ESPN’s Euro 2016 Preview, which aired Thursday night on the main ESPN network, reminded English-language dominant American viewers what a top serious soccer production looks like around a major international tournament. ESPN’s serious preview involved no less than a dozen commentators on site in Paris, a mixture of analysts from different countries and backgrounds as well as an intertwining of news that might impact the tournament with contributions from ABC. Plus there were human interest stories and hard analysis pieces that were in direct contrast to the level of production being offered by FOX Sports during the Copa America Centenario tournament.
Near the top of the list of FOX Sports’ failings during the Copa America Centenario is the brash Copa Tonight show. Airing inconsistently in the early morning hours on the east coast, the LA-based program is more entertainment and attempted comedy than true soccer analysis. Fernando Fiore hosts the program, which started strong on the first night of the Copa, but has descended toward farcical levels since.
On the opening night of the program, the show’s panel of Fiore, Alexi Lalas, Aly Wagner and Stu Holden brought strong points about the USA-Colombia game to the broadcast. The moment of the night came when Lalas, in response to Geoff Cameron’s rather absurd claim that the US had essentially gone toe-to-toe with the Colombians, said “I don’t know what game he was watching.” It was a great line delivered with the type of gusto Lalas is capable of. And from my vantage point, it was a spot on reflection of the game based on the denial permeating through the US Men’s National Team ranks as to the performance itself.
As the first show wore on though, the mood became lighter and Fiore began pushing Lalas’ buttons. That tenor has continued on the nights the program actually airs. A major problem with the show is that it often times doesn’t air at all. Unlike ESPN whose number of channels allows the nightly ESPNFC program to air someplace irrespective of other sporting events, Copa Tonight has been bumped from the lineup on multiple occasions.
The program itself is very light on highlights and analysis. Most of the clips tend to be of goals or controversial moments, but with just two games a day in Copa America, the opportunity for extended highlights in the NBC Match of the Day style or real hard-hitting analysis as ESPNFC host Dan Thomas prompts the talent to provide about big matches is severely lacking.
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 8, 2016