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What Is It That We Really Want From Our Soccer TV Coverage?

As a daily reader of EPL Talk and sometimes contributor, I generally pay close attention to the comments about articles. It is, after all, a form of entertainment all to itself. One of the things I really enjoy about the commentary is that it is usually of a caliber beyond what you find on many other blogs. Not too many raving lunatics and few posters who just seem mad at the whole world or suffering from keyboard diarrhea. Most of the regular posters make their points well and get out of the way. There is often a vein of humor in them that I particularly enjoy. I love that we have readers and posters from the Motherland who give us their up close and personal view of things.

However, I have noticed lately that when it comes to U.S. TV coverage of the game we all love, the commentary has had a tendency to become both heated and at times almost irrational. This is particularly true when anyone writes an article with the word “FOX” in it (did your eyes just get red?). It has led me to wonder, what is it we really want?

Have we gotten to the point in the U.S. that we have such great soccer coverage that there is nothing left for us to do but nitpick? “I want this anchor/pundit, not that one.” “I want/don’t want to see the other scores.” “He talks funny.” “I love/hate tape-delay.”

For myself, I am very pleased with where things are in terms of TV coverage. I get both FOX Soccer and FOX Soccer Plus in HD in the SportsPack for just $5.95 per month. I have ESPN2 and 3. I like Darke and McManaman. The changes in personnel at FOX Soccer have gotten me regularly watching the studio shows for the first time ever. My cup truly runneth over . . . but maybe yours doesn’t? What would it take to make you sit back and go, “Ahhhh” (other than another beer). Or is that impossible?

Give me the one or two things that would put a smile on your face and stop you from dropping barbs about the TV coverage in the comments section….at least for now.

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  1. Gary

    February 8, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    Totally agree with Jason K. The likes of Stone, Kyle Martino, Barton and the rest are just terrible. It is unforgivable that Fox gets the starting lineups wrong when it is announced to all 45 minutes before the start of the game. The fact that the average EPL viewer in the US knows more about the EPL than these so-called analysts is shocking. You wonder if they use the net to read about the EPL, visit the websites of the teams in it or check out the online content of the British newspapers. Heck, maybe if they visited this site they might be more informed. These guys are paid to be up to date yet they aren’t properly prepared. Terrible.

  2. Jean

    February 8, 2012 at 9:47 am

    Hank Williams to do the intro for the big EPL/FOX games, and Piers Morgan and Martin Tyler to live on the moon together. Gus Johnson or maybe Kenny Albert should do the PBP and let Kyle Martino do the analyst.

  3. cynicalvision

    February 8, 2012 at 4:14 am

    Right now my tv coverage of the EPL is better than my NFL coverage. Without Sunday ticket I have access to 5 games out of 16 about 30% of all games played. Between ESPN, FS and FS+ its almost 6 out of 10 matches live with the others on replay. I’ve had times where I had choice of 3 matches at the same time.

    The matches on ESPN are in much better video quality. They must use better HD cameras or something. I’d like to see FOX figure this out.

    It’d also be nice to have some analysts that could break down tactics as well as a John Madden or Tony Dungy.

    • Guy

      February 8, 2012 at 8:28 am

      Great point about the amount of coverage available to many of us. I, too, wouldn’t mind a little sharper tactical analysis in the studio. Something better than, “Matta is really bossing midfield.”

      As to the difference in quality of production, i’m not sure where that occurs, but I don’t think either ESPN or Fox has anything to do with the cameras. The feed is the same for everyone.

  4. fooishmoose

    February 7, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    I have an idea. How about when charging a customer $15 per month for one single channel, Fox Soccer Plus, we get to watch all of the games in HD, not just two or three live games a weekend. Why in the he!! does channel 621 even exist in the Direct TV guide.

    All delays and replays throughout the week are in SD on 621. The only time 621HD is in play is one or two games on Saturday, one game on Sunday, and one game on Champion League days. $15 per month, really?

  5. dominjon

    February 7, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    I want to be able to watch every match I want. Secondly I would like them in HD.
    Everything else is gravy, they could have a pre-show with Richard Simmons and play the Hungarian commentary, and I still would be happy I was able to affordably watch any game I wanted which I couldn’t do when I lived in the UK (and still couldn’t today).
    So all I want now is Fox Soccer in HD and I am happy, I mean I can’t even read the right half of the screen during Sky Sports stuff.
    Charter in WNC, every other sports channel has a HD version. Get with the program.

  6. Kkosher

    February 7, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    The issue some American viewers are complaining about at the moment have to do with Fox, not FS. I was was overly excited for the MU vs. Arsenal and arrived about 30 minutes early to a friends place to watch the game. As kickoff approached no coverage commenced. Instead of an entertaining soccer match we were given infomericials.

    Because so often Fox decides to add EPL games short of the deadline for regional companies, they are not required to show the matches live, or at all. (I believe the cutoff is 60 days? did not verify though).

    Cleveland, OH was not able to watch this game, where if it was kept to FS we would have been able to see it. (admittingly a different game would have to be scraped).

    This is my biggest problem with soccer coverage at the moment. Fox wants to slowly push it to its main network, but does not seem to be doing it in an appropriate fashion.

  7. Matt

    February 7, 2012 at 11:38 am

    As a college student, I have been well schooled in illegally streaming. However, i am more than willing to pay for a service if the price is reasonable and i get the content across all platforms.

    I wouldn’t change the way Fox Soccer functions. It has consistently improved over the course of my fandom (i found fox sports world as a boy back in 2002). I feel the same way about ESPN3, although it would be great if all the matches were shown on ESPN2 as well and if they were available on replay, but it’s not a dealbreaker. However, FS+ needs a complete revitalization

    A subscription to needs to include:
    All games shown on fox soccer channel available on all devices.
    Automatic access to fox soccer plus through your pre-existing tv subscription.
    A seamless app on both the iphone and android os systems AND apps available for the XBOX360 and the PS3. I would be willing to pay for the app itself, using the same model that has used for the last few years. 9.99 for the app, which gives you access across mobile, computer and gaming platforms, and approx $12 per month for the service.

    If all this was included, I would gladly pay the current $20 per month they are asking for. Right now, the service doesn’t come close to similar packages, and I would value it at about $10 per month, if not less.

    • Mark

      February 8, 2012 at 10:50 am

      I agree with everything you said except the price. At $20 a month, it is too expensive for your average college student. I’d put it more at $10 or $8 a month.

  8. Sam

    February 7, 2012 at 11:16 am

    I want to be able to see ALL the games in HD! I have Comcast, so my “sports package” only offers FOX Soccer and a handful of other regional FOX channels. FOX Soccer Plus is not available in my area, and FOX Soccer is not broadcast in HD. While most of the Liverpool games are on FSC or ESPN2, I do on occasion have to go to a local bar or pirate the feed of games on FSC Plus.

  9. Jason K.

    February 7, 2012 at 10:23 am

    The first thing Fox needs to do is switch to the match at least 5 minutes before the whistle. Seeing and hearing the two sets of supporters is a good way to get into the spirit of the match. No need to have some announcer keep talking till 3 seconds after the whistle has blown for the start. For example, listening to the Anfield anthem is great even if you’re not a Liverpool supporter.

    As for the studio analysts, more is not necessarily better. I wouldn’t mind just one or two people in the studio setting up the matchup and also offering their anaysis at halftime. The 2 people I believe should do this are Wynalda and McMahon. The others are just not good enough for me. Sometimes the analysts seem to think that the viewer has no knowledge of the EPL which isn’t true. It also boggles my mind that sometimes the analysts aren’t even up to date with the starting lineups despite its announcement on the internet at least half an hour to an hour before they go on the air. Also, because of acccess to the internet most viewers are up to date with the latest news about the EPL. Very few rely on Fox for their EPL news. So Fox should concentrate more on the match at hand.

    • Guy

      February 7, 2012 at 10:50 am

      Something I particularly enjoy about the ESPN2 broadcast is that we do get to feel that pre-match buzz. It really sets the table for the match. When they are at Anfield I almost feel like breaking into You’ll Never Walk Alone myself……almost 😉

      • Fog

        February 7, 2012 at 1:07 pm

        To me, this is the crux of the whole matter. The pre/post match commentators are 6,000 miles away from the action. They are not pitch-side getting hit on the head by stray shots ( Most sports televised in the US have sideline commentators that are involved in pre-match shows.

        Without on site commentators, the atmosphere is lost. It is a critical ingredient.

  10. Ardwickian

    February 7, 2012 at 10:15 am

    Here we go again,biting the hand that feeds us,the coverage is amazing what ever channel its on and should be enjoyed for the football it delivers and not worry about who is or is not in the studio,even i have to put up with tylers constant fawning and foot licking of all things stretford.

  11. S04th

    February 7, 2012 at 10:14 am

    I actually dislike color commentary in soccer immensely. My favorite broadcasts are the Bundesliga English feeds ESPN3 carries with just Allen Fountain or Phil Bonney commentating.

    • Guy

      February 7, 2012 at 10:43 am

      Just watched some of Leverkusen v Stuttgart. A completely different experience to hear just the one commentator. A little strange at first. You keep expecting that second voice to come in, but I could get used to it! 🙂

  12. Dominic

    February 7, 2012 at 10:14 am

    alot of the american punditry *DOESN’T look into the games from a good tacitical analysis,

  13. Dominic

    February 7, 2012 at 10:12 am

    I know the posts are commenting on the american coverage, but once I read through them I couldn’t resist.

    I suppose the coverage of football matches in terms of the punditry increases/decreases according to how much access people have to football related material.

    Personally I read alot of books, magazines, etc etc. So at the most basic level for me, I’m just happy to get live coverage of EPL matches when I can’t get over to a game. I have access to my own clubs TV channel and that has alot of good pundits on it. But if i’m being honest , alot of pundits talk pure drovel or say things that any kid watching the game could say. It’s not always insightful . However, there are many who are too.

    It’s sounds like alot of the american punditry does look into the games from a good tacitical analysis, which would be irritating for me. As I said the coverage here doesn’t always give great insight, neverthless they do try and it is football based, and again there are some fantastic pundits.

    Sky’s coverage of some games is amazing, especially Champions League games as they often have in world renowned managers to give their views.

    All that being said what I would love on live coverage of matches more than anything else, is better and more camera angles! Going to a match is so much better in terms of viewing the game, unless you end up in row z behind a supporting beam.

    But so much of a game is missed because of the limited angles. That’s something i’d like to see more off.

  14. DaveG

    February 7, 2012 at 9:37 am

    funny enough, I was just thinking yesterday that it wasnt so long ago that I was watching choppy Chinese streams on Sopcast on saturday mornings!!….so I AM THANKFUL of the coverage available, but with that upgrade comes higher expectations. I grew up in Ireland in the 80’s watching a few live games sprinkled here and there but the HIGHLIGHT of the weekend was always getting to watch the HIGHLIGHTS of the games that night on Match of the Day or Midweek on Sportsnight…and part and parcel of those programmes was superior analysis. I still watch streams of BBC, SKY and ITV of the bigger games because the pre/HT/FullTime analysis is so much better. I dont always agree 100% with the viewpoints of Hanson/Dixon/Larwenson/Shearer/Lineker BUT they have ALL played at the highest levels for club and country and when they analyze a game/performance I listen and always learn something. Same cannot be said for what Fox Soccer throws at us because it seems all they want to do is show us the big highlight before quickly heading off to ad break. ITV and SKY have similar constraints yet still find time to show highlights and TURNING POINTS in games like the BBC do under no such time constraints.
    Everything on Fox and ESPN feels rushed…no discussion, just shouting/sensationalizing of the game
    Have a look at this analysis from the BBC at the World Cup…top notch

    • Guy

      February 7, 2012 at 10:15 am

      Thanks for the link. Amazing. Four guys in the room, no shouting, no stepping on each other’s lines. Insightful analysis. If only……

  15. Mufc77

    February 7, 2012 at 9:32 am

    As long as I get to see the Utd games live each week I really couldn’t care about much else. Sure it’s nice to have access to other games but I wouldn’t care if they stopped showing them. I Don’t care about pre or post game coverage to be honest and I don’t care who presents the pre game shows. Not having a game in HD isn’t a problem for me either.

    Ideally if I could get fsc+ on my cable package I’d be all set. Oh and if I never have too listen or see Keith costigan again that would be the icing on the cake.

    • Harold

      February 7, 2012 at 2:46 pm

      I agree, all I care about is being able to watch Utd games each week. Everything else is a bonus

      Talking of which, are the Europa League games next week being shown?

  16. DoublePivot

    February 7, 2012 at 9:27 am

    Fans want American coverage.

    But most of us are supporters and that’s different. We want anything other than what American broadcasting brings to the table. Coverage of most American sports is repetitive, loud, insipid, obtuse and boring.

    This is why Fox has never garnered much of our time outside of the main product. It thinks we are NFL or MLB fans, but we are different. We like self-deprecation and a sense of wit and not corny Terry Bradshaw humor. We want Michael Cox level insight, not a circle and arrows on a screen that provide nothing but time filler for the network. We don’t think yelling is the same as knowledge. Who on Fox does this? Just Bobby and Eoin. And they are the only one that anybody respects at the network.

    As long as our punditry is built upon the existing structures of other sports coverage, we will always seek out foreign sources for coverage.

    • Guy

      February 7, 2012 at 9:50 am

      An interesting comment. I couldn’t agree more with your 4th sentence. God forbid if we ever get 5 men in the studio at Fox Soccer. I like 3, but that’s enough. More does not make it better.

      This may also speak to Eplnfl’s comment……I’m not sure anyone has figured out the best way to package the Premier League for the U.S. audience. After all, they are bringing a foreign league to us from a country with its own sports culture that is entirely different from what we are used to. Some of us are anglophiles and enjoy every bit of” Englishness” the broadcasts can give us. Others are annoyed by it no end. How do the networks bridge that gap? I’m not sure it’s possible.

  17. Nonsense

    February 7, 2012 at 9:07 am

    Spice girls gif a little scary though Guy…

    • Guy

      February 7, 2012 at 9:19 am

      That’s The Gaffer’s doing!…..though I thought it pretty clever. 🙂

  18. Nonsense

    February 7, 2012 at 9:05 am

    Fox Soccer (Channel) in HD! Otherwise my perfect scenario in a perfect world would be to televise all their games on ESPN2 (HD) with Darke and McManaman.

    • Guy

      February 7, 2012 at 9:23 am

      FS HD just showed up out of the blue on my channel list a couple of months ago here in eastern NC. It fulfilled my last “need”, so I definitely sympathize.

      • Nonsense

        February 7, 2012 at 9:31 am

        Who is your carrier? I’ve got Comcast in the metro Detroit area and I’ve given up!

        • Guy

          February 7, 2012 at 9:59 am

          TimeWarner. I don’t know how Comcast works, but TWC leaves decisions like this one up to its regional managers. There is no nationwide implementation. I really had lost all hope since there is no major metropolitan area or soccer culture here that might influence the decision. If I wear one of my soccer jerseys around people ask me where I’m from……. 😉

    • Pat

      February 7, 2012 at 11:23 am

      What Nonsense said, I can’t believe I still don’t have FSC in HD. Frustrating.

  19. Eplnfl

    February 7, 2012 at 8:45 am

    The American soccer viewer is a committed fan. He and She are most likely brought up watching other sports played in the US being lavishly covered by the US Networks, cable or over the air. What the soccer fan wants is the same wall to wall under the rug leave no stone unturned coverage of there sport as NFL or NBA fans get. Combine that with superior technical presentation and you know what we want. The EPL is now so popular that that type of coverage is expected. Even 5 years ago you could understand the coverage that Fox Soccer gave would be less than first rate. That has now changed.

    The biggest question in my mind is should there e an entirely American presentation of the game as ESPN has gone with, using local UK talent or just wrap the local Sky Sports coverage around an American studio show like Fox. Both have there merits. What does everyone else think?

  20. CTBlues

    February 7, 2012 at 8:37 am

    Also I liked the color commentor on ESPN2 this past Saturday better than McManaman.

    • The Gaffer

      February 7, 2012 at 9:06 am

      Gary O’Reilly. Definitely a great co-commentator. Not as comfortable in front of the TV camera as Macca, but I’m a big fan of O’Reilly. We used to hear him a lot on the international feed for Premier League games on Saturdays alongside Steve Banyard, but not so much anymore.

      The Gaffer

    • Guy

      February 7, 2012 at 9:29 am

      I, too, enjoyed O’Reilly for a change, but also like McManaman….even if it does seem sometimes like a switch to decaf would be in order. 😉

  21. CTBlues

    February 7, 2012 at 8:34 am

    I want to be able to see the games live and in HD, and not to be forced to watch on illegal internet feeds because the game is on ESPN3. I can’t access ESPN3 since my ISP does not have a contract with ESPN. When ESPN only shows the match in English on ESPN3 they only show the match on TV on ESPN Deportes which is only avalible on the Spanish package.

    • jp

      February 7, 2012 at 5:19 pm

      You may not be aware, but sometimes, when a match is on ESPN Deportes you can enable SAP and it will switch to the ENGLISH feed. I’ve only tried this once while on holiday and I didn’t have access to FSC.

      • CTBlues

        February 8, 2012 at 4:35 pm

        I know of this because I have done that with FOX Deportes, but to get ESPN Deportes I would have to get the Spanish package which I wont do.

  22. Guy

    February 7, 2012 at 8:21 am

    I’m willing to give Rob some time to settle in, but who would you like to see in his place?

  23. jtm371

    February 7, 2012 at 8:16 am

    send robb pebble back to the mls and peers morgan to his failed cnn show.simulcast Sky pre and post match coverage.i know it will never happen so i will skip the pre and post match crap presented by FSC.

    • Guy

      February 7, 2012 at 9:26 am

      In the past others have also yearned for the Sky feed. Does anyone know if that is even possible, considering rights, etc.?

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