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FOX prioritizes World Cup set over sending talent to Russia

In 2015, FOX Sports Executive Producer David Neal — the figurehead responsible for executing FOX’s World Cup vision — was spending lavishly on building a state-of-the-art multi-million dollar set in Red Square. At the time, Neal said, “I think for an American audience, you really have got to have something from Red Square. That says Russia.”

While the two-story studio set screamed “Russia,” it also translated into extravagant spending resulting in more than two dozen flights to Russia as well as dealing with red tape, cost overruns and numerous headaches.

One year later, FOX’s intentions to maximize their World Cup budget were still moving forward. At the time, Neal said “We will be a larger group when we go to Russia in 2018 because the magnitude of 64 games over 30 days requires a substantial number of people.”

Fast forward to April 2018, and reality has struck. FOX Sports has significantly slashed their budgets by keeping more than 65% of their commentators housed in Los Angeles to call the World Cup games off the monitor. Instead of investing in the best and brightest soccer commentators from around the world, FOX has made a huge U-turn before they’ve even televised one second of their first men’s World Cup.

After investing so much money into a studio set that was constructed two weeks ago in Stuttgart, Germany, broken into parts and then trucked to Moscow, where it will be reassembled in Red Square, FOX Sports could have invested a portion of that money to ensure that their commentators would be in Russia to call the games from the stadiums. Most sports fans would have been fine with a standard set if it meant that the commentators could be in the host country. Instead, FOX has their priorities backwards.

FOX Sports Studio in Moscow's Red Square – 2018 FIFA World Cup™ from Brian Strong on Vimeo.

In hindsight, FOX Sports could have done what Telemundo did by having a set in Red Square that is housed in the same structure as other broadcasters to keep costs down.

Will FOX’s expensive World Cup set be worth it? We’ll have to wait and see what it looks like in June, but the early indications are that many sports fans are already looking at alternative options to watch this summer’s World Cup whether it’s on Telemundo (who have the Spanish rights and will have almost all of their commentators at the stadiums) or accessing foreign feeds via a virtual private network (VPN).

When we finally do see FOX’s World Cup studio in Moscow this summer, consider the cost incurred and how it was just one factor of many that resulted in FOX Sports tightening their purse strings and deciding to have most of their announcers commentate from the sterile studios in California.



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  1. ToffeeFever

    April 29, 2018 at 9:29 pm

    Might as well lease that white elephant studio out to Telemundo as their crew will actually go to Russia like they did last year for the Confed Cup.

  2. JN

    April 28, 2018 at 2:58 pm

    Announcing off of a monitor and injecting some enthusiasm into the commentary is a very difficult task, and there are only a few out there that can pull it off without sounding sterile or stale.

    I know a lot of this has to do with the US not making the world cup, but I completely agree here…they should have invested more in getting good commentators into those stadiums.

  3. Brian

    April 28, 2018 at 1:20 pm

    The fact that the US didn’t qualify probably had more to do with the Budget crackdown than any other factor. They could use a new studio for their CL telecasts…..OOPs!…but of course they’re losing that to Turner!! What a waste!

  4. Jack S.

    April 27, 2018 at 12:23 pm

    This is ridiculous. Who is Fox competing with and trying to “one-up” by spending all this money on a two-story mega set in Red Square? It’s not like viewers in America are going to switch the channel to Telemundo because of an inferior in-country set.

  5. Robin

    April 27, 2018 at 11:21 am

    Fox’s soccer coverage has been awful in any case. Why would they do anything different for the World Cup. Pity NBC didn’t get it

    • ToffeeFever

      April 29, 2018 at 9:31 pm

      At least their Spanish-language network Telemundo got it. It will be the first Men’s WC with NBC involvement since 1986.

  6. Brian

    April 26, 2018 at 10:17 pm

    I 100% rather have Stone Lalas and the rest of the pre game post game crew in LA. They can still deliver game analysis in LA and do it well. Play by play is hard and sounds terrible when not on site.

  7. Brad

    April 26, 2018 at 9:07 pm

    It’s not a big issue to me. The 2 teams that are in Russia will be doing the big games and big named teams (England, Brazil, Mexico, Germany). The lower watched games will get the studio guys in LA…no big deal.

    Making a mountain out of a molehill again.

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