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Is It Time For Soccer To Consider Adopting NFL-Style TV Presentations?

During a break in the action on this past Saturday’s broadcast of Sunderland against Manchester United, ESPN’s commentator Ian Darke mentioned that Clint Dempsey had just scored a goal for Fulham away at West Ham United. At first, I was ready to cry blasphemy at Darke’s decision to break one of the cardinal rules of commentating which is not to tell people what the scores are in the other matches played at the same time. But the more I thought about it, the less it bothered me.

After sleeping on it, it bothered me even less but got me thinking whether soccer at some time in the future may adopt a TV presentation closer to the NFL. For example, on a typical Saturday there are often five to six Premier League matches that begin at the 10am ET/3pm GMT kick-off time. Imagine if you had the choice of watching each match separately, or this may seem sacrilegious, you also had the choice to watch the top billing match. And then throughout the game, when a break happens, the broadcast would break away to show you the replay of whenever a goal was scored in a different game that was being played at the same time.

Despite soccer games only having one break in the 90 minutes of action, the reality is that there are plenty of opportunities in a typical game to splice in highlights especially when players are injured or there’s a lull in the game. I realize that the concept flies right in the face of everything we love about soccer, but I believe it’s something that TV networks should consider sometime in the future. By featuring such a production I realize that there’s a risk that TV networks would be taking which is that they miss a goal or a significant moment in the main game they’re showing, but the advantages far outweigh the negatives.

How we consume soccer games has changed considerably in the past few years. For the past several decades we soccer fans have been conditioned to expect to see a game in its entirety but to view it in isolation of what is happening elsewhere in the outside soccer league or world. But this method was built way before there was Twitter or the Internet. We’ve grown up watching soccer games the same way ever since the sport began being shown on television. But nowadays the quantity of live games available to watch has increased significantly. So much so that now in countries such as the United States every Premier League game is available live to watch either on television and/or the Internet each weekend.

Because the quantity of games available has increased, I believe viewing habits are changing. I know my own are especially this season. I used to watch the early Saturday kick-off followed by one or two of the 10am ET/3pm GMT matches and then the late Premier League kick-off. But now that I have access to and, I’m finding that I’m still watching the early and late kick-offs as usual, but my viewing of the 10am games has changed significantly. I’ve tried playing “roulette” by flipping back and forth between the five live games online. I’ve tried having several windows on my browser open at the same time. I’ve tried skipping the games entirely and then just watching the highlights. And I’ve tried other tactics too such as watching Match Of The Day instead. But as U2 once said, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.

This is why the NFL approach may have some advantages at some point in the future. That’s only if TV networks don’t mind cannibalizing some of its own matches to bump up ratings for their ‘top billing’ match. Although I realize many soccer fans would rebel against such a notion, I still feel it’s something that should be considered especially if soccer fans can choose either to watch the NFL-style production or they can choose to watch the normal feed of the game without fear of having the results of the other games spoiling their weekend.

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  1. Terry

    October 7, 2010 at 7:29 am

    You need to recognise the fact that soccer fans the world over are different to American football fans. You are dealing with two different cultures. It’s OK to flip back and forth between American football games because of the nature of the sport, not much happens until someone scores. Most football fans are mostly interested in the score and there are no ties (draws) in football (except if there’s no score in overtime which is somewhat rare). Most soccer fans like to watch the game from beginning to end and like to follow their favorite player or want to see how the team is playing throughout the game. In football there are too many substititions and breaks so following it as intently as soccer is difficult.

    Americanizing soccer coverage is a very bad idea. I agree with the poster above who said that anyone wanting to know the score to a game can check it online.

  2. Anthony

    October 6, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    I hate watching stuff on tape delay, that’s why I don’t like watching NBC’S coverage of the Olympics. If it’s going on live, and I’m sitting in my living room I want to know everything that is going on in my living room when it happens. If I am watching Manchester United and and Chelsea scores, I want to know about it. If I’m at work during the Champions League and and the games on DVR, different story. But if I’m at home, I want to know. BTW, I have watched delayed matches on Saturday night where I have known the results for eight hours because I love the sport. Just start giving me thumbs down.

  3. David the Yank

    October 6, 2010 at 8:24 am

    Wow. What we have now is finally so perfect! 5-6 live games a week, the other 4-5 available tape delayed. Condensed games in the evenings for those who are time-constrained. Pick and choose week to week how you want to consume. Do you have a favorite team and you always watch their games first? Do you just love live soccer and will take whatever they give? Does your family allot you a certain time of day when you need to consume whatever is on? Sure, a ‘wraparound’ channel for the US might be fun for some, but, please Fox, if you’re reading here, don’t go the ESPN route. They’re just trying to hurt your ratings and they’re supposed to be your partner!

  4. CHris

    October 5, 2010 at 10:54 pm

    lets not be like the NFL, the same league that has 100 million unique viewers per week

  5. Nick Geber

    October 5, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    They are doing this already on the IMG global radio feed.

    It works on radio but I don’t know how it would work on TV unless the highlight came up in a PIP or something.


  6. d rock

    October 5, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    no way! i am one of those who likes to dvr and watch every match. i cringe when espn has anything other than the 7.45 kick because of that damn ticker!! i had successfully avaoided all other scores while watching the sund’land v united game when the announcer dropped the score of the fulham match!!! i was so pissed because they usually don’t do that.

    friends don’t tell friends footy scores!!!

  7. Erich B.

    October 5, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    Gaffer – any idea why the prematch and halftime reports were handled differently last week by ESPN? I was even questioning if Ian and Steve were even at the match in Sunderland, as we never saw their faces as we watched an empty pitch both before the match and during halftime. Bit of a letdown after the excellent prematch and halftime presentation during the Man City vs. Chelsea match.

    • The Gaffer

      October 5, 2010 at 4:36 pm

      Sounded like they were in the studio calling the game off the monitor. Not sure whether that’ll happen every week like that or not.

      The Gaffer

  8. M

    October 5, 2010 at 10:57 am

    No no no no no. Absolutely worst idea ever. I was watching the Sunderland v Man United game on Saturday on ESPN3, which stated 20 minutes late because the visitor’s dressing room flooded. At what should have been full time, Ian Drake started announcing the scores of the other games – I was FURIOUS!

    Some of us don’t like to know the scores of games before we watch them. And for those of you who do, results of all football games, especially those in the EPL, are easily and readily available with barely three clicks of your mouse. On the weekend, I actually have a terrible time AVOIDING scores of games before I watch them. I certainly don’t want the announcer telling me while I’m watching another game or SHOWING me the other game during my game.

    (The only exception would be if it were something truly earth-shattering. Like Blackpool going 4-0 up at Old Trafford. Then, by all means, send out a red alert!)

  9. Brad Banks

    October 5, 2010 at 10:31 am

    I’m with PungentJoe. I DVR every game that I can and watch as many as I can. Sports are almost the only thing I watch on TV now. I’ve already had to go dark on Twitter and the soccersphere on the internet so that I don’t see the scores. Please don’t make me mute my TV as well. Being able to watch Liverpool/Blackpool and Newcastle/Man City was so much better not having known the scores. That’s one of the things I’ve come to love about soccer broadcasts. Let me enjoy as much as can be enjoyed.

  10. Rick

    October 5, 2010 at 10:04 am

    I hope this never happens! I record a lot of games that I can’t watch live and I HATE when I hear or see the score before watching it.

  11. Cricketlover

    October 5, 2010 at 9:37 am

    I am against the idea because I want to retain the right to choose. Those of us that are watching one match and recording another to watch it fully later will be denied that opportunity. Most football fans have access to a computer and if they want to know the score of another match they can look it up. Sky Sports has a scorecenter that not only gives you the live score but a live commentary of each match.

    Perhaps an interactive feature of the type offered in the UK by Sky Digital would be a better idea. One can choose to watch/follow other matches with the interactive feature.

    Finally, the ticker idea is a terrible one. It reduces the real estate of the screen and is extremely annoying.

  12. Martin

    October 5, 2010 at 9:28 am

    I can see how “cut-ins” to other games would be beneficial towards the end of the season when the title is on the line or possible relegation. I’d rather keep the format as it is. Like many have said, I can catch highlights from other places. Just let me concentrate on my team and the game at hand.

  13. nc

    October 5, 2010 at 8:44 am

    ESPN, and the NFL are a far cry from a standard of excellence for TV production. ESPN subscribes to the “more is better” theory to the point where you are overwhelmed with opinion, commentary, and sidebar information it will make you vomit. The bottom line scroll is not just a spoiler alert, but a visual distractor from the game you are watching, and it takes up valuable real estate on your monitor. The NFL and their television partners are slowly ruining their product. But since their actions are meant to cater to the lowest common denominator, it won’t reflect in ratings.

    • PhillySpur

      October 5, 2010 at 8:52 am

      Well said nc. That’s why I stopped watching the NFL years ago and I try to avoid ESPN as much as possible. They are both geared to people with limited attention spans and favor gimmicks over substance.

  14. EvertonfanKY

    October 5, 2010 at 7:02 am

    Noooooooooooooooooooooo. If my team is on a taped delay broadcast I don’t wanna know or see the result.

  15. Thomas

    October 5, 2010 at 5:24 am

    Please don’t. Let’s keep football as far away from the NFL as possible. Next thing you propose showing adverts between throw ins and break ups of play.

    There’s no need to show goals of other matches in another game. You only run the risk of missing out on something exciting in the match you’re watching. Besides anyone who is able to watch one premier league match is probably able to watch every match on the sky other Sky channels.

    More so you remove the need to watch Match of the Day.

  16. mosdef

    October 5, 2010 at 4:50 am

    Dude, Skysports have been doing something similar since they became sky digital for over the last 10 yrs,but basically more interactive, you get to follow about 4 games in one screen, and you can also follow your favorite player, if he is among a select few players they have their camera’s and stats on . I like the interactive aspect more than me watching a Man U or Tottenham goal being scored in another game as I simply don’t follow or have any interest in those teams, untill Arsenal is about to play them. As much as your idea might work for some fans, probably giving the fan more choice and control is better, than interfering with a game I was enjoying. If I need to watch another team play, I watch La liga or another league

  17. VillaPark

    October 4, 2010 at 10:50 pm

    I think I have some issues with this. For example, there were a couple of times this weekend where it seemed like nothing much was happening after a goalie save or a foul was called, so they showed an instant replay…then all of a sudden the announcer’s voice picked up and they cut quickly back to a play that had already developed. One example was Anelka getting a chance to score as he made a steal and should have easily beaten Fabianski but ended up hitting the side of the net. We never got to see what happened until Anelka was one-on-one. That’s the biggest problem I see with this.

    Aside from that, Fox Soccer’s whole plan is to show games on delay later in the day, so they don’t normally even show the scores of those games during halftime reports. Can’t see them wanting to give those scores away.

    This works in the NFL with the amount of breaks in the game. After all, they actually play the sport for an average of 11 total minutes of the game. Doesn’t translate to the sport of football.

  18. pungentjoe

    October 4, 2010 at 10:13 pm

    stupid stupid people i love to watch as many games as i can,i dvr all the epl games i can while i’m watching one 7 am game the other one is recording if espn is the
    game i’m watching i cover the ticker with a thin piece of masking tape accross the bottom of the screen there are games broadcast on delay later in the day.why f&&king spoil it i was pissed off at darke.if any of us want to know the score of any other games its so easy to keep track turn on your computer.why wreak it for the true footy fanatics who choose not to have any other life other than football
    the kids are grown the wife does her own thing,let me have my footy feast
    i say to the announcers shut the f up about the other games i also have serie a
    and la liga games to enjoy later after the epl
    i must confess i have to fast forward a little bit there really isnt enough time for
    all of it but dont spoil it

  19. njndirish

    October 4, 2010 at 10:07 pm

    Do what ESPN does, instead of a full screen look-in, reduce the size of the live game slightly and show the highlight in a small box on the bottom right, that way you don’t miss the game and can catch the highlight

    Or do what I do, FSC and perfectly legal and legitimate streams at the same time…..they are legal

  20. Duke

    October 4, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    I’ve come to enjoy the non-stop action of soccer on TV (No friggin’ commercials every five minutes!), I’m not up for “highlights” or “look-ins.” Leave that for half-time or post-game.

    I’m not hardline about seeing scores from other matches, but I’m not up for this.

  21. Matt

    October 4, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    This is already done in the UK during Champions League games, and also on the last day of the regular football season.

  22. Simon Burke

    October 4, 2010 at 8:18 pm

    I’ll play devil’s advocate here. I just dont think i’d like it. Sometimes i want to avoid scores if my team is on delay later – fortunately as an Arsenal fan I am usually lucky to see my game live. I’d hate for a game to be interrupted with constant things going on in the other games though, especially if there was one I may watch later on. Also i like watching MOTD so am happy to wait for highlights in a fuller format rather than ruining them.

    When I do not care about a bunch of the 10am games I tend to watch the Sky Soccer Saturday feed which affords me the chance to do other things while the bods around the TVs shout out what’s happening and I quite enjoy that; its something i choose to do when it suits me – I wouldnt want that forced on me.

  23. maw4bc

    October 4, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    right when they cut to show a highlight of another match the keeper blast one down, ball bounces once and striker blast it into the net. and then we will be cursing the highlight

  24. brian c

    October 4, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    I don’t see how a “bottom line” with scores and important updates in the bottom line would be perfectly fine, IMO. I wouldn’t cut out to show the goals but no reason why there shouldn’t be a bottom line ala ESPN.

    • Footballfool

      October 4, 2010 at 8:07 pm

      I like the bottom line idea as this would give you a choice to look at the scores. I, myself find it difficult not to look at the bottom line sometimes if the game is boring. I think it’s time to make a tv with the ability to turn on/off any bottom line from any network.

  25. Brad in SoCal

    October 4, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    Sure, and then they could work in some more commercials on either side of the cutaway highlight. No, No, No! The highlights of other games can easily wait until halftime or fulltime. Soccer needs no bells and whistles! (Other than, perhaps, a goalline camera…)

  26. eplnfl

    October 4, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    Thank you Chris. I almost want to cry with joy hearing this from you. Yes it is time. It will help bring the tv coverage of the EPL both in the US and England into the mid 70’s. I do not want to get too carried away. It’s again a part of what your American audience as always wanted in it’s tv coverage and why for years many of us pushed and wished so hard for ESPN to cover the league.

    It’s time has come.

  27. George

    October 4, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    this already happens in German Bundesliga, called konferenz

  28. Footballfool

    October 4, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    Shhhhh !

  29. Vincent

    October 4, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    This is a fantastic idea and something that needs to happen.

    I don’t see why not…

    • Thomas

      October 5, 2010 at 5:27 am

      I hope to god you’re being sarcastic. It works in the World Cup where one score affects the result needed in another game at the same time, but it doesn’t in the Premier League. Have some patience and watch MOTD with some excitement or check the scores online and watch footytube the next day for the goals if you can’t see MOTD.

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