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Why I’m Scared What FOX Sports Will Do With Its World Cup Coverage For 2015-2022

fox sports logo Why Im Scared What FOX Sports Will Do With Its World Cup Coverage For 2015 2022

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.

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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 →

41 Responses to Why I’m Scared What FOX Sports Will Do With Its World Cup Coverage For 2015-2022

  1. Iancransonsknees says:

    Reckon they’ll extend Gus’ contract?

    • Flyvanescence says:

      I hear hes already signed up to do the World Cup 2018. He does several sports for Fox, most notably football and basketball.

      However the decision to put him in charge of soccer shows programming decisions shouldnt be made in a drunken stupor.

    • Christopher Harris says:

      FOX are grooming him as their voice of the World Cup. So despite the very significant salary they’re paying him, it looks like FOX is going to keep him for the long run despite what the public think.

  2. Justin says:

    Good article and quite frankly I feel the same. Strange to see various networks vying for soccer broadcast rights – I suppose that is a good thing and we can only hope that the stellar job NBC did this year will make Fox Sports step-up their game.

    I suppose there is enough time until 2018 for me to learn Spanish and watch Telemundo instead.

  3. Flyvanescence says:

    Reckon theyll go after Lalas, Stan Collymore and Niall Quinn.

  4. goatslookshifty says:

    FOX still have plenty of time to screw this up.

  5. Steve L. says:

    can anyone tell me definitively who has the U.S. TV rights for the upcoming Bundesliga season (2014-2015). I hope it isn’t GolTV, I, just like most others around the nation don’t have access to this channel. I really don’t want to watch another season on the internet. The video quality is horrible, but what choice do we have ?

    I don’t think Fox will be able to match the quality product that NBC Sports delivered this year. Well done.

  6. Noel says:

    Hopefully ESPN gets it back or NBC gets it. They know how to make soccer very entertaining with their commentators, analysts, and setups

    • Christopher Harris says:

      The earliest NBC or ESPN could get the rights to the World Cup is 12 years from now — when World Cup 2026 will be beamed to our TV sets.

  7. Gerry says:

    For the upcoming 2014-15 season which league(s) has Fox acquired the rights to, if any. I thought they acquired the rights to the German and Dutch leagues. Or is that for upcoming seasons?

  8. Ashley says:

    I share all of your concerns. Other networks, particularly NBC, have greatly improved their soccer coverage and understanding over the last ten to fifteen years. Fox hasn’t improved a bit. They don’t seem to understand how to present the support or evaluate hosts or commentators.

  9. Cantona says:

    My worry is next seasons Champions League matches. Sky Sports will not be broadcasting the games in the UK, it now goes over to BT Sport, so no more Tyler and Neville for matches on the Sky feed. BT will have their own crews at the games. What will Fox do? Use their in house announcers as we get with Europa league fixtures? Their announcers are so bad I don’t even attempt to watch the Europa league anymore.

    Fox needs to get some top class talent and quick. Heir Tyler and anyone else they can pick off from Sky, even if it’s just for Champions League matches. He is not tied down with anyone for the World Cup so this would be a frat time to pick up some world class talent.

    Who am I kidding. This is Eric Shanks and Fox, the guys who’s brain fart brought us Gus Johnson and their Nostradamus Eric Wynalda (no kidding, fox tweeted this!)

    Let’s face it until the advertisers start pulling back $$’s they will keep living in a bubble. Let’s hope after they see the ratings for the Champions League final with Gus and Nostradamus they start pulling back the cash. This will be one of the lowest rated finals ever. Most casual fans would watch this game… But not with Gus and co doing it.

    #boycottgusinfinal

    Cantona—

    • Flyvanescence says:

      BT do have Ian Darke though.

    • CTBlues says:

      The casual fan doesn’t even know who Martin Tyler is so the only people that will boycott it are the the people who know that Gus is a knob.

      • Jeff says:

        I would disagree that only ‘hardcore’ soccer fans would boycott a Gus game. There seems to be widespread disapproval of his commentary from even casual fans of the game

  10. Matt says:

    Will Gus be doing the call for the FA Cup final?

    please say no
    please say no
    please say no
    please say no

    It sounds so over-dramatic, but Gus is ruining this game I love.

  11. Bo says:

    I don’t know if any of you who have fox sports 2 caught the A-League Final a few weeks ago. It was on at 1:30 am est to 4:30 est, I recorded it for later. It was showing live what was going on their TV, down under. I was totally shocked how even Fox Australia handle it. It was so much better then anything on Fox USA. They had a hour and a half pre-game. Interviews from people that had accurate knowledge on that seasons A-league. Interviews on the street with fans of both teams. Showed the atmosphere of the walk out of the players completely. Re-capped the season and had a very nice and presentable broadcast. Now I know it was only for the final for the Australia league but still why is that type of coverage nowhere close to what Fox USA does here with its soccer coverage?

    • CTBlues says:

      The answer to that is simple, the folks running FoxSports America are not the same as the ones running FoxSports Australia.

  12. Smokey Bacon says:

    You don’t need a crystal ball to see how this goes down.

    2018 will be an unmitigated disaster not unlike ESPN’s iill fated 2006 effort. But unlike ESPN who listened and acted on the storm of criticism they received with superb results in 2010, Fox will continue its crappy coverage with terrible commentators and crappy, lazy pundits.

    The 2022 tournament will eithe be the bottom of the barrel. Or fox will have fired Shanks by then and given up altogether, especially if Qatar proves to be th scheduling nightmare iit is shaping up to be.

    It’ could all be so different. It’s not rocket science as NBC has shown this season. Put on a quality product, respect the viewers, and you will blow through your audience targets. Fox seem incapable of learning this lesson which is a failure of management.

  13. Kobashi says:

    I’m not worried about how FOX will fill their on air staff that will be brought in from outside of LA for the World Cup. My bet is that is that any talent that SKY employees that doesn’t have a deal in place with other broadcasters around the world will be hired by FOX to handle the World Cup in the US. ESPN was able to get Tyler and Darke to come work for them in the Summer I’m sure that FOX can pull that off considering they have a staff of hundreds that produce soccer on a daily basis. Of course the LA crew and Gus will be an albatross but I think everyone will be shocked how good it comes off if FOX relies on Sky to handle to fill in the on air and behind the scenes production.

  14. john marzan says:

    “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.”

    the only thing NBC was good at was to please the already diehard EPL fans. there’s no evidence whatsoever that US soccer’s or MLS’ popularity grew because of NBC’s coverage. NONE!

    • Christopher Harris says:

      MLS’s TV viewing audiences on NBC doubled this season. One of the main reasons for this was the double headers of EPL games followed by MLS games.

  15. Martin J. says:

    Here’s what listening to Gus Johnson feels like. Check it out it’s funny:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HxYikubciDE

  16. theHammer says:

    @Martin J, LOL, spot on (sad, rally)

  17. theHammer says:

    *really

  18. Faithless says:

    Just read another article in which the author asked an exec at fox about Gus ands the new MLS deal.. He said there were not sure if Gus would be involved with MLS but would continue with Champipns League and FA Cup duty.

    If that’s not the biggest slap in the face to fans I don’t know what is!

    Streaming is my new normal it seems. FA Cup on ITV this weekend gentlemen.

  19. Burnsey says:

    Gus is the biggest problem. Although I’m not a Barton, Wynalda or Lallas’ fan, at least I can acknowledge that they played the game. They at least have a feel for what is happening on the pitch. Gus has no idea what is happening; he has no understanding of anything tactical. To take a stranger and drop him in as the cornerstone of a presentation at the highest level of the sport is criminal. I can’t imagine this happening in any other country on the planet.

  20. Bryan says:

    I’m dreading Fox’s takeover as well, given their disastrous decision to hire Johnson. He and Eric Wynalda together are perhaps the worst announcing duo I’ve ever heard in any sport. And they’re not going to get much better.

  21. Sharon Lynn says:

    I just openly groaned at this for all the reasons you’ve stated. Ugh. Trust Fox to mess it all up.

  22. ;;;;; says:

    The world cup ended 2 days ago and I am already missing ESPN’s amazing coverage! Fox is going to have to pull off the miracle of all miracles if the 2018 tournament isn’t going to be a broadcasting disaster. Oh well. I’m moving to Canada anyway, and I heard that CBC is okay with soccer coverage.

    • David says:

      The first thing I thought after watching the final World Cup Tonight episode is Fox having the rights to the next World Cup. I have pretty low expectations for the World Cup coverage Fox will be bringing us in 2018. There is no way they will match the outstanding quality ESPN has brought us over the years covering the World Cup.

  23. tltltltl says:

    The only major broadcaster in the United States that does not have at least 1 good commentator that is good at commentating their sport is Fox. You have NHL on NBC (Mike Emrick), anything that ESPN does with soccer, and CBS has Greg Gumbel and Verne Lundquist. So Fox is way behind the 8-ball.

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