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How HDTV Attracts Higher TV Ratings For Soccer Games


Given the choice between watching a match in high-definition television or watching a game in standard definition, which one would you choose? What if the choice was, like last weekend, Liverpool against Burnley in HD on ESPN2 or Manchester City versus Arsenal in standard definition on Setanta Sports?

For me, I’m more likely to watch the HDTV broadcast first and then watch the standard def game on DVR later. And that’s exactly what I did this past weekend except that after the first quarter of the game at Anfield, I tuned the channel and joined the Manchester City in progress because the Anfield game was too stop-and-start for me.

Right now, I feel like it’s Christmas time for a football supporter in the United States. With the mind-blowing of games available to watch on television each week (thanks to the addition of a ton of Champions League content courtesy of Fox), there hasn’t been a better time. And just like at Christmas time, I want to play with the new toys first — which is why I’ve been watching Premier League games first on ESPN2 before watching the other EPL matches on Fox Soccer Channel or Setanta Sports.

As a result, ESPN is benefitting from having its Premier League matches available in HDTV. That’ll definitely help out the network for the beginning of this season but I’m sure the appeal of HDTV will start to rub off a little in January when Fox Soccer Channel begins showing some of its games in HD.

The networks that will face a difficult time are Setanta Sports and GolTV. For GolTV, it’ll be sometime in 2010. Setanta Sports will most likely add HD broadcasts in 2010 also. Until they add HD, both networks may find themselves losing the interest of football supporters who prefer to watch the beautiful game on a beautiful HD screen.

All of the above is my hypothesis based on what I believe is happening among football supporters in the United States. I’d be interested to hear from you whether this is true or not. And whether you’ve been watching games you wouldn’t normally watch just because they’re in HD.

As a side note, does the same theory apply to the Champions League coverage? Some of the games are in high-definition, while many of them are in standard definition. Interestingly, it’s the high-profile games that are being shown in standard def, while the lesser attractive matches are the ones broadcasted in HDTV. Which ones are you watching first? Click the comments link below to share your feedback.

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  1. ds r4

    September 18, 2009 at 3:27 am

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    I like this article because it’s provide lot’s of fun and knowledge…

  2. Taylor

    September 17, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    @ Jay

    And, then there’s the irony of Sylvania advertising a TV on FSC that shows HD Premier League games.

  3. Jay

    September 17, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    It really is a crime that my local FSN stations are in HD but not FSC. Makes no sense and both my local FSN and FSC are based in Los Angeles….I just don’t get it….

  4. Jose Hernandez

    September 17, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    Directv is doing a great job by showing all the Champions and Europe cup games. They are also showing some la liga games. Nonetheless, if Barcelona is playing, that will be my first choice regardless of the format. The great news for us in North America is that soon we will have access to some great games in HD. I am looking forward to El clasico in HD which if I am not mistaken will be on both Goltv and ESPN2 HD.

  5. Dave B.

    September 17, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    I tend to DVR any matches i’m interested in watching, so in most cases it isn’t an HD vs. SD fight. If both matches are quality I’ll DVR and watch both.

    With that said I’m more likely to watch a match I wouldn’t have otherwise if its in HD. For instance if Chelsea v. Burnley was on Fox Soccer a few weeks ago I wouldn’t have watched it. But because it was on ESPN and in HD, I did.

  6. Orlando

    September 17, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    Chelsea first , HD second.

    • Panda

      September 17, 2009 at 4:12 pm

      Yup…that’s what I did on Saturday. Watched Chelsea game first then Liverpool game in HD second. I love football in HD but I’ll watch the better game/game I care about more first.

      Actually, I don’t believe the feed is in HD. Well, it probably is but it lacks the quality of an HD broadcast that we’re used to here in the states. The only games on ESPN that I can say have been truly HD were the Hull/Chelsea match (which was the IMG/TWI feed) and the two other games where ESPN2 carried the ESPN UK feed. The same goes for the CL games on FSN….they just lack a crispness to it. It’s still better than anything Setanta, FSC, or even ESPN2 offered in the past.

  7. V

    September 17, 2009 at 11:09 am

    I believe this has been addressed in the comments section in the past, but not all the ESPN games are in true HD. The Liverpool v. Burnley match, for example, was another upscaled 16:9 feed – the correct aspect ratio, so it fills the screen without being warped but it isn’t that incredibly crisp high definition image. The same is true of the United v. Wigan match from last month.

    The Monday night Liverpool v. Villa game, the Chelsea v. Burnley match, and the Barcelona season opener (also on a Monday) were in true, absolutely stunning HD and it was an absolute pleasure to watch.

    • Attaturk

      September 17, 2009 at 11:25 am

      V is right.

      I think it’s pretty clear that the 9:55 a.m. Saturday matches are going to be upscaled SD feeds. The 7:40 a.m. games and the Monday afternoon matches are going to be in real HD.

      ESPN’s only real problem for me so far is, as admirable as their plucky little promotion story is, I’ve seen enough freakin’ Burnley already. And we have them again this Saturday.

  8. AtlantaPompey

    September 17, 2009 at 10:36 am

    My team first. HD second. Silk toilet paper, third.

  9. cmr118

    September 17, 2009 at 10:26 am

    I completely agree with your hypothesis Gaffer. The priority of the matches that I watch have been 1st the HD games and then the standard def. The only time I will choose the standard def over HD is when Man U is on.
    I currently watch the Champions League games on Cable and there is a station televising in HD. On my cable package it is MSG+ (New York area cablevision) but it is FSN in other locations. The problem with this is they only play the games in HD on Tuesdays. Every time I look to tape the Wednesday matches nothing is on the HD channel. Blows my mind why they can’t have this option on both days! I was really hoping that the Barca v Inter was going to be in HD yesterday that was a bit of a disappointment to find out it wasn’t.

  10. jleau

    September 17, 2009 at 10:11 am

    Bolton v Portsmouth in stunning HD is about as valuable as silk toilet paper. I’m watching my favorite clubs first and then the best match-ups.

    When those show-up in HD that will be a real treat. ESPN needs some better games.

  11. brn442

    September 17, 2009 at 10:04 am

    Most Football Fans that follow a particular team will watch whatever format that’s available regardless, (Setanta Broadband anyone?) However, once someone sees a match or anything in HD, it’s hard to accept a regular feed, especially for sports. I’m especially frustrated with Fox SC. When what’s his name from Fox said a year ago on Epltalk about the technical difficulty getting a HD feed from Europe, I believed. Now, with ESPN broadcasting in HD, what is his excuse in not getting an HD channel sooner (cable politics aside.) Fox is not a young start up that’s starved of capital or clout. I hope when it does come, Fox uses its leverage to get their HD channel on all cable systems.

  12. Sudonihm

    September 17, 2009 at 10:00 am

    Many of the Champions League games are in HD on DirecTV (channels 461-469 I think), but not all. Barca v. Inter was not in HD, at least not that I could find. To answer the Gaffer’s question, I watch my team first regardless of SD or HD. If they aren’t playing, I’ll watch whichever match seems the most appealing (thus my viewing of Inter v. Barca). I did DVR Fiorentina v. Lyon because it was in HD. Either way, I have no interest in watching crapping teams, even if I can see their crappiness in vibrant HD.

  13. Efrain

    September 17, 2009 at 9:58 am

    If it is a team I follow/support (Barca, Arsenal, USMNT) I will watch in whatever format it comes first, my teams are most important, regardless of format. I then will watch an HD broadcast if it looks like a good match up, regardless of the team. This past Saturday I did watch Liverpool because it was in HD. If ESPN2 had aired it in SD, I probably would not have watched it.

    I have a huge flatscreen and cannot wait until Fox and GolTv join the bandwagon, as watching matches in SD is yucky!

  14. Chris

    September 17, 2009 at 9:54 am

    Id rather watch games in HD…I watched the Liverpool vs Burnley game insted of Manchester City vs Arsenal. Im also watching what I can on ESPN while it last becuase I dont know if they will be picking up games for other seasons. but im sure they will know

  15. Phil McThomas

    September 17, 2009 at 9:36 am

    What channel is carrying Champions League in HD? (As you can see, I’m completely lost by all the recent changes…)

    • The Gaffer

      September 17, 2009 at 9:45 am

      Not that I’m complaining, but it’s not very intuitive trying to figure out where all of the Champions League matches are on and which ones are in HD. Phil, I believe the HD ones are the ones shown by DirecTV and Fox Sports Net. Here’s the latest schedule:

      The Gaffer

  16. SG

    September 17, 2009 at 9:30 am

    For me, the quality of the football/players on display will always out rank the quality of the broadcast…i’m used to the sdtv setanta/goltv/fsc/espn CL broadcasts for all these years that HD isn’t nice enough to make me watch rubbish sides.

  17. JW

    September 17, 2009 at 9:05 am

    As a mostly non-partisan fan, I will almost always watch what is available in HD first. Then, as those above mentioned, if I have options and eventually another game involves more drama, then I’ll switch.

    The simple solution: more HD all around! Make us make tough decisions!

  18. Jarrett Campbell

    September 17, 2009 at 7:58 am

    Did exactly the same thing. Started in HD on ESPN2 and then switched over Man City match once Liverpool got up 2 goals.

    Soccer in HDTV is a beautiful thing and with DirecTV’s UEFA coverage, it seems like it has finally arrived stateside.

    • ovalball

      September 17, 2009 at 2:51 pm

      “Did exactly the same thing. Started in HD on ESPN2 and then switched over Man City match once Liverpool got up 2 goals.”

      Ditto. HD is nice, but I’m not going to sit and watch a for crap game just because of it. Now if I were a Liverpool fan I’m sure I would have stayed to watch the rest of a “fantastic” match.

  19. man99utd

    September 17, 2009 at 7:16 am

    I agree completely. I would much rather watch lower table sides play in HD than the rubbish quality of FSC. GOLTV is only marginally better. It’s HD priority for me. My only concern with FSC HD in 2010 is will it be picked up by most cable outlets..BBCA launched in July and still no HD on Comcast….on a related matter, do we have the latest ratings?

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