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Memo to Fox Soccer Channel: 5 Ways to Improve FSC

The reaction to Jack Bell’s column and the lively debate this past weekend in the comments section got me thinking. A lot of the debate is whether Fox Soccer Channel should target the die-hard soccer fan as a viewer or the mainstream American who may only have a passing interest in the sport.

My answer is that it’s neither. Fox Soccer Channel is trying to please the advertisers, not the fans.

It may be hard to digest. After all, we spend so much time watching the channel that we feel as if we can have an important say into what the network should or shouldn’t show. But it’s really the advertisers who have the clout. Sure, the viewers are important. After all, without them, there’d be no viewing figures for Fox to share with its prospective advertisers.

Regarding Bell’s comments that he’d rather have American personalities on Fox Soccer Channel so the network can avoid the Britishisms in its speech, that’s ridiculous. Rather than make it a debate about whether to use English announcers or American, it should be whoever provides the best quality coverage, not their nationality.

Don’t forget that Fox has tried MLS shows in the past. MLS Wrap with John Harkes and Sean Wheelock bombed although the concept was good. The first episode of “MLS Saturday on Fox” with Todd Grisham, meanwhile, was an abortion which was the fault of the production crew and not the wrestling announcer.

If Fox does want to improve their network, here are five recommendations:

  1. Leave the TWI feeds of the Premier League matches as they are and don’t cut in with your FSC personalities immediately as the half-time whistle or full-time whistle blows. You’re currently not adding any value by doing this and a couple of minutes of additional wrap-up from the English commentators would be far preferred.
  2. Trim Fox Football Fone-In from two hours to one. Two hours is just agonizing. One hour will make the show that much tighter.
  3. Make Fox Football Fone-In a debate show and less glitzy. Keep Steven Cohen and replace Nick Webster with someone that’s more opinionated and less smarmy.
  4. Create a weekly football analysis show. Fox desperately needs a thinking man’s show that dives deep into match and player analysis, which will help educate the viewers on the technical aspects of the game. The show will also give the viewers an opportunity to hear intelligent debate about meaty topics and learn more about the history of the game at the same time. Two hosts spring to mind: Bobby McMahon and Christopher Sullivan (although the latter needs to be reigned in to keep him more focused).
  5. Put Super Sunday + out of its misery. The show didn’t work on a Saturday and it doesn’t work on a Sunday either. Possibly the best thing going for it is the set and that’s really sad.

    Bonus Tip: Develop a MLS show that is quality.
    Maybe it’s time to call Sean Wheelock again and pair him up with someone else to make this formula work. I agree with Bell that a news and highlights show is needed to create more interest in the league.

What ideas do you have for how to improve Fox Soccer Channel? Post them below by hitting the ‘comment’ link.

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  1. LAGooner

    November 30, 2007 at 12:31 pm

    I agree with most suggestions, but most strongly with 1). Why they cut instantly away to their inane commentator, and the “Guinness Play Of The Game”, when the on-pitch atmosphere after a match is so amazing I don’t know. And if i never hear Christian Miles’ voice again, it will be too soon. Oh, and their horrible graphics and musical bumpers (“FSC!!!”) are worthy of a cable access channel…

  2. Paul

    November 30, 2007 at 9:24 am

    In all the other Football Countries, they all have a pre-Match show just like America does for the other Five (Advertisement) sports.
    Remember In England/Germany/Spain/Italy The football comes First, It’s about football not the Advertisers.
    One example is Pay Per view, you pay $24.99 for a England International game, the game starts at 3.00 pm the coverage starts at 3.00 pm, some times it’s even started when it comes on??? where’s the build up, the stats, The Players, you cannot tell us this during a game, we don’t stop for commercials.
    If you intend to show Spanish/Italian or German Football The commentator needs to be there Not in a Studio in Hollywood.
    I used to love to watch the Italian & Spanish Football In England with either a English Commentator there or even a foreign commentator as long as he is there, can you imagine watching American football with the commentators In a studio?
    The problem is with the American Commentators is the don’t now enough about the Passion of the game in Europe, they make loads of mistakes & sound like there reading from a board.
    Commentating is about ad lib It’s live for heaven sake.
    You need to broadcast football like they do in Europe which have been doing this for 50 years, this is not An American Sport & if you want it to be an American sport then show it how it needs to be showed
    Regards Paul

  3. Simon Burke

    November 27, 2007 at 11:26 am

    Well said Hudsonland – i think a good majority of fans here appreciate its roots and actually like the internationalism of the coverage. Someone said Bretos is the best thing on the channel – whereas he has greatly improved over the last 3 years he isnt yet the best thing on the channel – but he is now tolerable and I appreciate his enthusiasm whereas I used to think he was an uneducated muppet like Lionel Bienvenue. Shudders at the thought of him ever returning!

  4. Hudsonland

    November 26, 2007 at 10:08 pm

    “Leave the TWI feeds of the Premier League matches as they are and don’t cut in with your FSC personalities immediately as the half-time whistle or full-time whistle blows.”

    I always assumed there was a good reason for this (like the external commentary only guaranteed no mention of e.g. SkyTV and Sky schedules during the game itself).

    “Create a weekly football analysis show … Two hosts spring to mind: Bobby McMahon and Christopher Sullivan”

    You realise Bobby McMahon isn’t, *gasp*, American? And yet he’s FSC’s strongest pundit (actually, he’s really solid – you could build a lot him as a basis).

    Back to the main argument. Soccer is different. Therefore it doesn’t need to be marketed like every other American sport. It shouldn’t be marketed like other sports. It isn’t like other sports. Having a mix of foreign and domestic commentators works perfectly for soccer in the US.

  5. Joga Futbol

    November 26, 2007 at 5:35 pm

    Max Bretos is the only good commentator on FSC. The rest are low rent crap, English or American!

  6. Anonymous

    November 26, 2007 at 4:40 pm

    MLS is also on Univision and gets more viewers there than on FSC.

  7. MJ

    November 26, 2007 at 12:26 pm

    If you were Don Garber and “dumped FSC”, people would be calling for your head. Sorry, but that’s one of the more ridiculous things I’ve ever heard. MLS is a league struggling for national exposure and they’re televised nationally on just two networks-ESPN/ABC and FSC. Garber can’t afford to drop FSC because he can’t afford to make a league that already gets low TV ratings appear less on national TV.

  8. Joga Futbol

    November 26, 2007 at 11:16 am

    FSC losing la Primera was foolish. It is the best league in the world and they could have built a soccer super network around it after acquiring the Serie A rights. The network is as Jack Bell said, too Anglophile in its programming and treats Major League Soccer, a better league than the Brits who are used to a certain style of play credit as being as an ugly minor league stepchild. If I were Don Garber I’d dump FSC until they take their MLS responsibilities more seriously. Also why so little Argentine league coverage? It may shock some people on this blog but a greater interest in Mexican, South American and even MLS leagues exists in this country than you assume.

  9. CrackSabbath

    November 26, 2007 at 10:59 am

    I think suggestions 1-5 are all good.

    #6.) Add a HD feed.

  10. Anonymous

    November 26, 2007 at 10:28 am

    FFF is OK, with all its faults, I still think the concept is good and the show should stay in. I really liked them bringing in MLS coaches for interviews during the season. I learned a lot about the teams, personalities, etc.
    My biggest pet peeve last season was the 3-4 minute kick-off delay for EPL games: something that has been fixed (for the most part) this season.
    McMahon should have his own weekly 1hr. show with analysis. I agree that Monday and Friday with the Canadian idiots from the Soccer Report isn’t enough.
    FSC is imporving, slowly but surely.
    I watch Gol TV for the Primera mostly, and the entertaining, if quite often idiotic, comments by R. Hodgson.
    Setanta’s Friday Football Show and Macca’s Monday are a must: that’s what I call quality programming(they are being produced by the parent company in England).
    All in all, for a soccer fan in the US, with three soccer exclusive channels: LIFE IS GOOD!!!

  11. Charlie

    November 26, 2007 at 10:22 am

    Speaking of GolTV, it seems like they aired the same South American World Cup qualifier highlight show like 10 times in 48 hours last week. That’s not necessarily a slam at GolTV — I would think the fresh programming choices get mighty slim towards the end of a two-week international break. (Anyone up for a Joga TV Thanksgiving Weekend Marathon starring Ray Hudson?)

    Back to FSC… I agree with letting the TWI feeds run without FSC announcer intervention. I also agree that a weekly analysis show would be a good idea, and Bobby McMahon would be a good choice.

    I’ve said this before on this blog. I think FSC should consider airing a little more Sky programming. After all, both networks are owned by the same corporation. For example, Soccer AM. I’m not suggesting FSC should become Sky America, rather that FSC could use Sky content to enhance and supplement its own programming.

    There is one good thing about Super Sunday + on FSC. It gives me a reason to check what’s on Setanta and GolTV. Most of the time I usually find something better, even if it is another repeat of the South American World Cup qualifier highlight show.

  12. Anonymous

    November 26, 2007 at 9:35 am

    Steven Cohen has no knowledge whatsoever of anything and having Nick Webster on the program is essential because he at least knows the players names, the teams names and the rules of the game. FFF is rubbish so long as Cohen is associated with the program.

    FSC has an MLS highlights show with Todd Grisham after the Saturday Night telecast. The only improvement they need is to have a feature midweek as ESPNEWS does with Allan Hopkins every Tuesday at 5pm to go over news and notes and rumors from the league. Then aagin since Hopkins left FSC the netwowrk doesn’t have a reporter of his caliber to do this work.

  13. sittingontheterraces

    November 26, 2007 at 9:31 am

    i dont really get the opportunity to watch fsc much while at school, but here’s what i think should be changed:

    make super sunday + about leagues other than what what fsc airs. sorry, but i dont really care about the Argentine league and its obvious none of the pundits know much either. (does anyone know what happened to those two other dudes?). and find some pundits who are actually insightful – saying fulham is in relegation trouble yet sitting at 12th is either bias or laziness.

    i agree with your weekly analysis show. having bobby mcmahon only on friday and monday is annoying because he is coupled with highlights of matches from several days before.

    other than that i cant really complain about fsc. their production quality is light years ahead of goltv, whose graphics and sounds remind me of the bud bowl.

  14. MJ

    November 26, 2007 at 7:28 am

    I was listening to WSD the other day and a caller called in about FFF and how he also thought they needed to replace Nick Webster with Max Bretos or someone else; he believed Webster always tries to be too politically correct and doesn’t have his own opinion and won’t criticize anything. This was a reaction to the fact that Bretos hosted last week’s show in place of Webster, who was visiting family for Thanksgiving.

    Then Steven told the caller that FSC won’t be replacing Webster because FSC likes the fact that the two balance each other out: Steven is very opinionated and can be pretty harsh at times while Webster keeps the show in check so that it doesn’t become one big rant session. They’re not going to make it a debate show because that’s pretty much what it was before and the ratings weren’t as high, and also WSD is basically a debate show anyway and they cover many of the same topics on both shows.

    FSC really needs to axe Super Sunday though, you’re right.

    One thing I will say for FSC is that at least during halftime, they put something on; Setanta just runs the same commercials over and over.

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