FOX Soccer’s TV coverage of the UEFA Champions League has continued to improve ever since it acquired the rights to show the competition in the 2009/10 season. The best example of their improvements is the pre-match, half-time and post-match shows. The studio set and on-screen graphics FOX uses makes the broadcast look very professional. FOX has also found a good rhythm with the camaraderie between presenter Rob Stone and pundits Eric Wynalda and Warren Barton.
But there is one aspect of the coverage which looks very amateurish and that needs polishing to improve the coverage. That’s the on-screen tactical graphics and analysis that Barton often does to illustrate key points in games such as, for example, mistakes that defenders make. While I applaud Barton and FOX Soccer for raising the bar in their coverage by doing this type of analysis, which they’ve been doing for more than a year, the quality of the on-screen presentation and the analysis could be far better.
First, take a look at an example screenshot from last week’s Chelsea against Benfica match in the UEFA Champions League. The software program that FOX uses to superimpose graphics on top of the screen looks like something you’d see in a tic-tac-toe game. It’s awful. The on-screen graphics look like it’s something created with an 8-bit Nintendo or the first version of Microsoft Paint. Second, I’ve watched many of Barton’s insights that he’s shared but almost all of them are blatantly obvious. It’s very rare that Barton will point out something that I didn’t already see. The level of analysis seems to be more of an exercise in self-indulgence to show off their technology than informative analysis that benefits the viewer. (Imagine what a Michael Cox from Zonal Marking could do to better enlighten a viewer).
The disadvantage that Barton has is the lack of time. During a typical half time of a Champions League match, he may have as little as ten minutes to see an incident late in the first half, and then work with his production team to get the piece ready to air during the half-time show. Compare this with someone like Alan Hansen or Alan Shearer, who literally have several hours between the time when an incident happens and the start of BBC Match Of The Day that begins at 10:20pm BST.
Nevertheless, the quality of the software that FOX Soccer uses looks very out-of-date. In closing, take a look at two examples of what FOX Soccer can do. The first is an example by Alan Hansen on Match Of The Day in his analysis of Nemanja Vidic. It’s not groundbreaking, but the analysis is straight to the point.
The second and final example is a promotional video from a company named Red Bee Media, who I interviewed at SportelAmerica five years ago (which gives you an idea of how dated FOX Soccer’s software is). As you can see from the example below, several companies use the software including BBC, Sky and ITV. The quality is exceptional:
Red Bee’s Piero software isn’t cheap, but if FOX Soccer is serious about soccer, it’s time that the network invests in software that will help elevate its coverage of the beautiful game.