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What Would FOX Soccer Be Without the Premier League?

fox soccer logo1 What Would FOX Soccer Be Without the Premier League?

It’s hard to imagine FOX Soccer being without its almost wall-to-wall coverage of the English Premier League. The network has built its success primarily on the coverage of the league, beginning with Fox Sports World in 1997, which morphed into Fox Soccer Channel in 2005 before becoming simply FOX Soccer last year.

With the launch of new soccer network beIN SPORT, FOX Soccer faces its most formidable competitor yet — a company with a seemingly endless amount of cash that is aggressively acquiring rights to many of the major soccer leagues.

In the past 9 months, FOX Soccer has lost US media rights for Serie A, Ligue Un, Football League Championship and League Cup to beIN SPORT. Plus, beIN SPORT has acquired US media rights to La Liga, Copa del Rey, Coppa Italia, Barca TV, Real Madrid TV and more. The new soccer network won’t be launching on television until August 15, but it’s already been making massive ripple waves within the soccer rights business.

Now this autumn, FOX Soccer faces the possibility of losing its crown jewel of soccer coverage — the US media rights to the English Premier League for seasons 2013-2016. The implications of what would happen if FOX Soccer would get outbid for those rights is immense, surely sending soccer fans and the media into a tailspin.

But what would FOX Soccer look like without Premier League TV coverage beginning with the 2013-14 season? The channel’s crown jewel would then become the UEFA Champions League, but that only is on every few weeks during the season. FOX Soccer also has the media rights to the Europa League, Scottish Premier League, FA Cup, England internationals and Community Shield. FOX does have the rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments, but as you can tell from the preceding list, FOX Soccer would have very little left if they lost the EPL.

FOX Soccer finds itself in an extremely difficult situation. Depending on how much beIN SPORT bids for the Premier League media rights, FOX may have to bid an obscene amount of money to keep the rights for another three seasons. With the process being a round of closed bidding, it’s a game of high stakes power involving bids that could climb into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

If FOX Soccer is outbid for these EPL rights in the US, the consequences could be enormous — even potentially signaling the end of FOX Soccer.

Earlier this year, Bloomberg revealed that FOX is considering launching a new US sports network where channels such as FOX Soccer, FUEL and SPEED could become FOX Sports 1, FOX Sports 2 and FOX Sports 3. Each of the new channels would feature an assortment of sports, and soccer could be shown on a sporadic basis.

But if FOX is able to win the rights to the EPL this autumn for 2013-2016, its coverage of the Premier League would form the perfect bridge to increase viewership and get soccer fans pumped up for FOX’s coverage of the 2015 Women’s World Cup and 2018 World Cup tournament.

While this autumn’s bidding process for the US rights to the Premier League could feature a no-holds barred struggle between FOX Soccer and beIN SPORT, there’s always the possibility of other players becoming integrally involved in the bidding — whether it’s launching independent bids, or — more likely — networks such as ESPN and/or Univision teaming up with FOX or beIN SPORT.

At the end of the day, the Premier League sits in the enviable position of sitting back and letting media giants battle it out to become the highest bidder for the Premier League rights. The outcome will probably be a record-breaking money maker for the Premier League, but the impact of who wins could change the soccer landscape forever in the USA.

This entry was posted in beIN SPORT, FOX Soccer, Leagues: EPL. Bookmark the permalink.

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 →

51 Responses to What Would FOX Soccer Be Without the Premier League?

  1. jtm371 says:

    if they lose the EPL turn out the lights the party is over. if they lose the EPL it would be a huge step back in trying to grow the sport.i hope they will be able to keep the EPL.

  2. huhe888 says:

    A more straight forward case will be in Canada, where Rogers Sportsnet is about to be blown away by whichever company that will partner with beIN SPORT LLC to launch beIN SPORT 1 Canada. TeleLatino had been the odd-on favourite.

    Because Rogers Sportsnet will NOT have FIFA Events though 2022 (CBC has them through 2014, CTV/TSN/TSN2 will have them in 2015-2022), will Rogers want to keep Sportsnet World running if Sportsnet World were to lose EPL and its subscriber count were to drop from around 70000 to around 10000?

    The U.S. will remain muddled until the Invitation to Tender (ITT) document comes out on September 6.

  3. gbewing says:

    If they lose they are done as a soccer channel, they become Fox1-3 and cover an array of minor sports and for soccer I assume they push for more continental coverage such as MSL, Mexico, CONCAF

    Fox is also starting a Spanish Language channel soon. I think they already see the writing on the wall and will concede world soccer to BEin- now how fast can cable companies get BEin on their packages?

    • huhe888 says:

      FOX Soccer just started a new 5-year deal for the CONCACAF Champions League through April 2017. However, that product does NOT necessarily have to air on an all-soccer channel.

      Nor does the UEFA Champions League.

      Nor does the FA Cup.

  4. Patrick says:

    FOX Soccer also airs the Australian Football League, the National Rugby League (15 teams from Australia & 1 from New Zealand), Rugby Leauge Football’s Super League (from England with 1 French team), the English Premiership for rugby union, the Pro12 League (rugby union league consisting of teams from Ireland, Italy, Scotland, and Wales), and finally the Heineken Cup along with the European Challenge Cup. That being said the percentage of FOX viewers watching aussie rules, rugby league, or rugby union is probably quite small compared to its soccer viewership.

  5. BA14 says:

    IF BEIN wins the EPL how would they put all these matches on with their other acquisitions?

    • The Gaffer says:

      There’s surprisingly little overlap. But where there is, I would hope that the other games would be shown online.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  6. Fernando says:

    This is Fox’s fault. For a long time they had terrible production values, bad pundits and let the games, essentially be the network.

    The defining aura of Fox Soccer has always been the EPL but only within the last year has it decided to fully commit to a modern studio with decent production. The punditry is still lagging and their efforts to create additional programming have gone nowhere. They outsource their sports news show and have no interest in developing their own show.

    While Bein may not be readily available at this time, I have no doubt that if the rights were awarded to them this would change immediately.

    • huhe888 says:

      FOX Soccer Report only cost Shaw Media $1 million/year to produce from Winnipeg.

      The new FOX Soccer News from Rogers Media in Toronto should cost Rogers Media no more than $2 million/year as Rogers will NOT have to hire its own army of correspondents to report from the U.K.

      If FOX Soccer were to produce a newscast from Los Angeles, the budget would be at least $3 million/year even if FOX Soccer were able to piggyback on Sky Sports News and not have to hire its own army of correspondents to report from the U.K.

      Note that Univision Deportes Network’s news operation, which includes the nightly show Contacto Deportivo on the free-to-air TeleFutura Network, has a budget of around $3 million/year. Note that Univision Deportes Networks shares Mexican sports correspondents with Televisa Deportes Network of Mexico. Televisa owns 45% of Univision Communications.

      (I highly recommend that you check out Contacto Deportivo especially on Tuesday nights, which are always “Ladies Nights” with 2 female anchors, one of whom actually speaks English better than Spanish and will be in demand when her contract expires in February 2015.)

      • Fernando says:

        This is FOX Sports not local cable access. We’re talking about one of the biggest media companies in this country and they can’t produce a half hour show with the talent on their roster every night?

        I don’t care how much it costs Fox, they have no original programming and this is the root of Fox’s problem. Take the EPL away and they don’t have a channel anymore.

        Take the NFL from ESPN and they still are a viable network.

        • huhe888 says:

          Rule 1 in the TV business in the U.S:

          1. Outsourced productions are always cheaper than your own productions.

          FOX Soccer Report lasted as long as it did from Winnipeg (11 years total, with 10 years shown in the U.S.) because it cost 1/3 what the same show would have cost if it had originated from Los Angeles.

          The uncertainly over the status of FOX Soccer beyond May 2013 is the precise reason why FOX Soccer cannot commit long term to anything right now.

          Because Shaw Media wanted FOX to pay for technology upgrades to transmit FOX Soccer Report in HD from Winnipeg to The Woodlands, Texas, and because such upgrades would require FOX to commit to keeping FOX Soccer Report in Winnipeg for 5 more years, FOX had no choice but to switch production partners, from Shaw Media in Winnipeg to Rogers Media in Toronto, which is able to deliver FOX Soccer News in HD using existing technology infrastructure. Rogers is willing to sign only a 1-year contract with FOX to produce FOX Soccer News.

          Now that Rogers’ own Sportsnet World channel is under attack by beIN SPORT LLC as well (I fully expect Rogers to lose Canadian rights to EPL after the 2012-2013 season), there is no guarantee that FOX Soccer News will last more than 1 year.

  7. huhe888 says:

    I no longer believe that Univision will be involved with the bidding for EPL even as a sublicensee now that Univision has decided to go all-in with Liga MX by spending its money on the Chivas Guadalajara home games package.

    That package cost Telemundo $50 million/year ($250 million total) during the current cycle and Telemundo lost money on it.

    However, Univision will be able to collect subscriber fees from Univision Deportes Network and Univision Deportes Dos to pay for Mexican soccer rights.

    Telemundo does not have enough sports to even use mun2 effectively, much less start an all-sports network of its own.

  8. BA14 says:

    perhaps it’s too much too early without knowing how well their tv network (bein) will do.

  9. Mufc77 says:

    I don’t really care who has the rights to the EPL to be honest. I don’t care about pre game thoughts ans post match opinions from ex players either, as long as they cut to the game right before kick off and have a decent commentator that’s all I’m concerned with.

    If I had an extra couple billion dollars sitting around I might bid for the rights myself, it would be worth it not to have to listen to that Irish numpty Keith costigan ever again.

    • The Gaffer says:

      But Mufc77, you should care. Reason being is that depending on who gets the rights, your local TV provider may or may not carry beIN SPORT by the time the Premier League is on television.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • Mufc77 says:

        I’m guessing if this new company is going to pay major money to get the rights to show the EPL they are going to make it available pretty dam quickly, what would be the point otherwise.

        Now if they start charging a arm and a leg for it I would probably be pi$$ed. Like it or not paying $7 a month for FSC here in Philly is hard to beat.

        • The Gaffer says:

          The challenge is that the TV networks don’t dictate which TV distributors they get added to. The power is with the TV providers such as the cable and satellite companies to decide when new channels are added. I’m sure beIN SPORT will do everything it can to be added asap, but the decision is ultimately not in their control.

          Cheers,
          The Gaffer

  10. Fog says:

    As much as I dislike Fox Soccer’s studio analyst, I think that I would have to give up watching the EPL if beIN were to use Ray Hudson as a primary figure in their soccer broadcasts. I already cannot watch anything on NBC that has Arlo White as a participant. My soccer watching life would be a shambles…

    At the same time, I guess if Fox Soccer loses the EPL, I would just have to resort to watching using “other” methods…

    Gaffer, does the EPL rights come with the international feed commentators, as currently is the case? Or would beIN come up with their own stable of commentators?

    • huhe888 says:

      All major European club soccer leagues offer international feed commentators in English, albeit with varying degrees of quality.

      EPL is produced by IMG Sports Media, which hires a stable of British announcers, some better than others. Several of these announcers, including Jon Champion (ESPN UK and ITV) and Martin Tyler (BSkyB), call matches on the international feeds when they are not working for their primary employers.

      La Liga is produced by MEDIAPRO, which uses a stable of very mediocre announcers. That’s why beIN SPORT 1 USA (and GOLTV USA in the past) use Phil Schoen and Ray Hudson.

      Serie A is produced by Infront Sports, which has a stable of young British announcers who live in Milan. They are good, but not great.

      The Bundesliga uses a production company in Cologne to produce its international feeds. Alan Fountain has been calling the Bundesliga for international audiences for over 15 years. Phil Bonney is also quite good.

      Ligue 1 hires yet another young British commentator Matthew Spiro to call at least 3 matches each weekend in English for international audiences.

      The Scottish Premier League is the only one I know of that does not have dedicated commentators on the international feed, as SportFive International simply takes the domestic audio feed from either BSkyB (Ian Crocker) or ESPN UK (Derek Rae.)

    • Stephen says:

      You don’t like Arlo White or Ray Hudson? I guess I just feel sorry for you?

  11. Smokey Bacon says:

    It’s obvious they would be completely f**ked. Already Fox Soccer Plus is becoming a bit of a joke. But for beIN to be a serious competitor they need to establish their presence in the US on the major cable/satellite providers. Until they do that, I suspect only the hardcore fan will seek them out online. The casual viewer is probably content with ESPN and whatever Fox have to offer.

    It would be shame to see FSC go given all that they have done over the years to build the game in the United States. But unless Fox can dig deep like Sky do in the UK, it does look like beIN and ESPN will be the major players going forward. All this stuff seems to be heading online anyway. 10 years from now we will likely subscribe directly to dedicated club/league/tournament channels online.

    • huhe888 says:

      FOX Soccer Plus should have been rebranded FOX Sports Plus by now. More hours devoted to rugby and Aussie Rules than soccer.

      • Matt says:

        Thank you! I feel exactly the same way. Or just bring back Fox Sports World and put that label on the channel. One way or another, I will never pay that much for one channel that isn’t devoted entirely to soccer.

      • BA14 says:

        My cable provider doesn’t offer this channel, I’d actually like to watch more Aussie Rules. This could be a problem for bein and EPL viewers if their channel isn’t available.

  12. Mike says:

    I cant believe there is this many people complaining about the coverage fox soccer has and the reporters they use….I remember when the only EPL that was available was Saturdays at 10am on prime sports and then Monday nights on ESPN sometimes(hell indoor soccer had more TV time). The coverage is not bad at all and as long as its on live, im happy. I cant beleive there is that many soccer snobs out there. Remember that soccer is not a big deal to most people in the US so if it were to go away or end up on bein that has little accessability, there is not many people who will a sh*t. Fox is the biggest asset the US has to soccer and we should hope they retain the rights.

  13. huhe888 says:

    One thing The Gaffer hasn’t mentioned yet:

    FOX Soccer Report from Winnipeg will end on August 16 even though the current staff will be paid through August 31.

    The new FOX Soccer News from Toronto will start on August 17.

    Check out the commercial:

    http://youtu.be/7RJWibav3Z4

  14. lamemodem says:

    Would the EPL give the rights to beIN even if they are the highest bidder? They way it looks right now it seems as if beIN will be in fewer (if any) homes than Fox. Would the EPL really take the money for a smaller audience? I would think that would significantly slow the growth of popularity of the EPL. Is money really their only concern?

    I’m thinking my cable provider, FiOS, won’t carry beIN any time soon. And if by some miracle they add it before the start of the 2013-14 season, I’m sure it won’t be in HD. I’ll be really disappointed if the rights are given to a channel I can’t access in HD. I’ll probably stop watching the EPL altogether in that situation.

    • huhe888 says:

      I expect beIN SPORT LLC to partner with ESPN, Inc. to defeat FOX Sports Media Group.

      Because ESPN, Inc. is a sublicensee, it is under no obligation to stay with FOX.

      ESPN, Inc. can survey the entire landscape of lead bidders (in this case beIN SPORT LLC and FOX Sports Media Group) before deciding which bid it will back as a sublicensee. The final decision may not be made until literally minutes before the bid deadline.

  15. Paul says:

    I dont care if Fox Soccer dont have the PL anymore. Their pre-game and post-game match analysis sucks. I’d rather have ESPN gain the rights to the PL.
    But BeinTV has come and messed up the massive amount of games we use to get through ESPN3 and ESPN2.

    @mufc
    lol on buying rights for yourself. I got no problems with Ray Hudson. He goes a little extreme on the hyperboles but I’d listen to Hudson a thousand times before i listen to either ALexi Lalas or taylor twellman.

  16. Jerry says:

    The first thing I found interesting with BeIn is that they hired Schoen and Hudson. I watched a lot of La Liga games on GolTV and I have to say that Schoen is terrible and Hudson is only slightly bearable because of his off-the-cuff humor which can be funny (e.g. “that was as good as a wet dream”). I wonder if these guys are going to stay and do the commentary from a studio or be at the stadiums in Spain?

    Without the EPL Fox will become irrelevant. What effect BeIn has on ESPN is an interesting question. GolTV sublicensed La Liga games to ESPN and reportsd are that BeIn will not sublicense any of their games to other networks.

    • huhe888 says:

      If beIN SPORT 1 USA wants EPL, it will likely have to partner with a much bigger U.S. media partner.

      We’ll know after September 6 what the stipulations are.

      No such mystery in Canada, where beIN SPORT LLC has no choice but to partner with a Canadian media partner in order to launch beIN SPORT 1 Canada due to ownership rules imposed to sports TV networks by the CRTC to protect Canadian companies.

    • huhe888 says:

      Phil Schoen and Ray Hudson will call big La Liga and Serie A matches from a sound booth in Miami: Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus, AC Milan, Inter, and Roma.

      I expect beIN SPORT 1 USA (and Canada) to take international feeds to Ligue 1 matches straight through with Matthew Spiro calling the action.

      The studio host of “Express Weekend” on beIN SPORT 1 USA (and Canada) will be a young Canadian female talent that many of you are familiar with, as she anchored a soccer TV newscast a few years ago before stepping away.

      The senior producer who will be in charge of “Express Weekend” is expected to be a Canadian as well (so that 16 hours of live programming each week will count 100% toward the Canadian Content requirement for beIN SPORT 1 Canada), as he is someone who knows the host better than probably anyone else on earth.

      You should be able to guess who they are even though I cannot explicitly post their names.

      As for beIN SPORT Dos (in Spanish), I understand that Honduran TV personality Carmen Boquin has been hired as the studio host. Mexican announcer Jose Hernandez, who was the voice of EPL on ESPN Deportes during the past 3 seasons, has been hired as the primary play-by-play announcer.

    • Fernando says:

      Hudson along with most of the GolTV staff are just terrible. My hope is that they stay away from the EPL and use the international feed like Fox has if they were to secure the rights.

  17. Cody says:

    Without EPL, fox soccer would be GolTV.
    Also, without EPL on the Fox networks, many of us would be screwed.

  18. Reid says:

    Without the Premier League, FS would not be a relevant provider in my eyes. If someone else gets the rights, I hope they keep providing streaming access though because that is my only access to soccer.

  19. Vijay says:

    I am just about to drop cable and go all streaming due to Fox Soccer’s online presence – it covers 80% of what I watch and since my cable company allows ESPN3, I get anything else I want there.

    This would definitely change my strategy if beIN went to TV and not online. Since my cable bill is so high, paying the $20/month is worth it for me to watch online since I don’t have to pay all the other fees for channels I don’t watch but if beIN was only on TV, that could pose a problem for me…

    Is there word on whether beIN would have an online presence?

  20. AZ_Saint says:

    I don’t get it. The EPL ratings are what 300k for a big EPL game and significantly less than that for other games and other leagues. If BEIN Sport are going to drive the EPL rights price up, can they really expect to get a return on their investment? It’s not going to be a pay channel is it? I mean it’s taken many, many years to get here and we’re talking about pretty miniscule viewing figures, right? Who would possibly want to pay to advertise their products on this or any other European football channel?? Surely the Premier League knows it HAS to remain on ESPN in some capacity surely?

    • The Gaffer says:

      Last season, TV viewing audiences for big EPL matches were over 1 million (on ESPN), and over 1.67 million (on FOX network). They are by no means miniscule (especially considering their early kickoff times on Saturday and Sunday mornings).

      I don’t think beIN SPORT is that worried about ROI in the beginning. They’re building a giant media company that will raise their profile worldwide, leading up to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Money is no object for them, which is why FOX Soccer should be very worried about the upcoming bidding process.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

    • Guy says:

      Remember that ESPN only subleases from Fox, who is the actual bidder and holder of all US rights. There is absolutely no guarantee that ESPN will continue to sublease, especially if Fox has to bid over the moon to outbid beIN.

      As for making a return on their investment, I’m not sure beIN (read: “Qatar”) even cares right now. They want exposure and they want it now. We’ll just have to wait until September to find out how badly. In the end they didn’t factor in the UK process at all, so this may again be much ado about nothing. Kind of like transfer talk. It is the silly season, after all. ;-)

  21. AZ_Saint says:

    Sounds like beIN will be going all in then. Be interesting to see who carries the channel first. We all know about DISH and exclusivity so if they don’t do the exclusive deal with them (which I’m sure they won’t), that will mean DISH subscribers (like myself) will have a loooooooooooooooooong wait for the channel…

  22. Red Army says:

    Fox Soccer 2Go is the way forward – am not interested in the studio and post game reaction, its all about the game for me. I got it for $160 for 12 months…..

    Its a matter of choice as to whether you want to watch the pundits – admit its no Sky Sports in UK but its not as bad as the posts make out. Also it does have to suit a diverse audience as Football is still growin tenfold across US!

  23. EPLFan says:

    Gaffer —

    My concern is online viewing. I know a few fans have cut the cable and satellite completely and view the matches strictly online. FoxSoccer2Go has me worried about re-upping this year. So far, not one match is listed as being live online; everything is listed as the dreaded “11:59 pm on-demand.” With FoxSoccer having fewer matches to show, will they start delaying their online matches more?

    In addition, I am not pleased that FS2G is charging the same amount this year for online as they did last year, knowing full well they will not show as many matches.

    Likewise, do we know if beIN TV will even offer an online-only version?

    • The Gaffer says:

      EPLFan, unfortunately FOX Soccer 2Go is just being really slow in updating their schedule for next season. Unless something has changed, they’ll have the vast majority of EPL games live on FOX Soccer 2Go.

      beIN will have a online platform, but they haven’t announced whether you have to be subscribed to the TV channel in order to get it.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  24. EPLFan says:

    Gaffer (and all others) —

    Just received this email from FoxSoccer. I had asked them about updating its iOS app to allow watching archived matches instead of just viewing live matches. Here is the reply from Althia:

    “We apologise for any inconvenience you are having with using the FOX Soccer 2GO application. We are planning to enable full match video replay and will release as an update in the future.”

    Unfortunately, that is the same answer I received last Spring as the EPL was heading into the final weeks.

  25. Mike says:

    If Fox loses the EPL it can always add cricket :-) .

    • EPLFan says:

      As a cricket fan, the situation is even worse. Each governing board makes their own deal with channels. So, if you want to follow England, you need one channel for home series (WillowTV) and two other channels (Ten Cricket and Neo Cricket) for many away series.

      As for an iOS update, FS2G just sent me this:

      “I’m afraid we are unable to give you the exact time frame on this as we do not have any confirmation yet, If this happens, we will notify you as soon as possible via the home page.”

      So nothing has changed from last year. Sad.

  26. Spurs1974 says:

    Just read this. Could this be something FSC is going to pull in?

    http://www.worldscreen.com/articles/display/35455

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