FOX’s FA Cup TV Coverage of West Ham-Manchester United: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

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.

24 thoughts on “FOX’s FA Cup TV Coverage of West Ham-Manchester United: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly”

  1. I know every country can’t stand their pundits, but I just don’t see how Rob Stone made it through the hiring process. I feel he’s too obnoxious or something, though that’s apparently the Fox way. And he’s making me feel anger towards Americans like Dempsey and Friedel because of the way he talks about them. There’s a reasonable way to back Americans on an American station, but it is most definitely NOT how he goes about it.

        1. I disagree. Im sure there are guys out there that would be fine.

          It’s the same for me as far as baseball hosts go. Some are awful and I complain and some are good.

  2. Agree.

    What about the graphics for their ads during the match? It covered nearly a quarter of the screen! As if that wasn’t bad enough but it got ridiculous when the ball was played into those spaces and we were left guessing what was happening. Didn’t happen too often, but still annoying nonetheless.

    Also want to bring up the horrifying and continued use of the NFL on Fox theme for over the air soccer broadcasts on FOX. It’s just lazy and a bit cheesy.

    But I did like seeing soccer on a major network like that. Hope they continue with it.

  3. I totally agree that Fox should have shown the game on Fox Soccer also since some Fox affiliates decided not to show the game live but delayed. In this day and age when most people get their sports news live on the internet it makes no sense to delay the broadcast.

  4. FOX CT affiliate showed “Bloopers” while the game was on and when they showed it delayed they showed it in SD. I was able to watch the match live in SD on DirecTV because I get the NY affiliates in SD. This is really getting annoying and I am thinking of getting an HD antenna to get the best HD quality from the broadcast stations and all the NY affiliates in HD as well.

  5. FOX showed the game on tape delay where I’m at and to me
    the biggest thing that bothered me was that it was letterbox 4:3
    even though both FSC and FOX come in in HD for me. It looked awful.
    However, at nearly the same time FSC was showing a replay of the
    game as well, so all worked out.

  6. Any particular reason Fox dosen’t go to the game announcers earlier than they do? they don’t let you see or hear the pregame at all. even in the regular premier league matches on fsc they do this. get rid of the studio talk and go to the stadium. you don’t hear the announcers until after the kickoff in most cases.

    i hope it just has something to do with the audio rights.

    1. Tom, good question. I think it’s more of a style thing. FOX Soccer prefers to have their own voice, i.e. an American voice (albeit with Warren Barton being English, but he was hired by FOX Soccer before their latest head boss was hired).

      Personally, I prefer to have the pre-game with the commentators that are broadcasting the match rather than hearing FOX Soccer rambling on. To be fair, ESPN has been having more of talking heads and less of going straight to the players in the tunnel in the past season or two.

      The Gaffer

  7. Really enjoyed the broadcast despite too many Beckham look ins. I thought Fox made a great decision to put it on the network with the regular game day crew.

    Again those of us here from the beginning are amazed to see a Cup match on American network tv period. So excuse me if I am willing to put up with a good number of bad interviews just to have the pleasure of watching the game via an antenna. I am a bit old fashioned.

    Question for Chris, if Fox has the Cup rights through 2018 does that mean FSC is likely to give us wall to coverage in the future when the EPL is gone?

    1. It’s hard to say Lou. It all depends on whether FOX decides to shut down FOX Soccer and turn it into FOX Sports 3 or FOX Sports 4. If they do decide to stick with FOX Soccer, then I can foresee them showing more FA Cup games because they’d have little else left that they own rights to.

      The Gaffer

  8. Thank you. Yes forgot we will soon see Fox Sports 1, 2, etc. probably best for them to put it on one of the channels and move content to them.

  9. This Rob Stone has become even more of a joke after enduring his stupid drivel for the Mansfield v Liverpool game today. He either fancies himself as a stand up comedian or is desperate for NBC to notice him. Perhaps his parents ignored him as a child – which is understandable in the circumstances.

  10. I saw a on air date for Fox Sports 1 of August 1. May be just chance but the date seems to be just right for the European Soccer season.

    1. Good catch Tim. I wasn’t aware of that, but FOX’s broadcast was still the first time a FA Cup match had been shown live on US TV, so it does make a difference.

      The Gaffer

  11. My first exposure to British football was watching the FA Cup Final on ABC’s Wide World of Sports in the 70s. It didn’t matter to me back then that it was on tape delay (might have been shown delayed, but on the same day, at that point.)
    Let’s hope the Fox broadcast helped create some lifetime fans, as well!

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