FOX today made history by televising the first-ever FA Cup match to be shown live on free-to-air television in the United States. The match between West Ham United and Manchester United lived up to its billing and featured plenty of goals, but how did the people behind the scenes and in front of the cameras do at FOX?
Here’s my review of the good, the bad and the ugly of FOX’s TV coverage of West Ham against Man United:
The good —
- The opening few minutes of the FOX broadcast were excellent with a very heartwarming interview with Ray Wilkins, who was able to explain the charm of the FA Cup with examples that Americans would understand (those who may not be familiar with the tournament or the sport itself).
- FOX’s decision to keep with Rob Stone, Eric Wynalda and Warren Barton instead of wheeling in a NFL personality or celebrity was wise.
- Warren Barton’s half-time analysis that Nemanja Vidic was the only Manchester United defender who was willing to compete (while Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling weren’t doing their job) was spot on.
- Giving the FA Cup the exposure it deserves by airing it on local FOX networks across the United States.
The bad —
- A pre-match recorded interview with Rio Ferdinand that was unremarkable (he didn’t say anything new or interesting) that ate up precious airtime, so much so that when FOX returned from commercial break, there was little to no pre-match build-up from Upton Park (which resulted in viewers missing the fans singing the West Ham anthem “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles.”) Instead, the match went straight to kick-off.
- Silly mistakes like misspelling Tom Cleverley’s name during the half-time analysis where Warren Barton analyzed Manchester United’s goal.
- Calling Manchester United “English royalty” during the pre-match ticker running across the bottom of the screen was embarrassing and showed poor judgment.
- Deciding to focus on half-time highlights that only featured Premier League clubs (Brighton-Newcastle and Southampton-Chelsea) instead of the goals from other games that were more about the true meaning of the FA Cup such as Macclesfield upsetting Cardiff or Luton beating Wolves.
- Post match, FOX decided to show highlights of Manchester City-Watford, Southampton-Chelsea and Brighton-Newcastle. Still no Macclesfield-Cardiff nor Luton-Wolves. And finally with just a few minutes to go in their post-match coverage, FOX decided to show 19 seconds of highlights of Macclesfield’s game but Rob Stone put his foot in his mouth and referred to Macclesfield as “Macclesfield United, a fourth tier club.” Problem is that the team’s name is “Macclesfield Town” and they’re in the fifth tier of English football.
The ugly —
- Focusing too much attention on David Beckham before the match, during the half-time analysis and post-match. Who were they trying to appeal to? The soccer moms who wouldn’t be watching the match anyway? FOX can be excused from the cameras zooming in on Golden Balls and his children during the game (where they can’t control the TV cameras), but who cares about Beckham? Seriously!
- Approximately 10% of FOX affiliates nationwide that decided to show local programming or Zumba infomercials instead of the live soccer match. Rob Stone on Twitter described it as progress. Perhaps, but why not show the game on FOX Soccer at the same time for those who couldn’t watch the game live on free-to-air TV? I realize it dilutes the TV ratings that the flagship FOX network gets, but the vast majority of soccer fans would have watched the game on the free-to-air FOX network anyway.
Overall, FOX’s coverage of this match shows improvement over previous years of prestigious soccer games shown on national television. They still have room for improvement, but they need to make some tweaks to raise the bar.