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FOX Passes The Test With First EPL Game On Free-to-Air TV

Earlier this year, I was very critical of FOX’s coverage of the Champions League Final where they seemingly ostracized soccer fans in favor of attracting a mainstream audience. During the broadcast, they dumbed down the coverage so much that neither soccer fans nor casual observers were satisfied with the coverage.

So when FOX announced that they were going to be showing a Premier League game on their free-to-air channel, I was half expecting that the network would make the same mistakes. Thankfully, I was wrong.

FOX’s taped-day coverage of the September 18 game between Manchester United and Chelsea was the perfect balance between attracting new viewers and keeping their current soccer fans satisfied. While the coverage wasn’t enlightening, it was watchable and didn’t stray into embarrassing segments or discussions as FOX was prone to doing during the Champions League Final.

The trio of Eric Wynalda, Cobi Jones and — surprise, surprise — Vinnie Jones worked well together. I’ve been a big fan of Wynalda for a while, especially when he’s in the role of host where he shines. Cobi was Cobi. Nothing spectacular, but he’ll rarely say something stupid. But new addition Vinnie Jones was better than average. He fit in perfectly, but seemed to know what he was talking about, and didn’t sound scripted at all (and didn’t look as stiff as Warren Barton appears at times).

I didn’t mind the pre-match primer for Premier League newbies that described how a champion is determined over a course of a season and how many points are awarded for a win, draw and loss. I didn’t mind the swaying Geoff Shreeves either, teasing the viewer with an Andre Villas-Boas in the background.

The one big advantage for me was watching the game in HD. I’m one of those sad Comcast Cable customers who dreams of FOX Soccer in HD, and didn’t mind watching the match again just to see how much better the picture was. Torres’s miss looked even worse in HD, by the way.

On to the game itself. At least the soccer haters in America couldn’t complain that the game between Manchester United and Chelsea was a drab nil-nil draw. Chris Smalling’s opening goal, despite being offside, was exactly what the FOX executives needed to hopefully hold the attention of mainstream America who accidentally tuned in to watch the clash between the two giants of the Premier League/

As most of us know, many televised games from Old Trafford are cursed by Manchester United monopolizing the possession and chances. But in this back-and-forth match, Chelsea had plenty of chances which added to the excitement for the neutral observer.

This was a game that had almost everything. Nani’s brilliant goal to make it two-nil United. Wayne Rooney scored the third courtesy of a wonderful hustle by Phil Jones. An exceptional goal from Torres after the second half kicked off. Rooney missing a penalty. And then that miss by Torres.

The one aspect of FOX’s coverage that I found surprising was that there were no plugs for FOX Soccer (unless I missed any?). I was waiting at the end to see an on-screen graphic telling viewers where they could watch live Premier League games each weekend. But all FOX did was to promote the tape-delay Premier League games scheduled for October and November.

Lastly, thumbs down to FOX in Chicago and Tampa for deciding not to show the taped delay coverage of the Premier League match either at 2pm or 4:30pm local time.


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  1. Raul

    September 21, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    I was pretty upset when i found out Fox Chicago wasnt going to broadcast the game until 12:35am sunday night. i caught the game on instead at 11pm when they allowed me to replay it ondemand. im glad the ratings seem promising

  2. Reborn

    September 21, 2011 at 11:49 am

    Didnt realise Vinnie was on tv over here.

    Bloody hell, I need to find a replay.

  3. Don

    September 20, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    I don’t…why should we be so grateful that FOX is showing game free to air in HD tape delayed? THis game really was the biggest domestic game to date of the English Football (soccer) season…tape delay just doesn’t cut it for a game like this…FOX needs to look and see what ESPN/ABC is doing and take a leaf out of their book. Granted it is not an apples to apples comparison since EPL games are showing exclusively on ESPN and not ABC, when ABC does show soccer (e.g World Cup) they do a bangup job. Ther really is no excuse… they could have shown the game live and still showed the NFL games. They wouldn’t have their 1hr pre-game chit chat about the NFL games but they could always do that at half time… my feeling with FOX is that if they are not committed to show football (Soccer) the way a soccer fan who loves the game would enjoy it…why buy the rights then? Save the money and let a network that really values the sport and its viewership have those rights…I would love to see ESPN show the games on ABC but at the moment I am just thrilled with the quality of their coverage and the fact that they know how to cover soccer correctly…it is not rocket science …FOX has had the rights for enough years to know better…ok rant over!

  4. Kyle

    September 20, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    Just glad a mainstream network showed an EPL game at all. This can only help soccer in this country especially when so many don’t have the chance to watch a top-flight soccer game on network TV. Hopefully they will show live games in the future.

  5. FC Asheville

    September 20, 2011 at 10:31 am

    Let’s face it…FOX is horrible for analysis and coverage of sports in general. Thier NFL roundtable is ridiculous, and even with hardcore NFL fans watching they talk down to the audience and produce embarrasingly poor segments. When they covered college football they repeatedly felt the need to explain the rule differences to a hardcore audience.

    Anyway, they could only improve on th CL distaster and they did.

  6. brn442

    September 20, 2011 at 9:39 am

    I would be curious to know if the analysis and prediction segment was taped in real time or after the live match? It seems that Vinny Jones could barely contain himself in pretending not knowing the score. Fox NY showed the match at 2.

  7. CTBlues

    September 20, 2011 at 9:06 am

    They showed the match on FOX Connecticut at 4, but FOX NY was showing the Cowboys game at 4 and I don’t know if or when they showed the match.

    I had the game on the TV in the kitchen muted as I was watched the Jets game I DVRed because I was at the pub in the morning to watch the game live.

  8. William

    September 20, 2011 at 6:05 am

    Totally agree with the FOX review. My thoughts, from the NY market…


  9. psyer

    September 20, 2011 at 2:02 am

    Wasn’t a big fan of the FOX studio coverage. I thought they did very little if any analysis. Most of the stuff were pretty obvious i.e. Chelsea needs to score. Did like the HD. I think their insert graphics like possession graphics are a little too big. Blocking a decent amount of the screen. And while it isn’t FOX fault, I did not like the commentators for the world feed mainly Peter Drury. I had no problem with Craig Burley, but I would rather have the Sky Sports audio in Martin Tyler and Ray Wilkins.

  10. Nick

    September 20, 2011 at 12:54 am

    Anyone have a vid link to the half time analysis with Vinnie Jones?

  11. Mr. X

    September 19, 2011 at 11:26 pm

    Milwaukee affiliate pushed the game to 2 a.m. Monday because of the Packers post-game show. The Oct. 2nd game will be shown in the afternoon, but then the next game (November) will get pushed to 2 a.m. Monday again for the same reason.

  12. Don

    September 19, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    As usual Minneapolis bumped coverage of the game to their sister channel in favor of (sorry) Vikings post game covereage…it was also unfortunate this coverage was not in HD which was odd because that sister channel actual has an HD version but the game was shown in usual local affiliate FOX in Minneapolis..epic fail..

  13. TotalSoccerShow - Daryl

    September 19, 2011 at 10:25 pm

    According to a Grant Wahl tweet:

    “ManUtd-Chelsea got 1.2 overnight rating on Fox network and 0.4 live on FSC. Combined 1.6 close to ’11 UCL final (1.8) & beat ’10 final (1.1)”

    Pretty encouraging.

    Also, did everyone spot the quick graphic advertising the next game on FOX? Spurs v. Arsenal, October 2nd. I’m optimistic for goals in that one too.

  14. eplnfl

    September 19, 2011 at 10:19 pm

    I will take your word for it Chris since it Chicago we where stuck with a psot game show after a Bears bad defeat. From what I understand the national rating where good. The real test I think will be on Super Bowl Sunday when you get a live braodcast on Fox.

  15. Kobashi

    September 19, 2011 at 9:46 pm

    Only New Orleans of the 56 meter market cities didn’t air the tape delay in full as they aired just less than 90 minutes of the two hour broadcast because they JIPPED it following their local coverage of the Saints postgame. There was a couple other markets that delayed the game till the late hours following late local news becaue of their committements to the local NFL teams postgame shows which to me is fair given how important NFL games to the cities that have teams. I won’t take to task Chicago or Tampa for hour long postgame shows devoted to the Bears and Bucs respectively. I can’t remember which one but either the Minneapolis or Milwaukee market aired the game on their CW sister station again because of local NFL postgame coverage.

    Fox won’t broadcast that many live games at 10am on Sunday Mornings because that is time that stations run local weekly political shows, money spinning informercials, and biggest of all in lots of small markets religous programming which again is a time buy. The Chelsea/Man United game in February is a special circumstance and Fox made it a point to give all of their affiliates plenty of time to keep that time period open. As much as I’d love to see games on Fox at 10am on Sunday mornings there would be way too many markets that would choose to delay it, JIP it, or not run the game at all. The Saturday at 12:30pm time period would be a much better fit for Fox because most stations have more flexibilty at that time espeically in the Eastern and Central Time Zones.

    • BuckNasty

      September 19, 2011 at 10:13 pm

      In my market the Fox political show airs at 9am. From 10-12 they show grabage like “Animal Atlas” or “Sports Stars of Tomorrow.” I think what you say is true of NBC, which has more serious (and profitable) Sunday morning programming. One wonders how many people are really watching NBC’s track & field broadcasts on Sunday afternoons however.

      I like the Saturday idea too but during the season it would be up against college football on at least 5 networks that I can think of. I doubt they could pull many viewers like that.

  16. Brian

    September 19, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    Milwaukee didn’t show it either and I complained to the station.

    They decided to air their sorry excuse for Packer post-game show and COPS reruns that were at least 10 years old. According to TV listings, they eventually aired the game at 2 or 2:30 the next morning. Shameful…

  17. trip

    September 19, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    Any idea on the ratings? How are the Sat morning ESPN games doing?

  18. BuckNasty

    September 19, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    In the Tampa area, Brighthouse cable gives FSC HD with their base package, that could be why the tape-delay wasn’t broadcast.

    I think Fox needs to live broadcast EPL matches at 10am every Sunday. ESPN has now rid itself of any semblance of journalism by moving OTL & Sports Reporters to ESPN2 in order to broadcast 3 hours of NFL pre-game. I like the NFL. I don’t need THREE FKN HOURS of pre-game! Fox could show the EPL “match of the week” from 10-12 and still leave themselves an hour of NFL pre-game. Hell, EPL could even become a NFL tailgating ritual. Sounds terrible to the soccer purist, but in this country being the NFL’s mail order bride beats the hell out of being hockey.

    • The Gaffer

      September 19, 2011 at 9:33 pm

      I like the idea but usually there aren’t any 10am ET games on Sundays. It’s usually either 8.30am ET or 11am ET kick-off times.

      The Gaffer

    • Titus Pullo

      September 20, 2011 at 6:55 am

      That’s one of the best things about the 11 a.m. starts on Fox Soccer on Sundays. Can watch a game, avoid the ridiculous pregame shows for the NFL and be done in time for kickoff of the 1 p.m. NFL games.

      Sadly, Fox will never do away with their pregame to televise a live EPL game.

  19. BA14

    September 19, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    the game wasn’t on in my market, Green Bay, Wisconsin.

  20. jonathan

    September 19, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    vinnie jones used to ball. just some fyi.

  21. C_Tobin

    September 19, 2011 at 8:10 pm

    Seattle also did not show the game. Curious decision as Seattle seems to be a good soccer market.

    • Mike D

      September 19, 2011 at 8:34 pm

      Seattle market did get the game, but it wasn’t until 11pm that night.

  22. Titus Pullo

    September 19, 2011 at 8:07 pm

    Glad they pulled it off, but I’m still concerned with Fox’ strategy here. Who exactly were they catering too by showing a match on tape delay against NFL football?

    Anyone interested had already seen the match or knew the result; any casual fan was watching the NFL.

    I’m certainly happy that Fox is at least trying to make an effort, just not sure what they hoped to accomplish on Sunday.

    • The Gaffer

      September 19, 2011 at 8:16 pm

      Titus, read this article entitled “FOX Pushes English Soccer Alongside NFL” on MarketWatch at

      One of the paragraphs that jumps out at me is:

      “Eric Shanks, co-president of Fox Sports Media Group, told MarketWatch that if the games are a ratings success, there’s a chance the broadcaster could in future sell EPL-NFL Sundays as a package to advertisers.”

      The Gaffer

  23. brian c

    September 19, 2011 at 8:02 pm

    I’m a chelsea fan and didn’t watch the game on Fox (DVR via FSC since I was running a half-marathon with my Lampard jersey on) but I have to say that for the casual viewer, they couldn’t have picked a better game.

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