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How Fox Soccer Channel Can Improve Its Summer Programming

fox-soccer-channel.jpgTelevision companies that feature the Premier League throughout the season face the harsh reality of trying to keep their viewers returning during the three months in late Spring to early summer when the Premiership is on break.

The issue is especially troubling for soccer networks such as Fox Soccer Channel, GolTV and Setanta Sports. They must face a difficult time trying to convince advertisers to run commercials in the summertime when soccer diehards watch far less coverage between the middle of May to the middle of August.

The situation is compounded when you take into consideration the summer tournaments that focus viewers on one channel. During Euro 2008, my TV was tuned to ESPN and ESPN2 for more than 62 hours.

In an informal poll conducted by EPL Talk, 19% of our U.S. readers watched zero hours of Fox Soccer Channel programming during June. For FSC, these are pathetic results when you consider that during the EPL season, many EPL Talk readers will watch 32 hours or more of Fox during a typical month.

When it comes to soccer on TV networks, we have little to no loyalty. Whoever will show a tournament such as Euro 2008 will automatically get our allegiance for an entire month every four years. If the coverage of the Premier League suddenly switched from Fox Soccer Channel and Setanta Sports to another network such as ESPN, we’d switch allegiances overnight and go whichever way the wind blew.

While Fox shows replays of classic Premier League matches as well as MLS and USL games during the summertime, I feel that FSC’s summertime selection is shortsighted. If I was in charge of programming for Fox, here’s what I would do:

  1. Get the viewers involved. Fox could easily take their list of archived programming they have and list it on their website and allow viewers to vote for the classic games they’d like to see on the channel. This way, viewers feel more involved in the programming and are more likely to watch the classic matches rather than stumble across them on Fox.
  2. Improve the marketing. Fox Soccer Channel should be packaging its programming together into blocks of time that would be easier for viewers to remember. For example, there could be “FA Cup Thursdays” during the month of July that show some of the best FA Cup finals. Or what about “Grand Slam Sundays” where the best Sunday matches are strung together on Sunday mornings or evenings. The list of possibilities goes on and on.
  3. Give us an EPL Review Show marathon. This was an idea suggested by one of EPL Talk’s readers last summer. Why not take all of the EPL Review Shows and run them back-to-back as a marathon so that viewers could learn more about the history of the Premier League from season to season? I know I would definitely watch it.

The kickoff of the new Premier League season is 45 days away but, for me, there are few reasons to watch Fox Soccer Channel between now and then. I can’t wait for the new EPL season to begin, but Fox obviously needs to do something to reverse the summer doldrums. GolTV and Setanta Sports are in a similar bucket too, but at least Setanta will be showing a lot of friendlies this summer involving Premier League sides while GolTV will have some of the World Cup qualifying matches.

What are your thoughts on what Fox should do during the summer months to keep soccer fans returning? Post your opinions below by clicking the comments link.

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  1. jared

    November 28, 2008 at 6:36 pm

    fox soccer channel can emprove there self by bring more games on a saturdays

  2. SSReporters

    July 31, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    Really? I think FSC is a little too Serie A biased…

    Come on, in the summer time they have aired more Italian games than Premiership games.

  3. CFTV

    July 31, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    I think FSC has become more balanced the past year or so in comparison between coverage of the Prem and the rest of the leagues they broadcast. FSC has been showing a ton of classic Barca matches this summer. Will FSC show the league games from this season on delay or is it just the Champions League games on delay that are going to be shown? I have seen an advert for Ronnie coming to Milan aside from the Jose promo. Adding those 2 personalies will make Serie A all the more interesting on and off the field. The Serie A highlight show is a joke when compared to the Premiership Review Show which is top notch. The length of Serie A hinders it because it really doesn’t allow you to get a feel for all the teams in the league like the Premiership version.

    It will be interesting to see how FSC’s schedule looks in comparison now and in 2 years time when all the different TV rights are up for bid.

  4. JP

    July 31, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    Right, because FSC doesn’t give enough attention to the Prem already? Come on now, FSC might as well change it’s name to Fox English Speaking Soccer Only Channel. The way they promote the Prem compared to any other league aside from the MLS is hugely different. For a channel that also carries Argentine football and Serie A, it is ridiculous to see just how much FSC pours into it’s Premier League coverage while treating their other leagues as nothing more than pathetic sideshows. For example, the adverts promoting the upcoming season for the PL are intense, with an epic score sweeping through the 2 min. spot. Almost completely contrast to that advert is their two Serie A adverts: one of which is just a few shots of Mourinho with a reporter’s voice-over, and the second one is about a minute long with stereotypical Italian gondola music playing. FSC’s website and the vast majority of their programming already are Premier League-centric. I’m surprised that you (generalizing there) guys are actually complaining about a lack of PL programs in the summer months. Every time I turn on the channel, its PL this and PL that. And during the actual football season, it’s even more PL-centric. I would say the best way for FSC to improve it’s programming would be to show a bit more attention to the other leagues it can offer, rather than focusing on the leagues that speaks English just because it’s easier for them to relate to.

  5. Kartik

    July 5, 2008 at 8:08 am


    It’s simple. FSC is targeting an anglocized soccer community. The Copa Lib doesn’t fit their model. Really a pity. If some of the readers of this site watched the knock out rounds Copa Lib they may even think the UEFA Champions League is second rate.

    The Superliga issue is complicated. I’ve been told Telefutura is given exclusive US rights because otherwise the MLS package was not worthwhile for the Univision family of networks. They failed with MLS once before as did Telemundo. Giving them exclusive Superliga rights (which forces dominant English speakers like myself to watch TF for the event, though I don’t mind totally since I get TF in HD) which did get excellent ratings last year is what you would call a pay off to the network.

    So in other words without Superliga, Univision/Telefutura never would have taken the MLS package to begin with a few years back after having failed with it at a time when the league had bigger stars than when they acquired the package for a second time.

  6. red

    July 4, 2008 at 10:09 pm

    Why not show Copa Libertadores on Fox Soccer Channel? They show it on Fox Sports Espanol but not Fox Soccer Channel. So it’s only in Spanish. The two-leg final this year ranked among the top matches I’ve seen of any league in the last year. Why not show the Mexican playoffs and get the SuperLiga on this channel in English commentary? Why are these SuperLiga games that show top MLS teams only available in Spanish in the U.S.? Their viewership will only increase by showing more live matches from different selected leagues and top tournaments during the summer. Classic games and Review show marathons will bring some, but live matches are always better. There’s a lot more to the futbol world than the Premiership for goodness’ sakes. Intertoto Cup anyone? Champions League qualifiers? There’s always futbol in the summer, they just need to buy it. I’m guessing they don’t have the money, however, and that’s why it’s more boring in the summer.

  7. Kartik

    July 4, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    FSC has Miami FC vs PR Islanders tonight: USL action. I’m thinking of heading down to the field myself, but maybe I’ll just watch it, since it is so rare Miami FC is on TV.

    MLS tonight on HDNet, and nothing on FSC. Pathetic.

  8. eplnfl

    July 4, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    Very creative sporez. FSC can easily add another USL game say mid-week, or Sundays. A US Soccer report covering all aspects of US Soccer would make sense and it should be interactive. Also, it must have American hosts.

  9. Kartik

    July 4, 2008 at 11:29 am

    Good suggestion Ryan.

    I never saw the Gold Cup broadcast in English and feel it should be replayed- it was our continental championship. Instead FSC replays garbage MLS games from the weekend 5 days later and Fulham v Derby. What a thrill that was.

  10. Ryan

    July 4, 2008 at 11:19 am

    How about theme days? Like have a Chelsea Tuesday or a Milan Monday, I understand FSC doesn’t have the budget to buy more leagues but they could feature more of the leagues they do have rather than airing games in a random order. Or how about today being a red white and blue day, they could at least play some recent US “classics” like the Gold Cup victory, or the friendly matches v. Sweden and Poland ( Just mentioning these because I know for a fact they were shown on FSC live and they have the rights to them)

  11. CFTV

    July 4, 2008 at 7:00 am

    I love the idea of running classic EPL Review Shows in chronological order as it would get over the history of the Premiership to people that might only have been watching for the past couple of years. It can’t be that expensive to get the tapes from TWI. I even remember when Chris asked the executive at FSC during one of the podcasts interviews about getting the old Review Shows said he thought it was an interesting idea that he would look into it. Those hour long shows would provide awesome filler programming when their isn’t much going on during the summer months or they could even air a block in the morning instead of the paid programs.

    I don’t know why FSC can’t try to get the rights of some of the different club highlight videos or documantaries that are only available to people in Europe. Each club comes out with an occasional DVD/Videos Tapes of their best players, goals, and season in review. The shows can range from that movie on Chelsea that aired this spring and has ran a couple of times this summer to Manchester United the 99 Treble to the 1996 Tottenham Hotspur season in review I know I would be watching.

  12. sporez

    July 4, 2008 at 5:28 am

    Great suggestions for the Channel, Gaffer. I think they could do more original programming, like the Manchester United Premier League Champions show with Nick Webster. I still watch Fox Soccer Report at 10pm 2-3 times a week, mostly out of habit and the fact that I don’t like non soccer related TV.

    Original Program Ideas for summer months.

    1) There has to be soccer leagues out there somewhere in the world that they can work out a deal to pick up during summer. It looks like Norway and Columbia have leagues going right now, for example, and isn’t Russia on too? I remember the pundits talking about Russian team being fresh for E2008, etc. I’d watch that with English commentary or international feed with no commentary, no problem – alot of times I’d like the option to shut off the commentary anyway!

    2) Soccer video games : console, fantasy, et. al Strategies, what online games are out there, what are good picks for fantasy players, best online mode experiences (console) ETC

    3) Outside the game. Possible topics: Why you should loathe Jack Warner, US National Team – Who The Hell Are These Guys? Sepp Blatter, Referees-Do We Need 2 linesmen on each side? Tech, Hooligans, Why Female Streakers are Awesome, Talk to a football manager…Championship, Prem, French, I don’t F#@!%ing care, somebody that knows the game.

    4) Great Stadiums. The Cathedrals of the beautiful game, and the cities they reside in. Or for that matter, Great Soccer Cities.

    5) Soccer movies and documentaries. Seems like an obvious one, but real football factories international, world cup history. history of football. bend it like bloody becks.

    6) Steven Cohen, The Reality Show.

    7) Nick Webster’s Pub Crawl

    8) Bobby’s Scotland Memories

    9) This Week In MLS

    10) This Week In World Football

    11) What the Papers Say

    12) The Transfer Rumour show

    …. can i go now?

  13. Mookie

    July 3, 2008 at 11:56 pm

    Get rid of the reality shows for one.

    I could care less about Dream Team to be honest with you.

    Soccer Saturday from Sky Sports should be aired in place of the usually dull Wigan/Bolton 7:00 AM match.

    Air more of “Classic English Soccer”.

    Give Max Bretos some valium. 🙂

  14. Charlie

    July 3, 2008 at 3:31 pm

    Atlanta Pompey wrote:
    Most of the FSC generated shows are little better than Public Access TV.

    Bingo! Absolutely 100% spot on perfect.

    In Gaffer’s poll, I voted “1-10 hours,” and all of those hours were spent watching Sky Sports News.

    I will watch FSR if I know Bobby McMahon is going to be on, but otherwise it’s Gol TV News or Setanta Sports News.

  15. winstongator

    July 3, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    I caught a highlight of the Battery/Dynamo game on the FSC review show, and it was the online video scaled to TV size!

  16. eplnfl

    July 3, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    Good news this weekend is that the USL website will have live games on their website. The excellent quality presentation starts at 7:55pm Eastern.

    The Sky Sports news on FSC actually hurts it. It’s delayed first of all, and who needs it repeated several times. Show it live or not at all !

  17. Kartik

    July 3, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    Good news for the FSW Canada watchers:

    All 15 Superliga matches will be broadcast on FSW Canada beginning next Saturday.

    I’ll be watching the matches in HD on Telefutura down here in the states! 🙂

  18. Reacharound

    July 3, 2008 at 10:31 am

    Agreed, FSWC is probably even worse than Fox soccer channel, I can live with Fox soccer report and sky sports news (though Sky Sports news is actually pretty crappy in the “offseason”, shouldnt they be showing more highlights of other sports instead of showing some interview with a manager twice an hour??)

    Its the “Guy Show” or wahtever its called, followed by that other stupid one where they are in a pub just talking, there is no way anyone watches this crap, its unacceptable!

    GolTV, yeah I’m ok with it, the Bundesliga and La Liga are good Plus the Bundesliga and La Liga review shows arent too bad either. and that 2010 report is pretty useful, though it was better last year when only the South american qualifiers were played because the whole hour focused on them in more detail.

  19. Lonnie

    July 3, 2008 at 8:41 am

    Fox Sports World here in Canada shows very little live soccer even when the major domestic leagues are up and running. The only thing they have is some Argentine league and Serie A when that is up and running. I have not seen any MLS games on Fox Sports World listings the past couple of weeks. I tune in to HDNet or some other channel to find some MLS coverage.

    Half of each programming day is dedicated to re-running the Fox Soccer Report of Sky Sports News or dull general talk shows about sport.

    I don’t even know why I pay the premium to have the channel at this point 🙂

    GolTV also run far too many repeats of their news show but their carrying Bundesliga and La Liga is what make it worth the price for me.

  20. Patrick

    July 3, 2008 at 7:18 am

    While I have tuned in to watch a few of the Italian Classics that I missed during the season, I essentially stop watching FSC in the summer.
    The biggest problem is the almost complete lack of LIVE games. Other than the MLS games, there is nothing.

    If FSC can take a lesson from the success of Euro 2008 on ESPN, it is that the primary soccer-viewing audience in the US has a great interest in world football. While adding Serie A has been great, FSC has lost the rights to the Brazilian, French, and German leagues in the past few years. I regularly watched the Brazilian (which were on in the summer) and German games.

    If it is a matter of rights and something to show live during the summer, I don’t believe anyone has the rights to the Russian league. This is an increasingly high quality league filled with many players who end up playing in the EPL and elsewhere. Wouldn’t it be great to see the next Jo or Arshavin playing during the relatively football-free summer months?

    Finally, it is just ridiculous that the English-language FSC channel does not show the Copa Liberatadores games. I am not going to subscribe to yet another channel on a different cable “tier” for these games, but I definitely would watch them if they were on FSC. Not showing at least the semifinals and finals of this major tournament–which, again, takes place in the summer–is just another FSC decision that hurts many viewers and forces us to go without or pay more money. A decision almost as bad as giving up the early EPL game–not to mention the Monday games– so we will either have to subscribe to Setanta or wake up to another mind-numbing infomercial.

    It would be interesting to know how much less live soccer FSC shows now as a channel dedicated exclusively to soccer compared to back in 2004 (when I started to watch) when it was still Fox Sports World. My guess is significantly less!

  21. Kartik

    July 2, 2008 at 11:18 pm

    Lou, GOL TV already bought the rights to the rest of CONCACAF. FSC missed that chance. Maybe in 2014.

    Being a south Floridian who is surrounded by Latins, GOL TV is the soccer network of record. FSC isn’t even on most people’s radars. If they watch MLS they watch it on Spanish channels anyhow, and they don’t follow the PL or Serie A.

    FSC is nowhere with regards to this region. I cannot believe they did not show the Copa Lib final in English tonight. That’s this hemisphere’s version of the Champions League final and I had to watch it on Justin TV until Jonathan was good enough to call me and tell me Ch 425 was showing it. (they have the English language rights to the Libetadoras and Sudamericana via a deal with Traffic Sports who owns the rights)

    They’ve made their decision to pursue an ex-pat/anglicized strategy. That’s fine, and certainly a market exists. But if ESPN encroaches on it, look out. News Corp could conceivably pull the plug.

  22. eplnfl

    July 2, 2008 at 11:03 pm

    FSC may be facing a similar problem when ESPN jumps into the EPL pool. Will ESPN and FSC share marketing of their product. ESPN and TNT cross-promote the NBA. The USL online video is a dream come true, what quality for the Open cup games I saw last night. FSC can certainly pick up those broadcasts for next to nothing and get US fans wrapped up into it. Regional qualifying should be another strong area for FSC, picking up the games not involving US/Mexico should be an easy job. Canada is a natural team for them to follow. Having FSC become the channel of regional qualifying would be a nice touch.

    There is no reason to drop the phone -in during the off season. With transfer’s, internationals, friendlies, and general news, the phone in is still a fresh show each week. Classic matches from the previous season, maybe voted on by the fans, would be a nice touch.

    However, now that ESPN is a “player” it will be a much more difficult job for FSC to find relevant programming.

  23. Ric

    July 2, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    * Fox Sports en Espanol has Copa Lib tonight

    * Nick Webster was at Euro and appeared some on Fox Soccer Report. But it wasn’t much.

    * I agree that U.S. Open Cup matches would be good for FSC. And I’d have to guess the price wouldn’t be too steep, since U.S. Soccer is getting $0 for them right now, with the exception of the final.

  24. Kartik

    July 2, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    Are you sure FSC doesn’t have the Copa Lib final tonight? If they don’t I have to find it online. I saw it the first leg the day after on FSC last week so I assumed that had showed it live.

    If they cannot even bring us the Copa Lib. final what good is the network?

  25. sidefoot

    July 2, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    I’ve got to agree. If FSC carried the feeds of the US Open Cup that I watched online last night then I’d watch. Also if they had the English language rights to SuperLiga and the CONCACAF Champions League I’d watch that too. If they covered the Copa Libertadores, I’d watch that.

    Live football exists during the summer in this hemisphere. We don’t need to dust off moldy oldies from the FSC archive.

  26. Dave @ Soccer FanHouse

    July 2, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    If FSC would show US Open Cup or SuperLiga matches, I would watch those. If they showed the Copa final tonight, I might watch that.

    The problem, though, is that FSC has no money, so it’s cheaper for them to show game replays or Barca TV rather than produce original programming. If ESPN ever buys up the TV rights to the Premier League and Serie A, FSC is pretty much doomed.

  27. betsy's bolton bum baster

    July 2, 2008 at 12:51 pm

    Only reason I watch FSC is for Bobby McMahon. They REALLY need to utilize his talent more on other programming. I don’t understand why FSC didn’t have a correspondent at the Euro’s or even a Euro wrap-up show to compete with ESPN’s. When the networks begin to compete then you will see better programming, otherwise we’ll be stuck with crap, I believe.

  28. AtlantaPompey

    July 2, 2008 at 12:41 pm

    Most of the FSC generated shows are little better than Public Access TV. I keep expecting Wayne’s mom to interrupt the show and offer some cookies. (Wayne’s World!!! Party Time!!! Excellent!!!)

    I don’t watch much GolTv as I have littel interest in domestic leagues outside of England. It’s not that I’m snobbish about England, but that I just don’t have the time to devote to learning about so many different leagues and countries.

    I’ll admit I haven’t watched FSC at all this summer. I just haven’t found a reason to watch it. If they had US Open Cup matches, I might be tempted, but only if the quality of the broadcast is higher than what I’ve come to expect from FSC.

    It’s only a matter of time before ESPN jumps in with both feet. I’ll just be patient until then.

  29. Kartik

    July 2, 2008 at 8:47 am

    I’m amazed that the production of USL Live on the USL website is as good if not better than the USL matches on FSC. Turner Sports I know has a hand in broadband USL production. But how is a broadband production superior to a TV production of the very same league?

    Re: FSC and MLS. They do have a doubleheader this weekend I notice since HDNet has opted to show a match on Friday night instead for the holiday. That’s good but a one week thing. My complaint about MLS on FSC is that while Max is awesome and Sully/Grisham passable, they focus very little on what is going on around the league and seem to want to avoid paying for rights to show highlights of other matches.

    They need to get some WC qualifiers. I think we were reminded this summer that while ESPN will let FSC get the occasional US friendly, all qualifiers will be snapped up by Disney. That leaves FSC with nothing since England is on Setanta. GOL TV has Germany and non US/Mexico CONCACAF as well as rights to show clips from SCP’s coverage of COMNEBOL. What does FSC have. Nothing. Why not pursue rights for Italy? Or perhaps English language rights for Mexico?

    I agree with BBBB on the original programming on FSC. Why is it that the best analysis show of MLS/USL/US National Team is on GOLTV when FSC has the rights to all those things and GOL does not?

    Why is the production so poor at FSC? So cheap? So pathetic at FSC? I could go on and on. Gaffer, thanks for this thread. I’m not an FSC basher but you and I have discussed their shortcomings which become apparent every time I watch the channel.

  30. winstongator

    July 2, 2008 at 8:35 am

    Were the most recent US Open cup games televised –

  31. betsy's bolton bum baster

    July 2, 2008 at 8:30 am

    My bad, you did mention it was “informal”.

  32. betsy's bolton bum baster

    July 2, 2008 at 8:27 am

    Gaffer, only you would rant against FSC based on a completely unscientific poll. Which you fail to mention is such. I do feel you have a point though but it isn’t as heightened as you make it out to be. Fox doesn’t need marathons of old matches, nobody watches those. What they do need is better talent and programming like Fox Soccer Report or Fox Football Fone-In but throughout the day and throughout the year. This will keep the viewers.

  33. Kartik

    July 2, 2008 at 7:34 am

    The absence of any World Cup qualifying matches while GOL TV has several and also had a twice weekly wrap up show called “2010 Report” was the most glaring thing. I like the England Classics, and understand why FSC is limited in the MLS matches they can show since ESPN is the first choice network for MLS and HDNet I believe is locked into the the Saturday 7:30 pm ET slot most weekends.

    I believe MLS does not want HDNet and FSC showing matches at the very same time and since HDNet is more homes and is quite honestly more professional in its presentation they win out.

  34. winstongator

    July 2, 2008 at 7:28 am

    One huge difference for me between FSC & the worldwide leader is I can get espn channels in HD, and FSC is still standard def. I like their mix of US Soccer – MLS & USL games. I can’t imagine regular season minor league baseball games getting on TV. But I’d much rather watch ESPN’s Thursday night MLS, or HDNET’s games than an MLS game on FSC.

    Are EPL games in the UK & other places overseas broadcast in HD?

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