the way Japanese like it. My feeling is that Americans should be able to do what they want with the game, Americanize it as far 90 minutes, no time outs, and n commercial breaks -beyond that, what would you have them do? Stopping eating hot dogs and go for pies?

  23. I too was aghast when I heard the FOX NFL music lead in and then witnessed Piers Morgan seated and ready for commentary just following the player name gaff by the lead commentator. Never fear remember the NFL is pure entertainment and English (European) football is pure competitive sport. When Madonna sings at half-time during a Cup Final…any Cup Final…it will be time to begin worrying.

    1. Excellent point Jim. US sports are entertainment and soccer is competitive sport. I actually think it is a selling point. I reckon there are a lot of folks like me that just want to watch a hard fought match without all the circus.

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