After signing Alexi Lalas to a lucrative contract as the newest addition to FOX Sports, you would have hoped that the addition of the Hall of Famer would have boosted FOX’s overall quality of its first soccer broadcast of 2015. Unfortunately, despite Lalas’ positive debut, the remainder of the broadcast was classic FOX Sports with little to no insight, plenty of lame inside jokes and lots of missed opportunities to make the broadcast worth watching.
It’s still early days, but the initial observation is that it’s more of the same from FOX Sports with mediocre analysis that encourages the viewer to skip the talking heads and tune in only for the match itself. It’s a shame because today was a golden opportunity to start the year with a clean slate.
Watching today’s FA Cup coverage by FOX Sports, there was nothing informative or enlightening to glean from the broadcast. Lalas, at least, tried to make a positive contribution by sharing the story of contacting the Gateshead FC media rep. Plus, the former ESPN soccer analyst was vocal and spirited when sharing his opinion about the Frank Lampard controversy. But Warren Barton and Eric Wynalda were typically ineffective, while Rob Stone’s inability to ask any thought-provoking questions meant that he wasn’t able to get the best out of Lalas.
Opinions aside, FOX Sports’ pre-match coverage of the Tranmere against Swansea game was below average. There was the on-screen flub (see screengrab below) where FOX Sports confused Saido Berahino with Wilfried Bony. And to make matters worse, the Tranmere-Swansea preview featured zero minutes of analysis or discussion on Swansea City. Presumably the discussions on Steven Gerrard and Lampard meant that the Swansea segment had to be dropped, but perhaps they could have squeezed in some analysis of the Swans if they had dropped the frivolous discussions that wasted precious minutes. Better yet, perhaps FOX should consider having a 45-minute preview show like NBCSN instead of trying to do everything in 30 minutes.
During the match coverage itself, FOX Sports featured a new on-screen graphic under the scoreline in the top left corner that updated viewers with the scores in the other FA Cup games. The two problems with that were (1) the graphic said “Scoring Update,” which sounds like a term created by someone inside FOX Sports that doesn’t watch soccer. “Goal update” or “Score Update” would have made more sense, but “scoring update”?? And (2), the “scoring update” only seemed to update for the West Brom-Gateshead game instead of all of the other FA Cup games being played simultaneously.
It’s all of these small, sloppy mistakes and lack of attention to detail that underscores FOX’s poor reputation for covering soccer. With the addition of Lalas on Saturday, I had hoped that it would help raise the bar within FOX Sports to improve its overall coverage, but there was nothing evident.
Likewise, the snippets of interviews that FOX Sports featured with Premier League stars such as Roberto Martinez, Brad Guzan, Brad Friedel and others was disappointing. For the past two weeks, FOX Sports reporter Keith Costigan has been traveling throughout the UK conducting full-length interviews with an array of stars, but that hard work was diminished by the brevity of the segment. Hopefully there’ll be an opportunity in the future to watch the full-length videos online or in a special segment.
On a positive note, the archival footage that FOX Sports featured of previous FA Cup upsets was a pleasure to watch.
Back to the analysis, Wynalda was quieter than usual and overshadowed by the more enthusiastic Lalas. It’ll be interesting to see how the chemistry between these two men develops over time and whether they can get into some thought-provoking debates the way that Lalas did in the past with Michael Ballack and Taylor Twellman.
The year 2015 is a huge one for FOX Sports with the return of MLS and Bundesliga rights, as well as the addition of the Women’s World Cup to an already growing arsenal of TV rights in the US. It’s more imperative than ever than someone behind the scenes at FOX Sports is reviewing the talent’s work in order to make sure there’s improvement because right now it still feels like FOX Soccer is a rudderless ship without any leadership.
In a recent interview with Sports Illustrated, FOX Sports 1 General Manager David Nathanson said, “I don’t think anyone will question Fox’s commitment to making this the new home field for soccer in the U.S.” Based on what we saw on Saturday, we’re still waiting to see that commitment come to fruition across our TV sets.
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