As this decade comes to a close, it’s clear that FOX Sports is losing its grip on being a major soccer broadcaster in the United States.
Firstly, FOX is in its last season of broadcasting the Bundesliga before the rights head over to ESPN+. Despite enjoying one of the best seasons in years, the German league has been used as filler with many games relegated to FS2 and FOX Soccer Plus so that coverage of other sports are prioritized over it such as NASCAR qualifying races and college football. Even this year’s Der Klassiker, the biggest league match of the year, was only shown on FS2.
Secondly, FOX has FIFA TV rights through 2026, but other than the World Cup and Women’s World Cup, coverage of the rest of the FIFA competitions are treated as just a contractual obligation.
Thirdly, the FIFA U-17 World Cup just concluded last month, but you wouldn’t know that FS2 and FOX Soccer Plus were showing the majority of games because there was just little to no promotion for this event. Mexico made the final, making it even easier to promote this event for an American audience yet they squandered that opportunity.
It is also not looking good for coverage of two more major events they have before the end of the year. The first being the FIFA Club World Cup, which will have the likes of European champions Liverpool, Brazil’s biggest club in Flamengo, and Mexican powerhouse Monterey. There has been zero promo or any indication from FOX Sports, on its channels or social media pages, that they will be broadcasting this event. Plus, the final is currently only scheduled to air on FOX Deportes because FOX, FS1 and FS2 will be broadcasting basketball at the same time.
The second event they will have is the Liga MX final first leg between Monterey and Club America, taking place the week after the Club World Cup which Monterey will take part in. FOX has the English-language rights for the home games of Monterey, Tijuana and Santos Laguna. Again, there has hardly been any promotion of their Liga MX rights even with Monterey making a playoff push to the final. So far, this is another missed chance to appeal or attract the English-speaking Latino audience and soccer fans in general for a league that very entertaining and the most popular soccer league in the United States.
The only other major soccer property left with FOX Sports is MLS and U.S. Men’s and Women’s national team games.
MLS complements the national team games that FOX has but ratings are dipping and MLS is used as just filler programming on Sundays when FS1 has no other property to broadcast.
FOX started the decade with an array of rights that would make any broadcaster envious. UEFA Champions league, Serie A, FA Cup, Copa Libertadores and the biggest of them all, the Premier League. Throughout the decade, they gained and lost rights but the biggest blow was losing the Premier League to NBC in 2013. This effectively ended FOX Soccer Channel and led to the creation of FS1 and FS2 where focus on soccer slowly diminished throughout the second half of the decade.
FOX had a chance to be the major streaming player that ESPN+ now is with soccer, but they chose to have all their excess or overflow programing on the very expensive FOX Soccer 2GO, now FOX Soccer Match Pass, which was and still is over $100 a year. Compare that to ESPN+ which is $5 a month, making it $60 with a monthly subscription or $50 a year with an annual commitment.
FOX’s most recent loss was the Champions League and Europa League and don’t expect those to come back anytime in the foreseeable future. CBS will take over Champions League coverage in 2021 once Turner’s deal is up. FOX’s plan for FS1 seems to be to have their debate shows airing consistently throughout the week to compete with ESPN debate shows. Midweek European football was in the way of that plan. That’s why any FOX bid for European soccer should not be taken seriously. They bid for the Champions League in 2021 but it is likely that it was not a serious or competitive bid.
For a broadcaster that once was the king of soccer broadcasting in the United States, it’s sad to see how their empire has crumbled. Moving forward, FOX Sports will focus solely on FIFA World Cups and the U.S. national teams for its soccer coverage. They are done with week-to-week coverage of the sport except MLS.
Hopefully FOX will be a contender again for soccer rights in the upcoming decade because the more competition there is, the better it is for the consumer. But now that as we end this decade, it’s obvious that they have given up on being a major player in coverage of club soccer.