Why FOX’s Plans for Premier League Survival Sunday Make Me Nervous

I should be giddy with delight about FOX’s plans for Premier League Survival Sunday, but I’m nervous. And here’s why.

After Thursday’s wonderful news that FOX Sports Media Group and ESPN will team together to show all ten Premier League games live on the last day of the season, I did what many of you probably did — I checked to see if my TV provider even carries the networks that will be showing some of the games.

I’ve never watched SPEED or FUEL TV before, so I’ve never bothered to check to see if my cable company had the networks, until yesterday. Thankfully I get those, as well as FSN and, of course, FOX Soccer. My TV provider (Comcast) still doesn’t offer FOX Soccer Plus, but hopefully that match will be shown live on FOX Soccer 2Go. I know I already have FSN and FX, while FOXSoccer.com will show one of the nine games live. And then last, but not least, my cable company offers FOX Deportes, but since I’m not signed up for the Spanish language package, I don’t get that one either. Again, hopefully that match will also be available live on FOX Soccer 2Go. Or, if not, that the match won’t be a must-see.

Interestingly, what I can reveal is that ESPN2 will have the first pick out of the 10 Premier League matches on the final day. A decision on which one match they’ll show isn’t expected until after the Manchester derby on April 30, so we’ll have to wait and see which match they’ll pick. My guess is that they’d prefer to feature a match that had either Champions League qualification ramifications or, of course, a top of the table decider instead of a relegation battle.

Over the years, I’ve become accustomed to watching several matches at once. It’s quite overwhelming at first, but over time, it becomes easier. The most number of matches I’ve watched at a single time is seven — two on my flat-screen TV with the picture-in-picture option showing matches side-by-side, four on one laptop with ESPN3.com’s Mosaic feature, and then one on FOX Soccer 2Go. But trying to navigate ten games across 8 TV networks is going to be something else. I’m sure I’ll be using my remote control to flip back and forth like a mad man between many of the channels.

While Survival Sunday may not have the 81 possible different relegation scenarios that we faced on the final day of last season, I’m still excited about watching the incredible drama unfold. But deep down, I feel like a guinea pig. While I’m very pleased that FOX Sports and ESPN have teamed together to show all of the final matches live across their networks, it feels like an experiment by FOX. Bloomberg reported last month that FOX executives are considering a plan to create nationwide all-sports networks to rival ESPN. If those plans come to fruition, it’s possible that FOX Soccer, SPEED, FUEL TV and FOX Soccer Plus could become FOX Sports 1, FOX Sports 2, FOX Sports 3 and FOX Sports 4, where the networks would show a variety of sports such as college football, college basketball and soccer.

FOX having a brand of FOX Sports 1 through 4 would be more attractive to advertisers, distributors and to FOX itself. By combining its sports programming into different channels, FOX could generate more revenue rather than selling advertising on niche channels such as soccer and motor racing. The example I gave earlier of me never having watched a second of FUEL TV or SPEED is a perfect example of why I, as a consumer, would be more likely to watch FOX Sports 1-4 than just one niche soccer channel. The same can be said for the 36 million subscribers to FUEL TV, many of whom have probably not watched FOX Soccer.

While it makes economic sense, it’s a nervous time for soccer fans especially if significant changes would happen in the future and FOX Soccer would go away, replaced by soccer programming that would be spread across several networks. We still may get as many soccer games as we get to see now, but there would be far more question marks — for example, whether American sports would preempt previously scheduled soccer games, and whether the coverage and analysis would improve or get worse, especially if shows were presented by American jock presenters who wouldn’t know the language of the beautiful game.

So, while I’m glad that the popularity of the Premier League is bigger than it’s ever been before, I’m nervous about what the Survival Sunday experience will tell FOX Sports, and what changes we may see as a result as early as next year. They’re not showing all nine games out of the goodness of their heart. They’re a business that needs to maximize revenues. While customer satisfaction is important, satisfying parent company’s News Corp [NWS] stockholders is the goal. Where that leaves us after May 13, we’ll have to wait and see.

31 thoughts on “Why FOX’s Plans for Premier League Survival Sunday Make Me Nervous”

  1. However, a Fox Sports 1-4, could put all those channels on a single digital tier, not requiring a $15 a month fee that I still refuse to pay for one channel.

    1. Agreed. It could end up being a better deal in the end, but with change comes uncertainty. We won’t know the implications until the time if/when the plan goes through. Lots of question marks.

      While I’m appreciative of FOX’s decision to broadcast nine of the ten games, I’m interested to see where this ride will take us. We also have to wonder whether FOX Sports 1-4 would be more palatable if FOX Soccer loses their flagship — the US TV rights to the Premier League for 2013-2016, if beIN Sports (aka Al Jazeera) goes in hard with a massive bid in the summer when bidding should be finalized.

      The Gaffer

  2. Gaffer,

    I like how you took my comment on FOX/ESPN showing all 10 games live and running with it to make a whole story.

    “I wonder if this is FOX testing out the idea of having FOX Sports 1-4? Also why are they differeing Foxsoccer.com and Foxsoccer2Go? I thought they moved all the digital viewing from Foxsoccer.com to Foxsoccer2Go.”

    1. Ah yes, CTBlues. Full credit must go to you for putting the notion in my head. I should have credited you. Thanks!

      The Gaffer

  3. Fios TV Channels for Southeast PA
    FSC HD 584
    FX HD 553
    Speed HD 583
    ESPN2 HD 574

    Shame these are not in HD:
    FSC+ 1009
    Fox Deportes 311
    FuelTV 198
    FSN ?

  4. 3rd & 4th may be settled this day too, I wish they would play these games at 5pm GMT make it way more enjoyable for the west coast, 7 am is at the pub is just brutal. You cant watch these games at home, its just not the same.

        1. I was just making a point that if one wants time to change, then everybody would jump in the band wagon and say the same thing. It will never work.

      1. 8:00 on a Sunday night?

        I’m sure the QPR supporters traveling 400 miles to and from Manchester that day would think they are a tad more important than the interruption of your sleeping habits.

        1. im pretty sure the games are scheduled for the convenience of those who are actually in england and go to games. traditional games have always been 3pm on saturday in england (10am/7am EST/PST). that base time will never change, despite the early/late kickoffs that have come about thanks to sky sports.

  5. Just checked our Comcast HD listings …. and out of all those options …. we get Fox Soccer, FSN, FX and Speed in HD alongside ESPN HD ….. so at the most we could chose from 5 games …. and I hope one of those 5 choices will offer the Man Utd game :)

  6. I get them all, except Fox Deportes. When I had DirecTV before, Fox Deportes was part of my sports pack but now its only on the Spanish package apparently. My luck, Fulham vs Spurs will be on Deportes.

    Unlike Gaffer, I’m not concerned at all about the potential changes at Fox. I think you’re worrying about nothing. I’m way more concerned with how I’m going to watch “El Clasico” in the future, my favorite match to watch as a neutral.

  7. I should also add that I have no desire to flip channels to see who gets relegated and what not. I don’t care about the other 19 teams in the EPL. I only care about Fulham and the only reason I’m hyped about this is I will most likely not have to seek out an illegal stream to watch Fulham’s last match of the season, like I did last year.

  8. Is Fox Deportes the same as Fox En Espanol? I get Fox En Espanol on Cablevision in the NY area and never knew it until I stumbled upon it by accident. They usually show a different match than Fox Soccer on Champions League days but often have the parallel programming on weekends.

    Also just out of curiosity can someone tell me why some Champs League games are on FX?

    1. Andre, I’m not sure about the Fox En Espanol question. Perhaps one of our readers can answer that, but FOX shows some Champions League games on FX because the number of subscribers to that channel (I believe, 95 million) is far greater than then the 40 million who get FOX Soccer.

      The Gaffer

  9. Don’t be surprised if EVERYTHING were settled before “Survival Sunday”. That actually happened a few years ago.

  10. The funny thing for us Comcast users is that we get just about all of those stations (except FSC+ and not sure about Deportes) and the only one which won’t be in HD will be FSC.

  11. Stupid comcast gives us all those junk channels except for fs plus. Ive been asking for the channel for the past year and a galf.

  12. Gaffer,
    Your glass has been half empty too long… :))

    I see this as a marketing bonanza for FOX.
    They have already paid for the rights to all these games and the satellite time to bring them back for live TV, online live, or delayed broadcast.

    It will not be a ratings bonanza, but it could be the first salvo in the PR war for the 2013 – 2016 biddings rights battle.

    I cannot see any down side to this move at all.

    PS: I’ve said this a million times. I’d pay up to $300 for all 380 games live, similar to Sunday Ticket, Extra Innings, etc.

    1. My thoughts exactly. Perhaps it’s some sort of indication to the league as in a ‘look what we can do for you… we can do a lot more than those Al Jazeera folks’ kind of way.

      Also, invitations to tender are expected to be sent out within the next 3 weeks to potential bidders for 2013-16 TV rights so we will all know who will have live Premier League coverage across the world very soon…

      1. The Premier League usually takes care of the UK and European rights first, and then concentrates on the international markets. So if Al Jazeera wins a large portion of the UK/Europe rights, that’ll send the rest of the western world into a panic (i.e. US).

        The Gaffer

        1. Al Jazeera are “unlikely” to put in a bid for rights according to various sources now. After not making any movement at all in the German market for live Bundesliga rights last week, word is that they’ve reviewed the situation and are expected to leave the way clear for Sky and ESPN to keep their current system in place. The Premier League has apparently decided on how to sell rights and it will be on a territory by territory basis again, instead of pan-European, so the UK bidding process is expected to go through pretty smoothly as usual. The international rights won’t be too long behind as there will be very few changes (if at all any) to the UK model.

    2. I agree Cmasia. It’s definitely a great PR opportunity for FOX. I’m just concerned about their ulterior motives.

      The Gaffer

  13. Hi again, Gaffer. Another thought….

    If I were FOX, and I had 4 vertical channels (Speed, Fuel, Fox Soccer, and Fox Soccer Plus) I’d change to 4 generics (Fox Sports 1, 2, 3, 4 ) in a heartbeat.

    There is not enough live stuff in “weekly” sports like racing and football to support all the “off peak” time. And the converse is true. The mere fact Fuel and Speed need to be deployed for a “big event” like the final day makes 4 generics much easier to manage, program, and promote.

    Plus, you now have 4 channels supposedly developed for just 2 sports. With FOX’s evolving interest in MMA, college sports, and rugby, generics make even more sense.

    They could also be packaged and priced better to make their inclusion in all satellite and cable offerings essential, just like ESPN.

    Sign me up ! :)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *