In 390 days, FOX Sports will begin its first broadcast of a World Cup tournament it paid FIFA $500 million for the rights to as part of the World Cups from 2015 to 2022. The tournament is the FIFA Women’s World Cup, which the network will broadcast live from Canada.
Whether it’s the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup or World Cup 2018 in Russia or World Cup 2022 in Qatar, I am seriously concerned that FOX Sports is going to ruin the viewing experience of the biggest soccer tournaments for people in the United States.
We’re just over a year away from its first World Cup, and FOX has no world-class soccer talent on its books. It has a lead commentary duo who have turned FOX’s soccer coverage into a joke. It has one of the most uninspiring and uninformative studio talent lineups on television. To be frank, other than a growing arsenal of TV rights, FOX Sports has very few redeeming factors when it comes to soccer.
It’s unclear what FOX’s vision is regarding soccer other than a policy of “buy the rights and (hope) they will come.” On top of that, FOX Sports is out of touch with what soccer fans want. And based on this season’s coverage of the Premier League that was shown on NBC Sports, FOX Sports’ soccer coverage looks more inferior than ever before.
Yes there’s still time for FOX Sports to buy talent and resources to improve its coverage in the next year. But what confidence should we have that the next 12 months are going to be any different than the lack of progress made in the last year?
FOX seems to be on a mission of acquiring TV rights, not listening or caring what its viewers say and not knowing or understanding the sport. While FOX can afford to use that strategy on sports leagues where mistakes are more forgiving, it’s a different ball game when it comes to the World Cup.
ESPN’s coverage of the Women’s World Cup in 2011 was a memorable production that elevated the women’s game to viewers in the United States. Based on where FOX Sports is now and their recent decisions, I have no confidence in their abilities to achieve the record viewing numbers that ESPN saw for World Cup 2011.
Next year will be a big year for FOX Sports with rights to the USMNT, MLS, Women’s World Cup, Bundesliga, UEFA Champions League and other tournaments. But FOX needs to begin hiring world-class talent now instead of leaving it too late.