Over the past two years, FOX Soccer has spent a lot of money and worked tremendously hard at improving everything related to its channel. But at the same time, FOX Soccer gets a lot of criticism from soccer fans from all walks of life. “The analysis from their pundits is garbage.” “FOX Soccer was the reason why MLS ratings were so poor.” “I only watch the games on FOX Soccer and nothing else.” “FOX Soccer News sucks.” “FOX Soccer Plus is a ripoff.”
And the list goes on and on.
At the same time, I would argue that FOX Soccer is the best it’s ever been. FOX has invested heavily to change and upgrade its studio, so that the visual presentation is significantly improved. FOX Soccer has moved more Sunday EPL games that used to be on FOX Soccer Plus to its flagship channel. FOX has shown far more EPL games on the free-to-air network, to bring the league to the US masses. FOX has made several changes to its on-air talent, improving the quality of coverage. FOX Soccer has improved its website and added better quality columnists. FOX has produced a documentary about one of the most historic Premier League clubs, and aired the debut episode on free-to-air national TV. FOX has significantly improved its on-screen graphics. FOX Soccer pulls in more reporters from the grounds into its telecasts of EPL and Champions League matches. FOX shows more Sky Sports News broadcasts than ever before. And finally I would argue that even its nightly news show, FOX Soccer News, is a step in the right direction.
Despite all of this, FOX Soccer still comes under a lot of criticism from its viewers. Sure, FOX Soccer has room for improvement, but soccer fans need to realize the effort and expense the network is making to helping grow the sport (and its number of viewers) in the United States.
While ESPN no doubt produces a quality product, the quantity of TV soccer coverage it provides soccer fans in the United States is far less. And back to the analogy of FOX Soccer being that longterm spouse or girlfriend (or boyfriend), ESPN is that striking blonde that dashes across the street or through your office once or twice a week, where you catch a brief glimpse, making your heart flutter. FOX Soccer is that longterm relationship. She’s there day after day, month after month, year after year.
FOX Soccer is like that longtime girlfriend or spouse you’ve had where you neglect to see all of the great things she does and you zero in on the negatives. Only when she walks away do you realize how much you miss her and how you previously took her for granted.
So, why do some soccer fans dislike FOX Soccer so much? There are several reasons: (1) They’re an easy target. FOX Soccer provides so much soccer coverage to viewers in the United States that it’s easier for people to find fault with a particular thing they do because they air so many soccer matches and programs. (2) The pundits rub many the wrong way, but the fact of the matter is that no one loves their pundits. Listen to the Brits and you hear them moan about the pundits on Sky Sports, ITV and Match Of The Day all the time. Sky’s Gary Neville is possibly the only exception that isn’t heavily criticized. (3) Another reason why FOX Soccer is criticized is because of its style. It’s not a soft-spoken or aesthetic BBC network. It’s not a classy or heartwarming ESPN. FOX is FOX. Watch their NFL coverage or other programming, and FOX is in your face, loud and sometimes obnoxious. Their style is inherent.
Over the past couple of years, FOX Soccer has made some big changes, but they’re also made some small changes that you may have missed. At the end of a Premier League or Champions League match, FOX Soccer no longer cuts off the commentator immediately after the final whistle and whisks you away to a TV commercial. FOX Soccer has learned to let the broadcast continue, to breath and let the moments after a match soak in. And sometimes it’s the small things that count most to soccer viewers.
We’re at a very interesting crossroads in the lifecycle of soccer on US television right now. Within the next two weeks, we’ll learn who has won the US media rights to the 2013-2016 seasons of the English Premier League, the crown jewel of international club soccer. We may continue our longtime relationship with FOX Soccer. Or it’s quite possible that the new woman on the street in beIN SPORT will be our new suitor. Whatever happens, I hope the future is a bright one and that no matter who wins the TV rights battle, that the coverage is just as good if not better than what FOX Soccer has achieved.
Now if only FOX’s Premier League coverage could be as good as its Champions League coverage! But that’s another topic for another day.