This week’s European action was the best yet from a television standpoint in the United States since FOX took the rights for the Champions League away from ESPN in 2009. FOX’s studio shows were well done, with commentary talent in Eric Wynalda, Brian McBride and Warren Barton appearing exceptionally well prepared unlike times in the past.
The flow of the show has also improved thanks to better production as well as the hosting talent of both Rob Stone and new face Will Selva. Both Stone and Selva, who are industry veterans, give professionalism to FOX’s programming. It wasn’t long ago when Stone was hired that FOX’s studio shows looked like a glorified infomercial.
Stone and Selva have both hosted high intensity studio shows on ESPN so the transition to better shaped and more serious studio shows for FOX’s European broadcasts suits them. Wyanlda, in particular, can be one of the best pundits Stateside if put in the right environment, and the changes at FOX have improved his output this season.
FOX has also done a very smart thing by involving the likes of J.P Dellacamera, John Strong, Dave Denholm and Glenn Davis in Europa League coverage. This has given the many of the top American voices an opportunity to call European matches, as well as providing the viewer with more insight than the international feed announcers typically do.
FOX Sports 1 and FOX Sports 2 give a wider window to the world for FOX’s European soccer packages. Perhaps that is why the studio production is better and the talent appears better prepared about the matches they are previewing or reviewing.
All this leads to FOX Soccer Daily. The show has yet to find its niche, and while host Julie Stewart-Binks has dramatically improved, the show still lacks the analysis and credibility of ESPN FC. The show employs a rapid fire format on topics but doesn’t really break down or analyze issues related to the sport the way ESPN FC does. Also every afternoon it feels like Stewart-Binks runs out of time on topics she has to discuss. The “stoppage time” section is a good idea, but unless it a rapid fire format, one minute is not enough time and the host ends up apologizing on-air for not getting to other areas of discussion.
Considering that ESPN FC has produced lively discussions on topics such as diving and retrospective punishments, FOX Soccer Daily could take a page out of that book and have a show with more than two guests and really dig into a topic.
FOX Soccer Daily continues to be a work in progress but the overall production and level of professionalism at the FOX networks have improved.