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FOX’s Copa America TV coverage makes promising start

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In its coverage of world soccer, FOX Sports is making progress in every major tournament it televises. Its coverage of the Women’s World Cup was a high watermark for FOX, far exceeding its normal service. Now, with its opening weekend coverage of Copa America Centenario, FOX Sports has started the tournament brightly. Having said that, there are still too many distractions that are dragging the broadcasts down and preventing them from being stellar.

First, let’s start with the positives.

The chemistry between the main studio talent of Rob Stone, Herculez Gomez, Fernando Fiore and Alexi Lalas is much better than what we’re accustomed to seeing on FOX’s UEFA Champions League coverage. Rob Stone is less rah-rah USA, which is a positive step given his role in trying to be a fair and impartial host. Gomez has been a welcome addition with his clear-cut, no nonsense analysis. Lalas has been Lalas, no surprises there. But it’s been Fernando Fiore who has been the star of the show, injecting a ton of energy into a studio team that has been too stale and stiff in the past. It’s hard not to like Fiore and his passion for the sport. He’s certainly a character.

Other positives include the overall production value of the coverage. Certainly the pre-recorded segments have been a hit such as the segment on Andres Escobar from the opening night that was narrated by Grant Wahl and that featured some impressive cinematography. That was followed by a poignant discussion between Fiore, Stone and Lalas about their memories from that 1994 World Cup game. The discussion was one of the finest moments I’ve seen on FOX Sports’ soccer coverage in over a year.

Also impressive are the overhead shots of the stadiums as well as the nearby scenery. The visuals of the jets heading toward Levi’s Stadium to do a flyover gave me goosebumps. Plus, the panoramic views of the mountains near Santa Clara were stunning.

Not surprisingly, the fingerprints of executive producer (and former NBC Sports employee) David Neal were all over FOX’s coverage from the opening weekend, and it was telling. FOX’s coverage is now night and day better than what FOX Sports was doing for soccer before they hired him.

Last but not least, a big positive from FOX Sports thus far has been the fact that they’ve toned down the cheerleading. In previous tournaments, including the Gold Cup, Women’s World Cup and CONCACAF Cup, the overly assertive pro-USA stance was nauseating at times. Sure, it’s perfectly fine to support your country, but it impacted FOX in a negative way where most of the analysis and coverage was slanted towards the USA to the detriment of the opposition. Thankfully, so far this tournament, FOX Sports has been more balanced. I was impressed by how much focus they gave to Colombia in the opening pre-game coverage. Let’s hope that their more worldly view continues for the remainder of the tournament.

Positives aside, it’s time to focus on the negatives.

Unfortunately, despite all of the hard work, FOX Sports is getting in the way of the broadcasts. Instead of letting viewers enjoy the experience of watching the game that’s unfolding on our screens in front of us, FOX Sports is creating too many distractions.

Here are some of the most noticeable distractions.

Distraction number one

The commentator’s phrase that should send shudders down the spines of viewers is “Let’s bring in Dr. Joe…” Those words can only mean that the former FIFA Match Commissioner Joe Machnik is about to share some obvious remark that is a waste of the viewer’s time as well as interrupting the flow of the broadcast.

Perhaps the commentators keep on calling on Dr. Joe to share his insight on refereeing decisions because someone somewhere has to justify his role and/or paycheck. Otherwise, his role makes no sense. By pulling him into the live match broadcast several times a half, it dumbs down the overall coverage particularly when he’s asked to explain a simple call. Or even when it’s a complicated or controversial call, he’s adding no insight to build on what the commentators have already said on air.

Vice-versa, it sometimes felt during the opening weekend that the over reliance on Dr. Joe was, at times, used to create something out of nothing. For example, the clear handball by DeAndre Yedlin in the game by Colombia was discussed over and over and over again to the point where even Alexi Lalas appeared to show his frustration on TV about the topic, asking the studio talent to move on.

Similarly, in the pre-match show before the USA-Colombia game, Dr. Joe blew David Ospina’s comments about refereeing way out of proportion inferring that Ospina was trying to put pressure on the match official.

Without Dr. Joe on the show, neither Ospina’s comment nor the incessant hammering on about Yedlin’s handball would have probably happened. With him, he drags the show down.

Can you think of one instance where Dr. Joe provided any sort of clarity when his insight helped to elevate the coverage? Neither can I.

Distraction number two

Annoying sponsored ads.

Ever since FOX Sports has been televising MLS since last year, their coverage of games have included the sponsored ads that shrink the size of the live camera feed and then play the ad for a few seconds. These type of ads are wrong on so many levels. They’re disruptive, yes, but they make me never want to buy a product from that advertiser. Most importantly, they disrupt the flow of the game.

copa-america-fox-advert

As you can see by the screen above, the annoying ads sometimes appear when there’s a goalscoring opportunity. Every time one of these ads appear, it makes me want to grab the remote control and watch the same game on Univision instead.

There are zero positives from these ads. The only plus for FOX Sports is they generate advertising revenue, but when the sponsors realize that these type of ads are doing more harm than good, maybe they’ll change their tune.

Distraction number three

FOX Sports recently redesigned their starting lineup graphics to make them more visually appealing, but in this case, more is less. As you can see from the screenshot below, the most important information on the screen is practically unreadable. Try telling me who the goalkeeper and defenders are.

At the same time, there’s so much wasted space. By having the massive graphic at the top as well as the unnecessary design on the side, it squishes the field width and makes it very difficult to know who the starting lineup is.

In FOX’s graphic below, the list of substitutes is far easier to read than the the starting goalkeeper, defenders and midfielders.

uruguay-starting-lineup-fox

There are other distractions throughout FOX Sports’ coverage that seem puzzling. In studio, the interesting facts graphic about each participating country is a waste. Do viewers really care or need to know, as the graphic for USA proclaimed on-screen, that Maine grows 98% of nation’s blueberries or that the Hollywood Bowl is the largest amphitheater in the world. What does that have to do with soccer?

Another unfortunate distraction was FOX’s inability to sync up the audio and visuals from the first half of the USA-Colombia game. The glaring mistake from that occurred in the lead-up to Colombia’s goal from the corner when commentator John Strong called Colombia’s goal before Cristian Zapata had even struck the ball. It’s those type of sloppy mistakes that can detract from the whole enjoyment of watching a game.

Speaking of commentators, they’ve been positive. JP Dellacamera and Stu Holden continue to form a great partnership together behind the mic. John Strong is solid. And the other commentators have done their job well without any glaring mistakes.

Overall, while the Copa America Centenario tournament has not lived up to its potential yet except for the thrilling Mexico-Uruguay game, FOX’s broadcasts have been above average based on its prior track record. There’s still a long way to go in this tournament, but the initial signs from FOX Sports have been positive.

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29 Comments

29 Comments

  1. Steve

    June 17, 2016 at 7:59 am

    The production crew has spent to much time on replays or tight shots of players involved with previous plays and NOT following the action. Too much actual play coverage is being missed.
    American football production crews need to watch how the European crews cover games and get a clue.

  2. Erin

    June 16, 2016 at 11:01 pm

    What about how many times the camera zooms in at the wrong time or how many times they feel the need to show a replay while missing out on live action?

  3. Mark

    June 16, 2016 at 6:43 pm

    I will say Fiore makes me long for ESPN coverage. I really can’t stand the guy.

    The ads that wrap the screen really don’t bother me. Fox paid billions for the World Cup, they are in it to make money, I get that. They have had some ads that cover the bottom left hand in the picture. Sometimes when the ball is in that corner. THAT bothers me. Keep the ads in a wrap and I don’t mind.

  4. MikeReece

    June 9, 2016 at 2:42 pm

    Some observations about Fox’s coverage:

    1) Herculez Gomez really does not bring much to the studio. He adds very little analysis and his effete mannerisms and lisp are distracting.

    2) Fernando Fiore does add some humor, but he needs to provide more analysis and intelligent perspective rather than simply being comic relief. Fernando, use your wealth of knowledge more cerebrally. Yes, make us laugh, but the clown act is a bit too much.

    3) Tactical analysis is really poor. If this sport wants to be taken seriously, Fox needs to up its game and give us better insight into what teams are doing. This is where someone like Ian Joy would have been valuable. Another former player or coach would have helped too, particularly during halftime and post-match segments. Bein Sport did this to great effect during last year’s Copa America.

    4) Justin Kuthcher is inadequate. Sorry, but this guy has not improved since last year’s Women’s World Cup. This is simply not good enough. Come on, Fox!

    5) I am one of those who find JP Dellacamera’s play by play style unlistenable. I agree with the first poster above concerning this. JP’s style is radio commentary and it consists of:

    A) Giving the score of a match every five minutes and then telling us what minute it is into the game. Hey JP, there are graphics right on screen clearly telling us all that. You don’t need to tell us every five minutes that it is “0 – 0 in the 23rd minute”. It’s perfectly clear on the screen.

    B) Commenting on every insignificant bit of play, as a radio commentator would:. “Stevens passes to Chambers. Back to Stephens. Back to the goalkeeper Reid. Reid kicks it out. It’s broken up by Gomez. He passes to Rodriguez. Back to Juan, but it goes out of play. It’s a free throw.

    Hey JP, insignificant parts of play can be ignored so you can inject some analysis or observations of your own. You don’t need to tell us it’s a throw in unless that is not immediately clear. Your style is Soccer 101, paint by numbers stuff and you need to show you are a broadcaster who has been doing this for decades now.

    C) No evidence of understanding the nuances of the game. The best play by play announcers don’t just tell you that a pass has been made. They tell you the type of pass it is (first time, lob, incisive, sloppy, right footed, curved, arching, driving, intelligent, etc.). They will tell you about the players making and receiving the passes; what teams they play for; what type of player they are (dominant, speedy, brilliant, precocious, young, controversial, etc). Dellacamera offers none of these.

    6) John Strong and Mark Followill have been excellent. Ditto Brad Friedel. Well done! Coby Jones has been pretty good, offering decent analysis.

  5. Wiley Coyote

    June 9, 2016 at 1:35 pm

    So “Zack” here thinks Fiore has been amazin LMAO, that right there is everything that is wrong with out inability here in America to grow some freaken talent. We are still clueless to some extent about the game here. Fernando Fiore is absolutely dismal, please I beg you to tune in to BEIN Sports both in English and Spanish since ALL of their commentators are fully bilingual unlike Fiore, and they actually know the game. In countries like Spain, Germany, Argentina there’s no tolerance for someone as ill prepared as Fiore is.

  6. Wiley Coyote

    June 9, 2016 at 1:27 pm

    Are you on drugs? “Fernando Fiore has been the star of the show?” He’s the main reason fans shied away from Univision’s coverage and he’s the reason now the moment I see his fat face I now -reluctantly- watch the games on Univision. Fiore is absolutely terrible, his English is awful and his translation skills are abysmal. He knows little about the game and got the gig at Univision because of his wife, this is widely known. Fox’ coverage has been preposterous and they need to improve massively for the World Cup. The insulting segment about tidbits of embarrassing info about Latin American countries I know for a fact has gotten people really pissed off to switch channels. The worst was last night with the hosts eating freaken bananas to say Ecuador was their favorite to win the game vs “cat park lovers” Peru. SMH.

  7. Luigi

    June 8, 2016 at 10:56 am

    *Referee pulls out card*
    Justin Kutcher: “Theres a flag on the play.”

    Fox, please give us commentators that actually know soccer. I honestly don’t care if it’s an American voice or a British voice. Just as long as they have soccer knowledge and experience. John Strong is always solid, give us more commentators like him.

  8. Claudio

    June 7, 2016 at 1:51 pm

    I think Fiore is a self-parody stereotype of what “gringos” think of the typical “latino” … Loud, overly emotional, and childish.
    I agree on the graphics but also found tons of typos and errors (Last night they listed Paraguay instead of Panama in the group D standings, for example)

  9. Captain Obvious

    June 7, 2016 at 1:46 am

    The commentators have been commentating from a studio. Absolute disgrace for a major tournament on home soil. So many situations where they don’t know what exactly happened because they can only see what we can. Example: Chile player goes down injured, but they don’t know who it was because play resumed and the cameras followed the play.

  10. scrumper

    June 6, 2016 at 5:49 pm

    When they say “let’s ask Dr Joe” they just need to add the word “children” and have Dr Joe sitting in a rocking chair with the studio crew sitting at his feet staring adoringly at his Grandfatherly face. The whole concept of a rules expert (or so they claim) is so childish and condescending it’s pathetic.

    • Chris

      June 6, 2016 at 7:00 pm

      HAHA! So very true. When they “ask Dr. Joe” it totally comes off as if the entire crew is incompetent of match rules… Everyone has an opinion of a call on the field. We don’t need to bring in a random so called “rules expert” to decide for everyone. The rules of the game are actually quite simple afterall. If there were weird caveats in laws of the game, then I could understand, but it is totally and completely unnecessary to have his wisdom bestowed upon us as if his opinion is any more valid than anyone else’s including you or me.

      • Chris

        June 6, 2016 at 7:01 pm

        *your’s or mine

  11. John McNillon

    June 6, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    I can´t believe how Fernando Fiore is not a distraction. He thinks he’s a analyst and at the same time tries to hard to be a comedian. Not funny, nor an analyst. He found refuge at FOX after his 15 yrs. over at Univision.

    • Nano

      June 7, 2016 at 5:45 pm

      I agree, I don’t think Fiore is ready for English-speaking tv yet. Herculez Gomez is enough to infuse the broadcast with Latino flavor–oh, but we need the south American input, don’t we? After all the tournament does originate in the southern part of the continent. How about Marcelo Balboa?

      • Nano

        June 7, 2016 at 10:20 pm

        One more thing, what’s with Fiore’s face, he always looks like he’s constipated. What the heck…! Oh…and Fernando, it’s not the ‘Fernando Fiore show.’

    • Liliana

      June 21, 2016 at 8:57 pm

      Also his accent is so distracting! How can a guy that has lived in the US speaks such a terrible English. As an Argentinian I am a little ashamed of this guy.

      • Liliana

        June 21, 2016 at 8:58 pm

        speak

  12. David

    June 6, 2016 at 11:57 am

    I definitely agree that Fox has made some pretty good strides with their soccer coverage, but it seems like they always have to throw a curve ball to go backwards. Those ads are so annoying. They always pop up at the worst times like during replays of questionable calls. Dr. Joe is really pointless. Fox needs to ditch him. Besides the annoying ads, my biggest gripe is the lack of Ian Joy. Why hire the guy if you hardly even use him?

  13. MC

    June 6, 2016 at 11:56 am

    I wish FS to Go app streaming works better. I had to switch to Fubo/Univision to watch last night game on my phone.

  14. Zack

    June 6, 2016 at 11:25 am

    Some positives/negatives to add on or second in my opinion.

    1. I think Friedel should be in the studio instead in the commentators chair. He’s just okay as a commentator. But he’s one of FOX’s more tolerable and better pundits during pregame, halftimes, and postgame’s. And no, I’m not suggesting Lalas should be commentating. I’m suggesting that Strong needs a new partner. But Friedel will do for now.
    2. No Ian Joy so far is sickening. He should at least be doing something. Maybe calling a game or two. Maybe he and Strong can form a decent pair.
    3. No Barton however, is fine.
    4. The studio seems to be a step down from their WWC coverage. It isn’t bad or anything. But it seems that the studio is basically a larger version of their regular one. Yeah, this seems like a silly nitpick. I know.
    5. I agree that Fiore has been amazing. FOX should use him more often. And is it me, or is he actually disagreeing with Lalas on some points? Looks to me we’ve found an antagonist for Alexi!
    6. The only bias I’ve seen towards America so far is for the commercials and whenever the US was playing. And even then, we see ads for Messi vs Vidal and FOX actually gave decent attention towards Colombia during the first matchday!
    7. I don’t despise Dr. Joe Machnik. But he comes off as unnecessary.

    So far, so good. I think FOX is doing a decent job so far.

    • RevSA

      June 6, 2016 at 12:20 pm

      Definitely agree about Ian Joy, he seems far underutilized, I prefer him to Rob Stone and he is a better commentator than anyone Fox has, he is much better than Brad Friedel.

      • Lawrence Dockery

        June 6, 2016 at 1:36 pm

        In all seriousness, Rob Stone is nothing but a blowhard. All sizzle and glitz. Not funny, no matter how hard he tries. Not insightful, all he does is read his notes or teleprompter.

    • R.O

      June 8, 2016 at 10:06 pm

      “I agree that Fiore has been amazing. FOX should use him more often.”

      Ah this must be a Caucasian/White USA thing. For those of us who have seen Fiore on Unvision for a long time since he took over after Andres Cantor left Univision are familiar with his over the top “clown” act and it’s not liked. High percentage of Latin Americans viewers can’t stand him.
      I have read that Fiore has gotten good ratings/likes from the US “American” (non Latin) viewers.

      Can’t stand his antics or style and makes me cringe when I watch Univision. Disappointed that FS brought him in.

      • Vee

        June 16, 2016 at 9:08 pm

        I agree! That guy is annoying AF

  15. Billy

    June 6, 2016 at 10:06 am

    Yes. Yes and yes! Dr. Joe doesn’t bother me as much as those ads that shrink the size of the screen. And although the commentators do a fine job as an English Premier league viewer I do miss the excitement of a fun Brit announcer!

  16. Lawrence Dockery

    June 6, 2016 at 9:55 am

    Somebody finally calls out “Dr” Joe Machnik. Not only is is terrible for a broadcast, but he doesn’t have a clue about what he’s talking about. He was a match commissioner. Not a referee. Knows nothing about the LOTG.

  17. Brian

    June 6, 2016 at 9:51 am

    The commentators have been second rate. I’ve switched to watching the games on Univision.

    • Lawrence Dockery

      June 6, 2016 at 9:57 am

      I like John Strong and Mark Followill. My problem with JP Dellecamera is that he speaks in very short clipped sentences and doesn’t really tell you much of anything. The best commentators work stories or anecdotes in and make it more like a conversation. With Dellecamera, you’re very aware that he’s just describing the action. He would be perfect for a radio broadcast.

      • Kelley

        June 7, 2016 at 5:09 pm

        I actually prefer a commentator who sticks primarily to describing the game and action surrounding it. I could care less about their own experiences or anecdotes outside the action. It takes away from the immersion into the game. American sports commentators do it way too much. It’s probably come from other sports like football where there’s a lot of down time between the action.

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