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FOX hires Martin O’Neill as it scrambles to find winning formula

Even though FOX Sports has had seven years to prepare for coverage of its first men’s World Cup, the US broadcaster has been scrambling in its first seven days of broadcasting the World Cup to try to find a winning formula.

First, its lead foreign analyst Lothar Matthäus was let go in mysterious circumstances. Then FOX Sports hired Clarence Seedorf on Monday to provide much-needed pre-match, halftime and post-match analysis in the World Cup studio. And now, FOX Sports has hired Martin O’Neill as their newest studio analyst.

In the meantime, Telemundo — even though the Spanish-language broadcaster is in far fewer homes than FOX — is generating greater viewing numbers for the World Cup.

One week in, FOX Sports is continuing to experiment to figure out the strengths and weaknesses of its studio talent. With the addition of Martin O’Neill, who has been working for ITV’s coverage of the World Cup, FOX Sports has hired a man who never shies away from controversy and always has a strong opinion to share especially when it comes to tactics. He’s the ideal hire for FOX Sports. Combined with Seedorf offering his analysis, this could be enough to bring English-language viewers from Telemundo and back to FOX.

Combined with the analysis of Kelly Smith and Ian Wright, who work very well together — as well as the consistent Moisés Muñoz — FOX’s coverage is beginning to resemble the level of analysis we would expect from a World Cup broadcaster. Up until now, it’s been Alexi Lalas who has been taking a making forceful role to try to keep the analysis together as Hernan Crespo and Guus Hiddink have fumbled their opinions. In the meantime, host Rob Stone has been unsure of himself on camera and nowhere near as confident as he appears when he’s been hosting coverage of MLS.

FOX’s coverage is starting to come together. The big question is whether it’s too little too late as many viewers have already flocked to Telemundo.


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  1. Mike Kelleher

    June 28, 2018 at 12:14 pm

    Lalas is an insufferable clown who can’t go four sentences without working “set piece” into the drivel. Rob Stone is a smug little moron too also giddy about the amount of “set piece goals” in this WC. And he made a fool of himself when Martin O’Neill used a Term stone’s limited intelligence hadn’t come across before.

    Please tell me why Lalas never leaves the studio? Can’t they rotate him out occasionally as well? It was the same with WC 2014 – he was never not there. God I don’t know how anyone can stand Lalas.

    I don’t speak Spanish but nonetheless moved to the Spanish broadcast a week ago too, can’t take Stone or lalas at all. FOx has made it too annoying to watch. Sickens me they have the next two WCs as well. Stone and Lalas for the next 8 years – depressing.

  2. Peter305

    June 22, 2018 at 12:58 pm

    I realize that there are legitimate differences of opinion on this, but the problems with Fox start with their match commentators. Moving away from people, like those used by ESPN, who really know the game and going with their own team of talent just doesn’t work for me. That’s not going to change so until it does, the other changes they make are just so much window dressing. Their coverage was wrongly conceived from the start.

  3. CTBlues

    June 22, 2018 at 11:49 am

    Are they waiting to use O’Neill on Sunday for the England match? They used him the day they hired him and we haven’t seen him since.

  4. nosferatu

    June 21, 2018 at 3:09 am

    It’s hard for me to quantify a lot of the problems with Fox’s coverage–replacing analysts ends up seeming like a band-aid covering a wound, as I think the issues run much deeper and will only change with a big change in the entire attitude from the head of Fox Sports down to the producers working this World Cup.

    To me, it’s not about accents, as some like to throw out as an insult, though I do think there’s something to be said for the types of announcers many of us get used to hearing from watching the Premier League on NBC, for instance. These guys call a game with a depth of knowledge and a cool comfort that comes across in their styles, and then the analysis is in-depth about what’s happening during the game, expecting that this will click with viewers. We simply don’t get that from many of the people Fox has calling the games, and I think it’s clear as well that there has been direction to call the game in a specific way: simplifying things, going only surface-level, and blathering on about things outside the action of the game–these narratives that they’re determined to hold onto.

    And then when it comes to studio coverage, it also seems very thin. Even the addition of stronger analysts does little; if nothing else, a big problem is that, compared to what I’ve seen from English coverage, very little time is dedicated to analysis of the action. There are instead a ton of commercials and then too much time spent rehashing the same old stuff. And Alexi Lalas sucks all the air out of the room–and takes up almost all the time–with his overconfident, simplistic analysis that’s again really focused on these overplayed narratives. But he might well just be following guidelines from producers.

    • Jack S.

      June 21, 2018 at 8:25 pm

      Lalas needs to suck the air out of the room to fill the inflatable shoulder pads in that oversized suit he’s wearing.

  5. Alan

    June 20, 2018 at 8:49 pm

    Of all of the color commentators Barton has been the best. He knows what he’s talking about and is specific about plays and players. They should have him sent over from LA to finish up the tourney along with Derek Rae.
    World Cup tonight is a complete disaster, Martin O’ Neil looked like he was saying to himself ” What have I gotten into” let me me go back around the corner to the ITV studio.

    • Rob

      June 22, 2018 at 3:30 am

      Barton is awful, he simply cannot let there be a moment of quiet in the game, just talks non stop.

  6. Brendan

    June 20, 2018 at 7:44 pm

    I see Warren Barton on the Spain /Iran game that is something positive he gives great analysis so Fox have me for this game . With Martin O,Neil & Clarence Seedorf in the studio maybye I will stay for the whole game .

  7. Christopher Crawford

    June 20, 2018 at 6:50 pm

    I see FOX is working really hard to get this right. Firstly I must say that the panel at the start of the tournament was too soft and boring ….We need to see really lively indepth arguments about players and teams. Give good critical analysis of players and the panelists should be very passionate about whomever they are analysing…Give us the viewers something to think about….going into the matches. So far the underdogs have been holding their own with the Big boys and we are not being introduced to these teams at all. Seems as if the panelists including the host are not doing their homework on the players from the weaker teams…..We want to feel the World Cup, do not just give us info and short clips of the Bigger teams ….be very very neutral give all teams their respect because they would not be here if they were not good at the game….If I were a supporter of say Saudi Arabia , I would not be happy with the coverage I get from your panelists……
    So give exciting coverage equally to all……have a few callers or social media messages during the build up to a game , halftime and even at the end of the game. Give us a chance to hear our views too and maybe something good will come out of it…..have a few give aways also.
    So far FOX is really trying and for me a a viewer I totally respect that , but panelists please make things more exciting . Alexi Lalas is good … Kelly is also good . Over to you now FOX Sports and make this World Cup memorable for us……..and before I forget your broadcast quality of the matches is excellent… 4K is not right but I do appreciate the quality of the matches…

  8. Charles Kelley

    June 20, 2018 at 6:16 pm

    Are you serious? Starting to come together? There is nothing there in the first place to “come together.” It’s all inane talk, pseudo-drama, and staged shout-fests. The whole FOX approach is demeaning to the sport and to the fans. Why do I need to see Neymar limp off the training field 27 million times? Why do I need to listen endlessly to these moronic comparisons between Ronaldo and Messi? Why do I need to be subjected to all the artificial hype that FOX spews out endlessly? Why do I need to watch a match and listen to commentator silly chit-chat and speculation instead of informed play-by-play. Why? Because FOX has no there there. There is NOTHING substantive about its coverage. There is EVERYTHING ignorant and stupid about its coverage. There is NOTHING there to come together – except an abomination.

  9. Drew

    June 20, 2018 at 6:09 pm

    There has been constant struggles beyond the ones you mention here in Fox’s coverage :

    Kate Abdo has had those usual bad concentrations issues she continues to have on air, losing her train of thought and making little errors, along with that awkward “British announcer silence over highlights” that leads to bad dead space and not knowing who will broadcast a highlight.

    Kelly Smith, despite her clear general knowledge of the game and welcoming placid demeanor, does not know or have knowledge of non-elite teams or non-elite players. She constantly forgets players names, with one moment happening with her forgetting Valon Behrami’s name and awkwardly saying “that Swiss player” around Neymar. Also, the lack of knowledge on Denis Cheryshev, a player who once had a fine goal scoring season at Villarreal from everyone has been atrocious.

    Despite some occasional, decent moments, Moises Muñoz also lacks knowledge of many teams outside of the big players. The same definitely holds true for Aly Wagner and Alexi Lalas obviously.

    Already today, Martin O’Neill was Fox’s best analysts and best TV presence by far. He knew not just about the big players, but even threw in some good information on Iran young hope Saeid Ezatolahi.

    O’Neill also thankfully provided a reality check on Fox’s one-sided, narrow minded, prison of the moment perspective on the endless Messi vs Ronaldo debate that has long been settled, which Messi long being the better player. He even made Rob Stone a little smarter by introducing the word “mesmeric” to him. –

    That humiliation for Stone (showcasing how limited his intelligence is, despite his enthusiasm and passion for the game there enough at least in his ESPN years)

    • Grioir

      June 21, 2018 at 4:33 pm

      Stone also looked a bit puzzled by O’Neill’s use of the words ‘obdurate’ and ‘redoubtable.’ I hope O’Neill’s absence from today’s panel doesn’t mean Fox has dropped him because of his advanced vocabulary– I really want to see bold Martin put that blowhard Lalas in his place! On the other hand, I thought O’Neill and Fiore had a potentially interesting chemistry on the nighttime show…

      • Drew

        June 21, 2018 at 6:10 pm

        Martin’s dry humor can mesh well with Fernando’s over the topness.

        The key to the night show having any chance of not further being another Fox’s World Cup stain is whether Kate brings her “stern, no nonsense” sassy diva side of her personality and not the tepid, “boring standard English” broadcaster personality.
        She still has those bad moments that lead to awkward pauses, a lot of dead space, and no real presence of note.

  10. Jack S.

    June 20, 2018 at 4:18 pm

    I bailed and bought a month of VyprVPN and go through TuneIn to get the BBC 5 radio play-by-play and listen to that while watching the video stream from Telemundo (it’s 1080P, compared to 720P from FOX). The video is about 5-10 seconds ahead of the audio, but I can sync these by pausing the video stream for a few seconds then it remains in sync for the rest of the match.
    I watch ESPN FC for analysis coverage. Lalas is dead to me.

  11. Brendan

    June 20, 2018 at 3:49 pm

    A great addition , but they have left to late . That idiot LALAS has gone for now what a load of nonsense he talks about . Kelley Smith has been good but Ian Wright has not keep him with ITV were we cannot see or hear him .

  12. Mike

    June 20, 2018 at 2:13 pm

    O’neill Was great. Didn’t agree with Stone or Seedorf, and it’s great to see a respected seasoned manager give his analysis.

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