Why the USA Needs Match Of The Day

Fans of English soccer in the United States have everything they could possibly wish for: All Premier League games shown live through television and the Internet. A daily UK sports news program from Sky Sports. Matches shown in HD, when and where available. Ways to get around the BBC blocking radio commentaries. And an Internet that is thriving with discussions of every facet of the Premier League you could possibly wish for.

Except, there’s still one thing missing. The final thing that would make the English soccer experience in the United States complete. It’s Match Of The Day.

BBC’s Match Of The Day has been on air since 1964 and, even 46 years since it’s launch, still has an important role in influencing the opinions of soccer fans throughout the British Isles. But just as it’s required viewing in the UK, the program would be a perfect fit for the United States.

Here’s why:

The United States has one of the widest selection of Premier League games (and other leagues) in the world. However even with 20 hours or more of live Premier League games shown on US TV each weekend, there’s a massive gaping void when it comes to highlights of the games and the goals.

Take, for example, the average of seven Premier League games that are shown live on a typical Saturday across ESPN2, Fox Soccer Channel, Fox Soccer Plus and FoxSoccer.tv. You have to be a hermit to watch all 14 hours of Premier League action on any given Saturday. If you began your viewing at 7:45am, you would have to watch the 7 games one after the other (thanks to the help of a DVR player) with no break until the DVR finished showing you the last game at approximately 9:45pm that Saturday. That’s practically impossible even for the most hardcore soccer fan.

Imagine it’s a Saturday and you spent a couple of hours watching the early kick-off game on ESPN2. But for the remainder of the day, you had errands to run, chores to do and a family to spend your time with. After returning to your home by late afternoon, your obvious inclination is to find out what the results were from the day’s games and to watch the highlights. If you want to do this, your options are:

  1. Watch the games you taped. You can fast forward through each one, or skip to the end to see the goal highlights. But it’s messy because it takes a lot of fast forwarding and rewinding and you completely lose context out of what happened in the games,
  2. You can watch Fox Soccer Match Day on tape (from Noon to 12:30pm ET) and see goal highlights from some of the games shown on Saturday morning but not all of the highlights will be revealed due to some of the games being shown on tape delay later that afternoon on Fox Soccer Channel,
  3. You can visit a website such as 101 Great Goals and watch highlights from each of the games. While the experience is pretty good, it ruins the element of surprise because you’ll know what the final results of the games were before you click on the links.

While the third option is the most comprehensive in terms of guaranteeing you’ll be able to watch highlights from each game, the videos are technically illegal in that the company who has the rights to show the game highlights legally online if Fox Soccer Channel.

On a Saturday, there is no legal option to watch all of that day’s highlights in one program either online or on television. Again, I repeat, there is not one legal option. You can either stumble through the three options above or wait until 24 hours later to watch the Sunday night show, the Barclays Premier League Review Show.

If it was a weeknight, you could wait until 10pm to watch Fox Soccer Report. But soccer fans in the United States are left stranded on weekends in the States.

In a random tweet I posted on Twitter earlier this week, I asked EPL Talk followers whether they’d watch an American version of BBC’s Match Of The Day. Out of the 57 responses I received, the vast majority were in favor of the idea. However, the more I thought about it, the more I thought it would be better to just have a network air the original Match Of The Day program live on US TV rather than to create an American version of it.

I believe if Fox Soccer Channel acquired the TV and online rights to BBC’s Match Of The Day program, it could make a mint. The program would be a must-see for fans of Premier League clubs each Saturday afternoon and could be shown live at 5:30pm ET which is exactly the time the program airs on British television (10pm UK time). The program would fit nicely into Fox’s schedule right after the 3:30-5:30pm ET Serie A game ends.

It’s not just the highlights of the day’s Premier League action that makes Match Of The Day a must-see program. It’s also the analysis, no matter how good or bad people think it is, that is offered by the BBC pundits as well as the genteel Gary Lineker, as host, who is impossible not to hate.

One of the reasons why Match Of The Day would be popular in the States, other than providing excellent highlights, is that it has a magical appeal to the program because it’s been forbidden for so long. There’s a mystique around the show because Americans have heard Brits romanticize about it for so long. Plus, because it’s currently not legally available for viewing in the States (thus enhancing the mystique), many soccer fans end up getting it illegally through P2P file sharing such as BitTorrent.

While Match Of The Day may encourage some soccer fans to watch fewer live Premier League games on Fox Soccer Channel, there will still be many fans who prefer to watch live games in their entirety while others will prefer to watch a highlights package. Plus, the program would be the perfect gateway for new soccer fans to get initiated into the English variety of the sport and to encourage them to watch more games on Fox Soccer Channel.

I’m sure that although the TV rights to BBC’s Match Of The Day don’t come too cheaply, it would definitely be worth Fox Soccer Channel’s time to do their due diligence necessary to see how much it would cost and how it could frame advertising around the program. Because the BBC doesn’t feature any advertising, Match Of The Day runs 80 minutes without any commercials. While this may seem like a problem for Fox, I see it as an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to beam a one-of-a-kind highlights show that soccer fans would be very passionate and loyal about. The program could be “Brought to you by [insert advertiser’s name here].” What an opportunity to position one sponsor as the “one who brought Match Of The Day to you.”

It’s time for Match Of The Day to come to the United States. That time is now.

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