How FOX Can Improve EPL TV Ratings: Get Rid of Piers Morgan & Show Games On Delay

AetT2xiCMAAlNWY How FOX Can Improve EPL TV Ratings: Get Rid of Piers Morgan & Show Games On Delay

Now we know that the Manchester derby will be shown on ESPN2 in late April, there’s very little chance that FOX will decide to squeeze a live Premier League game into its free-to-air programming between now and the end of this season. For those viewers who have local FOX stations unwilling to show games live, that’s excellent news. We can all now continue knowing that all games will be shown live, either on FOX Soccer, FOX Soccer Plus, FOX Soccer 2Go or ESPN2 and ESPN3.com.

But it begs the question about what FOX will do on their free-to-air network next Premier League season. In a recent interview, a FOX executive has already said that the free-to-air network plans on showing Premier League matches next season, and will possibly show one more than what they currently did in the 2011-12 season.

However, I believe it’s time to face the facts and realize that Sunday mornings at eleven o’clock may be a time that we’re all used to, but the time slot isn’t convenient for the majority of U.S. residents who are either at church, on the west coast, or doing activities that don’t require sitting around a TV set on a Sunday morning. The TV ratings show that the 11am ET matches shown live on FOX aren’t as large as the matches shown on tape delay on a Sunday mid-to-late afternoon timeslot.

Sunday 11am ET live games on FOX:

  • 0.9 rating — Arsenal vs Man United, January 22, 2012 (Piers Morgan appearance)
  • 1.0 rating — Chelsea against Manchester United, February 5, 2012 (Piers Morgan appearance)
Sunday 2pm or 4:30pm ET tape delayed games on FOX:
  • 1.0 rating — Manchester United against Chelsea, September 18, 2011
  • 1.1 rating — Tottenham against Arsenal, October 2, 2011
  • 1.5 rating — Chelsea against Liverpool, November 20, 2011 (Piers Morgan appearance)

In comparison, the 2011 MLS Cup got a 0.8 rating during a prime-time Sunday broadcast in November.

My recommendation is simple. Show the 11am ET live Premier League games on FOX Soccer. And when FOX has an opening in their schedule, they should show select Premier League matches on tape delay on the free-to-air network. Preferably, FOX will air the tape delay games next to NFL programming, with tape delay kickoffs at 2pm or 4:30pm ET.

Looking at the above ratings, I believe tape delay games on FOX are the way to go. The die-hard fans can watch the games live on FOX Soccer, while the casual and mainstream sports fans can watch the games on delay at a time that is not only the most convenient, but also the most likely to attract new viewers.

I also think that FOX should say goodbye to Piers Morgan. Looking at the above ratings numbers, you can see how two tape delayed games without Morgan did better than two live matches where he was a pundit. The record breaking numbers for the Chelsea against Liverpool game were impressive, but I believe the inclusion of Piers Morgan had little to do with it.

Instead of featuring Piers Morgan, FOX should take the valuable 30-minutes pre-game time and show highlights of the goals from other Premier League games instead. FOX could either bring viewers up-to-date with everything that has happened in the Premier League since the last time they aired an EPL match on the free-to-air network. Or FOX could show goal highlights from all of the games played that weekend. The mainstream audience doesn’t need 30 minutes of mediocre analysis. Instead that time should be used to sell the sport, sell the league and sell the excitement. Talking heads are not the solution. Instead, show 25 minutes of goal highlights followed by five minutes of analysis before the game starts. That’s enough time to set the stage and give viewers an idea of the major points to look out for in the game.

If you’re wondering where Eric Wynalda, Rob Stone and Warren Barton fit in, Rob Stone can open up the programming and talk through the opening 25 minutes of Premier League highlights, and then switch to the team of Wynalda and Barton for their 5-minutes of pre-match setup. The trio would then be perfect for an informative half-time analysis show, as well as a few minutes of final thoughts after the game ends.

FOX has the opportunity to grow soccer in the United States by bringing tape-delayed broadcasts of the Premier League, the most exciting and action-packed league in the world, into the homes of Americans who are used to watching sports on a Sunday afternoon. Viewing of Premier League matches on Sunday mornings, meanwhile, should continue to be aired live on FOX Soccer to the loyal soccer die-hards who have helped grow FOX Soccer into what it is today, a flourishing niche sports network that isn’t at the mercy of local affiliates nationwide who can choose to preempt programming with infomercials and other shows.

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 →
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32 Responses to How FOX Can Improve EPL TV Ratings: Get Rid of Piers Morgan & Show Games On Delay

  1. Grant says:

    I think this is more or less the right idea, though I would maybe tilt the balance a bit back toward analysis with something more like 20 minutes of highlights followed by 10 minutes of analysis.

  2. Derreck says:

    “the most exciting and action-packed league in the world” All the teams outside the big 5-6 play long ball style 4-4-2. That is a far cry from exciting. The most exciting league on Earth is the German Bundesliga.Where from bottom up everyone actually has a chance to win the league not just 2-3 teams like in the EPL.

    • The Gaffer says:

      Derreck, obviously you don’t know what you’re talking about.

      Have you watched Swansea or Norwich this season, just to name two teams that play a beautiful brand of football?

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

    • Mark says:

      Lmfao. Bundesliga? Surely, you jest.

      • Guy says:

        I think what Derreck is referring to is that despite FC Bayern Munich having won the title 22 times, 42 other clubs have also managed to do so. In just the last 10 years, 5 different teams have won the title. If you are a fan of the Budesliga it is not out of the realm of possibility that your team actually has a chance. A far cry from the EPL…..and not so laughable.

        • Guy says:

          Sorry for some bad math…..

          18 teams in the Bundesliga. Title won by 12 twelve different teams, 5 different in the last ten years.

  3. greg says:

    Piers Morgan is awful. Awful. To put aside a likable and quality analyst like Warren Barton for Morgan, a loud-mouth blowhard who’s neck-deep in the phone-hacking scandal in the UK media, is a joke. Barton’s gotta feel hard-done-by being subbed by a joke like Morgan. Stone & Wynalda should stand up for Barton and get him on the Fox telecasts.

  4. jtm371 says:

    peers smorgan and robb pebble needs to go.smorgan is a jacka$$ and robb pebble does not know the teams or players other then that it is a great show.simulcast Skysports or tune in at kickoff.bundesliga i thought it was Feb 23 not April 1.if it is so inferior don’t watch.

  5. Bentley says:

    i dont really agree with the delay bit of this. i have a lot of friends that would ruin the scoreline for me and tell me who won/is winning. i like to see it live if at all possible.

  6. Jason says:

    If the delayed game to be shown on Fox is also shown live on FS/FS+ then I think fewer people will watch than expected.

    • The Gaffer says:

      Of course. But I don’t think the impact will be that much. For example, for the Spurs against Arsenal game in October, the delayed broadcast on FOX featuring Tottenham Hotspur vs. Arsenal FC scored a 1.1 household rating and attracted 1,626,000 viewers. On that same day, the earlier live broadcast of the game brought in 501,000 viewers combined when viewed on FOX Soccer and FOX Deportes.

      So even though the game was shown live earlier in the day for the soccer diehards, the tape delayed version of the game still had a higher TV rating than the two live games shown on FOX this season (Chelsea vs Man United; Feb 5, and Arsenal vs Man United; Jan 22).

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  7. Matt says:

    No tape delay. I like where your head is at but the fans who seriously care about the match (likely the supporters who make up a good chunk of the ratings) will be streaming it live illegally.

    But definitely get Piers Morgan out of that chair. He’s been absolutely abhorrent.

  8. Spurs Fan says:

    Gaffer
    The three stooges are AWEFUL! Before a match, at halftime and at the end of fulltime i listen to bbc five live. FSC could save a lot of $ by letting those guys go, and just picking up the international feed. They add absolutely nothing to the broadcast. I would challenge anyone of them with their knowledge of the premiership. Btw – what is with Barton and his blank stare?

    • The Gaffer says:

      I’ve been finding myself listening to the pre-match, half-time and post-match analysis more and more from BBC Five Live lately instead of listening/watching to the FOX pundits. They’re better than in the past. Rob Stone is a better replacement for Christian Miles. Eric Wynalda is a better replacement for Warren Barton. But they haven’t found someone to replace Barton. I know there’s a few people out there who rate Barton highly, but while I’m sure he’s a nice guy, he never says anything that I’m not hearing from other people. To me, he sounds like a broken record.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  9. Jean says:

    Just do it live. Why not put some games on FX while you’re at it on Saturday/Sunday afternoon?? That way, theres no problems with some FOX stations and everybody with a basic cable package at a minimum can watch it.

  10. Hagen George says:

    This is a terrible analysis. First of all 11 o’clock games work great for US residents in the fall and winter when most people, like me, start watching American Football at 1 o’clock on sundays. These games provide great lead ins. Also, who wants to watch a taped game!? No one who takes that as a first choice. You always want to watch sporting events live. I will rarely tape a sporting event. Also, how in one breath can you say that Piers Morgan is to blame for low ratings and in the next say he had nothing to do with higher ratings. Terrible article.

    • The Gaffer says:

      Hagen, 11am games may work well for FOX Soccer, but they don’t work as well for FOX — where some local affiliates have to choose between church programming, infomercials and soccer. I would prefer the 11am games to be shown live on FOX Soccer as they always have done. FOX can show EPL games on delay at 2pm or 4:30pm depending on their schedule, when they don’t have NFL games shown on the free-to-air network.

      Who wants to watch a taped game? Not me, but based on the numbers, the largest audiences have come from taped games, not live ones.

      I didn’t say Piers Morgan is to blame for low ratings. I don’t think he moves the needle at all. With or without him, the ratings — I believe — would be the same. So if that’s the case, why bother having him on at all? I’m sure his contract doesn’t come cheap.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  11. Efrain says:

    Gaffer, you made some great points and I think you are right on. Does FOX read this site? Do you or anyone forward your insight to them? If not….. you should…. and hopefully FOX listens.

  12. Michael says:

    I like the tape delay idea better. I go to church Sunday mornings and DVR the games anyway. Plus most of my friends that don’t have Fox Soccer, and would like to watch games, have more time on Sunday afternoon than in the mornings.

    As far as the coverage goes, non fans and casual supporters want to see goals and highlights. I was watching the EPL Review Show and one of my friends, who does not like soccer, said he actually enjoyed it because there was so much action.

    Just one other thing, I love the NFL music, but please don’t play it for the EPL games, that should be for American football only.

  13. Harold says:

    Warren Barton and informative analysis used in the same sentence – surely you jest! Ex-international player Warren Barton, how many games in he play for England? 3 games. His debut was the match that was abandoned after 27 minutes in Dublin. His third and final appearance was as a very late substitute for John Scales – yet he talks himself up like he was a seasoned international. What did he ever win as a player? The best team he featured in was a Newcastle side that choked spectacularly yet he says things like “I know what it’s like going to Man United with the title on the line” – do you Warren? Do you really?

  14. Jerry Goldstein says:

    I agree. Fox in Miami did not show live games and I had to wait for the replay on fox soccer. As to pregame why not sell the beauty of the game, the skill level that exists in the epl. Goals are great but trying to score or defending as well as the counter attack are the true draws to football for me. I’ve been hooked on epl since 2006 and find that nil nil can be as exciting and entertaining as 4-3.

  15. Harry says:

    They should just let the guys at Fox Deportes do the analysis. Even if you don’t understand Spanish they appear more knowledgeable than those clowns at Fox. Since they already have those guys on the payroll they will save a lot of money and maybe they could pass along those savings and reduce their subscription price to FS+ and foxsoccer.tv . Win-win for everyone.

  16. Evan says:

    Get rid of Piers Morgan to get more viewers???

    Yes he might be a bit sh*te, but that’s like say New York should get rid of Marquez to get more fans.

    It doesn’t matter if it improves the quality, it’s all about names.

    • The Gaffer says:

      Evan, the numbers show that the names make little to no difference. I don’t think there’s anyone tuning in to FOX’s games because of Piers Morgan.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  17. JW says:

    I’m not sure about the tape delay idea, at least during NFL season. As you mentioned, most “die-hards” will be tuning into the live broadcast. And if you put the tape delay up against the NFL, there’s no contest: in our society, most “mainstream” sports fans who have the option will just turn on an NFL game rather than the EPL match. The NFL has become “water-cooler” type stuff for many people, even who aren’t truly hardcore football fans. I guess in theory there’s nothing to lose, but I think it would be a much more effective spring season strategy than during the fall and winter (NFL season).

    • The Gaffer says:

      On November 20, 2011, when FOX showed the Chelsea against Liverpool match (which was shown on tape delay either at 2pm or 4:30pm ET, depending on the local FOX affiliate). On that day, there were 7 NFL games that were aired beginning at 1pm ET, 4 at 4pm ET and 1 at 8.20pm ET. So there were definitely other NFL games on at the same time as the FOX broadcast of Chelsea vs Liverpool.

      Is the NFL schedule of 7 games at 1pm, 4 at 4pm and 1 at 8:20pm normal? I never watch the NFL.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  18. David says:

    In this day and age it makes no sense to have any game on delay. You have to force yourself not to know the score if you plan on watching the delayed broadcast. That means you have to be careful which sites you visit when on the internet.

    I understand the FA is thinking about spreading the schedule to include Friday night games. Maybe if they added a Sunday night game then that would work out for Fox showing it at a decent time to improve their ratings.

    • The Gaffer says:

      Soccer fans can watch the games live on FOX Soccer. My recommendation is a win-win for everyone. Diehards watch their games live. Casual fans get to see soccer on free-to-air network. FOX gets bigger ratings.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

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