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Farewell to FOX Soccer; FOX Pulls The Plug After 16 Years Of A Love-Hate Relationship

fox soccer rip logo Farewell to FOX Soccer; FOX Pulls The Plug After 16 Years Of A Love Hate Relationship

FOX today pulled the plug on FOX Soccer, the 24/7 soccer network, that was replaced by FXX — a new comedy channel — at 6am ET.

After debuting in November 1997 as FOX Sports World, the channel was later renamed as Fox Soccer Channel before becoming simply FOX Soccer. Despite 16 years of hard work by the network, all that hard work and brand equity will disappear today forever.

Despite FOX Soccer entering the TV graveyard, it’s important to note that the sport will still continue to be shown on US television, but in a very different fashion than what we’re used to. FOX Soccer Plus will carry on. So too will FOX Soccer 2 Go. And there’ll always be soccer now and again on FOX’s new networks FOX Sports 1 and FOX Sports 2, sandwiched in between NASCAR, UFC, college football and other American sports.

To be frank, my experience watching FOX Soccer (and working with them behind-the-scenes to procure the information I needed to share with you, the reader) has been a love-hate relationship. There were so many high points, but there have been many low points too.

Here are my picks for some of the highs and lows of FOX Soccer’s history:

HIGHS

1. A game changer. There’s no doubt that we soccer fans would not be where we are today if it wasn’t for FOX Soccer and its vital role the network played in growing the popularity of the sport in the United States. When soccer matches on television weren’t accessible, they made them readily available. When the Internet was still a fad, FOX Soccer in its early years was a vital source of news and content on television. But more importantly, it was a shared experience that we soccer fans could tune into. In the beginning, FOX Soccer was our dream come true — 24/7 soccer, all the time, anytime.

2. Fox Football Friday. In August, 2007, Fox Soccer Channel launched a brand-new show entitled Fox Football Friday, which would later morph into Fox Football Fone-In. Hosted by Steven Cohen and Nick Geber, the show was exactly what the network needed, with a mixture of personality and enthusiasm. From its humble beginnings in a set that looked like a living room to the call-in show it later became, the show was one of the few home-grown productions by FSC that was a success.

3. Studio sets. We’ve been so spoiled with the UEFA Champions League sets that FOX has been using for the past 12-15 months that whenever we see FOX Soccer use their old set on Sepulveda Blvd for Europa League, it literally feels like the broadcast is going back in time. The current sets they’ve been using are spacious, bright and make the coverage look better than it is.

4. Bobby McMahon. FOX Soccer pundit Bobby McMahon was the crown jewel of the network with his encyclopedic knowledge of the beautiful game. Unfortunately he wasn’t utilized by FOX as much as he should have been.

5. The unsung heroes. Over the 16 years of FOX Soccer’s history, there were so many hard-working individuals that burned the midnight oil in order to produce the best possible soccer product they could put on the air. Many of them were behind the camera, people who were passionate about the sport. But that also includes the people in front of the camera who often awoke at an ungodly hour to come in to the studio to begin their day. Thank you.

LOWS

1. Out of touch, out of mind. The biggest mistake that FOX Soccer made in the more recent years of its 16-year history was that the network lost touch of who their audience was. In previous years, FOX had its pulse on what soccer fans wanted to hear and see, but when FOX began to try to appeal to a more mainstream audience, it dumbed down its content and tried to attract a new, mainstream audience. FOX could have done it in the same way that ESPN and NBC did when it covered soccer by being intelligent and informative, but it went with an approach that — in my opinion — failed. FOX pissed off the hardcore soccer fan, and didn’t attract the mainstream audience either. The network lost sight of the hardcore fan base that helped FOX Soccer grow and flourish.

Unfortunately, the lasting impression of FOX Soccer is a sour one, which doesn’t bode well for the network given that they have a huge mountain to climb to win back fans for World Cup 2018 and 2022.

2. FOX Soccer Goes to Hollywood. After Fox Soccer Channel head-honcho David Sternberg left the network (to later become a top executive at Manchester United after working at NBC Universal), FOX Sports brought in a new executive who tried to turn the network into a Hollywood experiment. That included a range of new twists, most of which were failures. The first was the weekly TV show Soccer Talk Live, that tried to be an entertainment show about soccer, almost a Tonight Show format with special guests who would come on for a chat. While the show had some decent guests in later shows, it was too late. The damage had already been done.

The second was hiring A-list celebrities such as Piers Morgan to provide their analysis and opinions. While provoking, the experiment didn’t work because he lacked credibility. One of many examples of the idiotic things he said was that Manchester United’s David de Gea was the worst goalkeeper in the Premier League.

The third was the Being: Liverpool documentary. While it was a bold and adventurous decision to team up with an acclaimed director to produce a behind-the-scenes documentary about one of the greatest clubs in English football history, the execution was poor. Instead of being a fly-on-the-wall documentary, it ended up being a sanitized and censored version of what actually happened, which resulted in the documentary being interesting but lacking grit or true reality.

3. FOX Soccer Plus. More than 3.5 years after FOX’s second soccer network launched, some TV providers (including Comcast) still don’t offer the service.

4. FOXSoccer.tv and FOX Soccer 2Go technical issues. The history of technical issues that FOXSoccer.tv and FOX Soccer 2Go experienced were embarrassing. Eventually after many weekends ruined and frustrating experiences, FOX finally got its FOX Soccer 2Go product running without any headaches. But the early years of both products were excruciating at times, and incredibly disappointing.

5. The analysis. If I had to pinpoint the biggest weakness at FOX Soccer throughout the entire history of the network, it was their poor tactical analysis. There were some pundits who were better than others, but it was far too easy for many of these pundits just to be talking heads without saying anything of value. The viewers caught on early, which is why many of them seemed only interested in tuning in right before kick-offs.

6. Gus Johnson.

.

What are some of the highs and lows of FOX Soccer’s 16-year history that we forgot to mention? Post your suggestions in the comments section below.

This entry was posted in FOX Soccer. 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 →

50 Responses to Farewell to FOX Soccer; FOX Pulls The Plug After 16 Years Of A Love-Hate Relationship

  1. Flyvanescence says:

    Darn wanted to check one last rerun of the Bayern v Dortmund CL final . . .

  2. Ardwickian says:

    I lived in the USA football desert before fox appeared so will always have nothing but praise for them except the long running april fools joke that was gus johnson,so the king is dead,long live the new king NBC who have took the coverage to a new level.

    • Brendan says:

      NBC not as good, no SKY Sports anymore that’s the BIGGEST disappointment. I really enjoyed the Sky Sports show on Fox Soccer channel. NBC need to add it big time or loose a lot of fans.

  3. Ken says:

    Any news on what NBC are doing to get Live Extra working? Has one of the lowest reviews of any app out there let alone one from as major player.

    • Mathieu says:

      When it works for me it’s brilliant. It crashes maybe one out of five times. Very little buffering if ever as well. Using a Galaxy Note 2, on Verizon.

    • Michael says:

      Looks like they released version 2.0 today. It was in my update queue this morning.

      Says it made performance improvements and bug fixes.

    • zach says:

      They updated the android app last week and it now works perfectly on my Galaxy S4.

      It is amazing that the NBC app already works better than the paid app Fox Soccer had.

      Just another improvement with NBCSN.

    • Bayou says:

      Those of us with Time Warner can’t use it so I imagine it’s taking a hit there. I know the current NBC strike Milwaukee which while not a huge city has a huge football fan base and many of us are pretty upset that we can’t get Live Extra on our phones or computers.

  4. Cantona says:

    Best high.. Using Sky Sport and the international commentary.

    Worst low.. Losing the Sky Sports and international commentary.

    Cantona—

    • goatslookshifty says:

      Spot on Cantona. To get up to date news straight from Sky Sports News was fantastic. That program was the only British perspective for not just football but the Olympics, Cricket, Rugby, Golf etc. I spend a lot more time on this damn computer trying to find sports news instead of watching SSN a few times a day.
      Not to mention, Sky Sports News introduced us to Georgie, Millie, Charlie and Hayley.

  5. Cantona says:

    The thing is..they could still have this channel even with the limited properties they have.. They were still getting decent ratings.. Especially when you think of Fox 1… But it comes down to their management.. And Eric Shanks who made their idiot decisions within the last three years
    He himself has ruined football in the USA for true footy fans.. And you wonder why we loathe Fox 1

    Cantona—

  6. Mathieu says:

    So where will we get our Champions League coverage?

    Also, when they stopped using Whittle and Tasca to announce Serie A matches, and brought in Max Brettos instead, I wanted to vomit; they lost me.

    Then they just lost the coverage altogether. Bein Sports killed them on the coverage of Serie A.

    We’ve seen NBC, Bein, and GolTV, handle almost all aspects of broadcasting better than they did. I almost forgot Setanta, I thought they were better as well with they original, or studio programming.

    A year from now I won’t even remember Fox Soccer.

  7. santos says:

    I remember Fox Sports World fondly, back when it was a free basic cable channel and they showed EPL & Scottish soccer, and regularly showed Aussie Rules. Then, sometime in the late 90s to early aughts, when it was Fox Soccer, all of our local service providers (satellite or cable) moved it to an expensive “sports package” of useless local Fox affiliates where everything you would want to watch, like college football, was blacked out. I hated – HATED SO MUCH – that nonsense of “you get 30 sports channels in this package” when only about 5 were actually worthwhile. I have to believe that this was a move on Fox’s part, given, as I said, the inclusion of a couple dozen useless regional Fox affiliates in the package.

    So I’ve had an on and off again relationship with them in the last 10 years, roughly, because I couldn’t always justify to the wife that I wanted to pay an extra $15/month for one channel, essentially.

    I think, as mentioned in this article, an ongoing big failing of ALL soccer coverage in the US is the lack of intelligent tactical discussion that can teach newbies and also give more experienced viewers something to think about.

    What I want, as my wife and I are about to turn off our satellite simply because it’s too expensive for the amount that we actually watch it (and, incidentally, the new NBC channel that will carry the bulk of EPL coverage for them will be in a package I think two levels above the minimum package we carry, so, in effect, more than $15/month for a single channel)…what I want is some way to follow the EPL and watch a few matches online or on my tablet with a nominal monthly – or per-match fee. Now that I’m getting rid of all the other useless channels I don’t watch by ditching satellite completely, I’d gladly pay $15-20 per month…or possibly more…to have access to EPL coverage.

    • Bayou says:

      Fox Sports World used to show darts and cricket. I loved that.

      I would love to cut the cable but sadly not only am I an EPL addict, but also college football (Goal Line) and NFL (NFL Network and Red Zone). They’ve pretty much got me by the short hairs at this point.

  8. Andre says:

    I really liked having a nightly highlight/recap show. When it was in Winnipeg the production was awful but the analysis was very good. I could listen to Bobby talk for hours and still want more. The show in Toronto was pretty good too.

    I got the feeling Fox kind of gave up a couple years ago. By the end there were only about six hours on weekend mornings anyone cared about the channel, plus CL weekdays.

    This is a sign of progress. Fox Soccer died because it lost broadcast rights to NBC and Bein, and those channels are doing a much better job.

  9. Frill Artist says:

    LMFAO. You put Gus Johnson with no comment.

  10. usarsenalfan says:

    For all the good and bad, to have one channel you knew you could go to for world football 24/7 was the best part for me.

    The lack of consistency with Fox Soccer Daily and ESPN FC’s broadcast schedules – on more than one occasion I’ve DVR’d both of them only to find the shows pre-empted by a live broadcast gone long – is extremely frustrating.

    And for those of you who say you can watch world football highlights on the internet – gee, thanks for the heads up. Just my opinion and preference but I would prefer a highlights show sprinkled with analysis and interviews rather than what we now have – all analysis sprinkled with highlights, but mostly only highlights of those leagues the network has the broadcast rights to. Frustrating.

    RIP Fox Soccer.

    • Huw Roma says:

      I totally agree. As horrific as Fox Soccer News could be, at least all the news and highlights were accessible. I haven’t watched the Fox or ESPN news shows at all. FSN was on at the right time in the evening as well and not aired at an inconvenient afternoon timeslot. More than ever I’m relying on the internet for everything. The problem with NBC is all they cover is the EPL. There’s nothing from any other league. I think people will miss FSC more than they think over time.

  11. rej4sl says:

    Will be great when they put additional World Cup games, UEFA games on Fox Soccer Plus which no one gets.

    Would have made more sense to convert Fox Soccer to Fox Sports 2 and have 2 HD sports channels on all systems.

    Now we have Fox Sports 1 in HD and Fox Sports 2 in SD. And when the world cup in 2018 comes will Fox have the capacity to show all the games.

  12. Huw Roma says:

    I can’t understand why the channel hasn’t been retained by using the content on FS+ and showing a mixture of football and international sports. It could have been a modern version of Fox Sports International. Some people do enjoy watching Rugby, Rugby League and Aussie Rules. This is a missed opportunity and a shame. It seems pointless to keep a channel which is an extension of FSC and dump the original. It’s a backwards step. There is other sports besides football, which is why losing Sky Sports News is a huge loss.

  13. rkujay says:

    Gus Johnson…. Laughing my *ss off.

  14. rkujay says:

    Oh, and I have no sympathy for the talking heads being located on the west coast and having to get up early in the a.m. In my experience, if you get a well paid job, you have to put in the hours. Plus that twit rob stone(d) wanted a big network job so badly that he left his cake gig in Tampa for it on the if come. If he lost out, it is what the no mind deserved. I’ll not miss his inane…THE AMMMMMMMMMERRRRICAN.

  15. John says:

    And so we take a giant step backwards to the 1990s. Gosh, maybe at some golden time in the future we here in the States might be able to watch Sky Sports News.
    Technology was supposed to make everything available at our fingertips. Instead, the corporate hacks are actually narrowing our choices.

  16. goatslookshifty says:

    Let us not forget Fox Soccer Channel bought us cracking early round FA CUP games where the chips and pie vans were literally just off the pitch and the pitches were muddy.
    Listening to Martin Tyler commentate a Crawley Town or Dagenham and Redbridge game in the dead of winter was priceless.

  17. Kingtut says:

    Chris you describe it very well. First it was love. The ability to watch live games at home, without having to go to an Irish bar at an ungodly hour and pay $20 at the door – and then joy of joys high definition. Not the best mind you but still better than what it had been. The hate came later. Can’t remember exactly when. I suppose with FoxSoccerPlus. $15 a month was a lot to pay for the lousy package and the studio team that wrapped the sky sports feed. Where these four the best football analysis’s that Fox could find. In the end I just couldn’t bear to listen to them any more – a mixture of the sound of their voices and the content they delivered – Rob Stone and his high pitched, pipsqueak whine – Warren Barton – dull, duller, ungrammatically depressed – Keith Costigan – flat, rising, monotonous disorder.
    So I would mute them. The personality side of things which they tried to foster with studio banter and all that matey stuff never worked because Warren Barton was as bright as grey paint, Keith Costigan should have been sweeping the floors and Rob Stone would have been better suited to xFactor. The only one who ever impressed both as a personality and a pundit was Eric Wynalda and latterly Brain McBride -although Brian had a bit of a dreary delivery. It also used to annoy me the way that Keith Costigan deferred to Warren Barton, like he would shine his shoes if told too. So happy it’s all a thing of the past now. I really like the current NBC set up, but can’t quite make my up mind if I’m giving the NBC presentation to much credit simply because it’s no longer the Fox clowns.

  18. He's Livid says:

    The pros and cons listed are pretty spot on. Seen a lot characters roll through their Soccer programming over the years, and as noted by commenters some were decent while others were a swing and a miss. It’s a tough business in general and grinders such as Christian Miles and Keith Costigan put in the hard work and did as they were told only to be cast aside for the glamour boys. By the way, Robbie Musto was missing from NBC’s shows this week end. Why?

  19. JOR says:

    Eric Wynalda was the worst. Funny how you didn’t include him. Worst than hearing Gus Johnson. At least Gus had an excuse; he was a newbie that the execs threw on a big game with no time for research or preparation, not that I’m making an excuse for him. He could’ve adapted or maybe worst. Whinealda, on the other hand had time to polish himself up but instead has been whining ever since he came over there. He would utter 3 senseless sentences or would just echo what others had to say. Good riddance.

    Anyway, anyone knows where one can watch Sky Sports News now?

    • He's Livid says:

      Try purchasing airfare to the UK, because it is no longer available on US shores. Goodbye Olivia Godfrey.

    • BD says:

      There are Cloud services that can give you Sky Sports News 24 hours a day.

      They use Slingbox hosting, but are quite expensive – start at around $500/year.

      Check out uktv-anywhere or if you have friend or relatives in the UK, get them to host a Slingbox.

  20. JOR says:

    And funny thing was, there was no warning in the media that the channel was going to be discontinued. Insulted you throughout up until the end.

  21. Scrumper says:

    Have to give credit where it’s due – Fox Soccer did bring the game into our living rooms. They also brought Sky Sports. However, then they sat back and totally ignored it. They could have simply cut out the pathetic studio show with the three stooges jostling for a cliché and I’d have been happy to stay with them.

    When they realized it was slipping away they unleashed their final master stroke – Gus Johnson! Never in football history has so much been lost by one network with so few as by forcing that idiot upon us. I love the way he’s number 6 in the list with no explanation hahahaha!

    And just as I thought the studio clowns were gone forever I turn on TalkSport (Andy Goldstein)and to my horror there’s Barton calling in as Fox Soccer’s Newcastle expert mangling the English language with those sage words “they need high tempo” Wanting the pain to end I didn’t know which was quicker – throwing myself out of the window or simply turning off the dreaded radio. Fortunately the radio was nearer, but it was a close call.

  22. Andre says:

    I just saw Fox Soccer Daily for the first time… pretty awful. That girl yells too much and doesn’t even try to pretend she has something to contribute. Everytime she opens her mouth it feels like we are about to get another “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!?!?!!!”

  23. Mufc77 says:

    In the beginning it was definitely better than searching through the Miami Herald for the results of the weekends games. By the end I’d rather search through a paper and read a match report than listen to Gus Johnson during a match.

    All I ever cared about was seeing the games so I could live with the crappy pre and post match analysis and stupid gimmicks. Getting rid of the old 7pm sky sports broadcast really pi$$ed me off but I got over it. What finally did it for me and FSC was the game Gus Johnson called where he made mistake after mistake after mistake. It turned the Gaffers game thread into one big epic joke fest with every singe comment aimed at ridiculing Johnson. Thankfully we now have a top class product with NBC to enjoy over the next couple years to help us get over the horrible last 12 months.

  24. Gratefullawyer says:

    My question is now where are champions league games going to be on. Is it just fox soccer plus?

    • Christopher Harris says:

      FOX Sports 1, FOX Sports 2, FOX Soccer Plus, FOX Sports Networks and FOX Soccer 2Go. They’ll be spread across all of them.

  25. Nick says:

    6. Gus Johnson.

    I’m afraid I don’t know who you’re talking about. Did you mean to say

    6. GUS JOHNSON

    In that case, I absolutely agree.

  26. Greg says:

    Gus Johnson wasn’t all that bad, Gus Johnson and Ian Wright was a blight on humanity that no one could dare to top

  27. Michael says:

    Fox production for soccer games is so poor I started to lose interest in the beautiful game. Now that nbc took over I find myself glued to the tv set every weekend. Good job nbc!

  28. RedStarSanJose says:

    I remember signing up with DirecTV in early 1998 for the sole purpose of getting FOX Sports World. I was blown away that
    A) Football on TV in English
    B) 24 hours a day
    C) The different leagues
    D) News!!!
    Not since PBS’ ‘Soccer Made In Germany’ in the 70′s was there so much excitement for televised football in the US. I loved the budget productions because it was the exact opposite of NFL over the top commercial capitalism. We are supporters of the Beautiful Game in a country that dismisses our culture, so the underground rebellion of FOX Sports World was perfect, IMHO.
    I loved Max Bretos too, I admit it. Even though he is as right-wing as they come, I loved his genuine passion for the games he called. Then I found out he is West Ham and my appreciation for him was cemented! It was a sad day for me when he left.
    Fox Football Friday was AWESOME at first, but it got tired toward the end, (like all good things). The SKY Sports News was INVALUABLE!!! Will the US supporters EVER have it again on TV? I even liked the obviously made-for-Europe commercials (Jose Mourinho’s AMEX commercial!), and I HATE commercials normally.
    FSW and FSC ended the old get up at 4am and get to the pub for a game traditions, and I still miss that, but what it gave us was priceless. That network played a huge part in the maturity of the American supporter and gave all of us a center that we shared despite club loyalties or geographic locale. I miss it. NBC is terrible. When I was forced to watch a breaking news story about some lies coming out of Washington during a live West Ham match early this year, I knew right then and there that NBC was the wrong choice for the EPL to take. I am no longer hyped to get up early Saturday mornings to watch the sterile productions they shovel out with the chance of interruption. It’s just not the same.
    RIP FSC, you are missed.

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