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FOX has gone from soccer destination to bit-part player

FOX has lost an inordinate amount of soccer rights in a decade

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.

SEE MORE: Bundesliga unhappy with FOX Sports coverage of German league, says CEO

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.

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  1. NaBUru38

    December 17, 2019 at 10:31 am

    It’s understandable that Fox has stopped caring about European soccer. It’s not understandable that they don’t promote Mexican soccer matches they air.

  2. Anthony

    December 16, 2019 at 2:40 pm

    In order to cover soccer on TV like fans want it to be covered, you basically need a soccer specific network. On most multi-sports networks, other American sports will take priority. This is why NBCSN works so well – it is basically a soccer network with hockey added on. They barely even do any general studio shows. Half of their programming is paid advertising. It basically replaced Fox Soccer with less soccer programming, but with wider distribution. So it works. I’m surprised NBCSN hasn’t successfully bid for more soccer rights.

    • JP

      December 16, 2019 at 3:20 pm

      Which is why it will also be a shame if beIN doesn’t survive. They are/were that soccer specific network.

    • Azer

      December 17, 2019 at 12:11 am

      You had me agreeing with you until the 3rd sentence. NBCSN is not a soccer network, nor did it replace Fox Soccer. NBCSN never shows any games on tape delay like Fox did. There is no EPL highlights show. A soccer news program like the old Fox Soccer Report with highlights from other leagues. Sky Sports News on the weekends to recap the day in the Premier League and other leagues.

  3. jason

    December 16, 2019 at 12:27 pm

    I once watched on Fox Sports World, then FSC. It was great stuff in the 2000’s. The times change I guess. In 2020, ESPN+ is king for the most part. The coverage there is so good it gets overwhelming at times. I don’t have time for all of it! Plus I like other sports too like Auto racing, hockey, and basketball

  4. Paul

    December 13, 2019 at 8:32 am

    Fox Sports ratings for other sports such as Nascar suck too.

  5. Frank Rizzo

    December 12, 2019 at 10:10 pm

    Not enough % of men care about soccer in the US, still.

  6. DB

    December 12, 2019 at 10:24 am

    What’s lost when an entire league goes to a streaming platform is the shoulder programming — pregame/halftime shows and so on. NBCSN’s EPL shows are excellent and tie together the day’s programming. With streaming, all you get are the league’s own broadcasts and league-created highlights shows. It’s certainly a much cheaper way for sports channels to operate – they lose the overhead of a studio show (and Fox’s are so bad, they should just kill theirs now) — but viewers lose context. Having said that, I find streaming a net plus because I can see the team I root for every week instead of having to hope NBCSN carries a Leicester City match.

    • Monte Reed

      December 12, 2019 at 3:56 pm

      We are still in the early days of streaming, as more league goes behind paywalls the leagues will supply the studio shows. Example, La Liga TV on beIN Sports Connect, they have pre-game, post-game, half-time and other bumper shows.

    • DT

      December 12, 2019 at 4:35 pm

      The Premier League actually produce pre/halftime/post game shows. Not sure if it’s included as part of the rights or if it costs extra for broadcasters. Anytime I have seen it on foreign streams they do a pretty descent job.

  7. John Culea

    December 12, 2019 at 10:18 am

    I wonder about the rating numbers for the NBC Gold games shown by the greedy suits at NBC compared to what they could get if they had games on other platforms such as CNBC. I refuse to play double for cable programs.

    • MAHLUF

      December 16, 2019 at 9:38 pm

      NBC spent one BILLION dollars to broadcast the PL in the USA…how dare they try to recoup some of that money!

  8. rkujay

    December 12, 2019 at 9:34 am

    Face it. The media have left you with two choices if you are a footy fan. Go with them behind the pay wall, or become a thief. I’m so old I remember when cable, then the web, now youtube, tells us that niche broadcasting works for everyone. I just don’t see it.

  9. Azer

    December 12, 2019 at 12:23 am

    Fox lost all the leagues they had but that doesn’t mean the other networks who acquired them will put them on TV. Fox Sports relegated the Bundesliga mostly to FS2 but ESPN will relegate it to a streaming service. Good luck finding a FC Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund game on TV next season. College Football is a religion to ESPN just like NASCAR was more important to Fox Sports then the Bundesliga. ESPN+ is cheaper then Fox but I’m specifically talking about TV coverage. Please tell me where am I going wrong?

    • Steve

      December 12, 2019 at 9:08 am

      Unless you’re living in a cave without internet (which I don’t believe since you’re posting here), who cares if it’s on cable or you can stream it through a Roku or Amazon Fire? Anything you can watch on your TV is TV, whether it’s OTA or cable or streaming. Plus with streaming, everything on ESPN+ or B/R (or CBS All-access in the future) is available on demand in case you miss the match instead of hoping that it’ll get replayed. (BeIN being the exception here with their lack of an “on demand” option, although with a cheap international sports package on Sling you can even watch Connect on demand).

      • Azer

        December 12, 2019 at 11:25 am

        Steve – I will subscribe to ESPN+ next year to watch the Bundesliga, my favorite league. How would you feel if the Premier League disappeared from TV and NBC decided to relegate it to a streaming service? Think about it.

        • Steve

          December 12, 2019 at 1:07 pm

          Wouldn’t have a problem with it, especially if it means we get rid of Arlo White and go with the international English feed broadcasters like we do for the matches on Gold, and lose all the obnoxious ads (I’m tired of seeing Dancing Flo) as well as all the crap on the top of the screen.

  10. James

    December 11, 2019 at 12:12 pm

    Hopefully we can trust NBC to keep games on TV instead of their streaming platform. It’s all we have left. ESPN snatching the Bundesliga rights next year just means that soccer fans need to realize that the sport isn’t big enough in the United States yet for television companies to air soccer games on live TV. If ESPN and Fox wanted to do it right, they would air multiple games a day on TV and put the ‘lower-end’ games on their streaming platforms.

    Why wouldn’t ESPN and Fox want to air Bundesliga and Serie A games over unimportant NCAA college basketball games? Oh, thats right, its because they think soccer is unimportant, so why do they still keep buying rights to these competitions?

    ESPN and Fox would rather air any sport they can other than soccer.

    • me

      December 11, 2019 at 2:00 pm

      “It’s all we have left”? You say it like the coverage has disappeared and can no longer be viewed… all you need to do is subscribe to ESPN+ or NBC Sports Gold and you can carry on watching if you wish. Streaming is the way forward for broadcasters and more, not less, content will ultimately go that way. It won’t be too many years before linear TV channels are closed in favour of a more on-demand approach via streaming, whether that be via a set-top box or built-in TV apps.

      • Greg C

        December 11, 2019 at 2:16 pm

        I agree with this. Once upon a time, it was outrageous to suggest customers paid for cable and have more channels than the ‘normal’ 4 or so. Then same again with a 24hr sports channel. It’s technology, things change and this is the way it’s heading. I would recommend spending $20 on a Roku, $5 on ESPN+ and $60 on Gold. It’s honestly more than you can ever watch

  11. Akami

    December 11, 2019 at 12:02 pm

    Give UCL back to BeIN Sports in the US. They have more channels and did a good job airing the matches.

    • Will

      December 12, 2019 at 12:15 am

      They never had the rights

  12. joe

    December 11, 2019 at 11:28 am

    Fox and ESPN appear to be in cost cutting mode minus the big 3 sports. Future is surely more streaming. Lower sports tier entities (TNT/CBS) getting Champions League tells us all we need to know of ESPN’FOX’s desire to air soccer during weekdays. We can only hope that streaming rights don’t jump too much in price in the coming years as they’ll start cutting there also.

  13. greg

    December 11, 2019 at 10:46 am

    Fox deserves their decline. They’ve treated it 2nd class – relegating matches to FS2, overcharging for the streaming service, insisting on keeping subpar talent like Alexi Lalas front and center, and treating the studio segments the way Fox does with American football – high gloss, yelling, sports-bro culture. I mean, Gus Johnson FFS. not a bad announcer on sports that he knows, but out of his depth with soccer.

    And history repeats here – they were awful when they got the NHL deal…glowing puck & giant animated transformer-robot hockey players. Ugh.

    Maybe when they learn to treat sports fans as adults then I’ll trust them with sports I care more about. For now, good riddance to Fox.

    • Yespage

      December 12, 2019 at 3:17 pm

      Fox isn’t an angel, and the following excludes the anguish caused by their streaming service (at minute 30 of game… now minute 85… now back to minute 31). However, Fox had a channel dedicated to soccer. They showed a good number of games. They showed a lot of Champions League games, yes, some on FS2, but they did have them on TV… unlike TNT.

      Based on how expensive soccer rights was about to come, Fox was deciding to step away from soccer. So we get the unfortunate Gus Ferguson stuff, but otherwise, Fox didn’t do a poor job of providing access to soccer. It was a bit no frills, but you got a good deal of the product with your TV subscription. You didn’t have to get a streaming package because they refused to show more games.

      Fox did pretty well for a while, and when the gig was up, they phoned it in.

    • Eddie

      December 13, 2019 at 11:02 am

      What’re the FOX Sports plans to get more sports tv rights in the near future?

  14. Cpcva

    December 11, 2019 at 9:18 am

    Soccer in the USA will be like the UK. If you want to see it you’ll have to pay through the nose for it.

    • me

      December 11, 2019 at 1:57 pm

      Hardly. It’s far more popular in the UK to the point that TV providers rely wholly on it to survive. Sky’s whole business model is still based around the Premier League. Sky Sports costs around $40 a month but you must take the entry-level TV package first, which is another $30. Then to add BT Sport on the Sky satellite platform costs just over $40.

      UK viewers pay in one month what NBC Sports Gold subscribers pay for a whole season to watch all available games – and UK viewers don’t even have the option of choosing from ALL games as they still only get 200 out of the 380 games each season.

      US viewers might have to pay extra for Premier League now but it’s still a world apart from what the Brits pay.

      • DT

        December 11, 2019 at 10:46 pm

        Putting in a random London post code I get 144 channels available on FreeView. Outside of the BBC (yea, I know license fee) even free commercial stations in UK have less commercials than here in the US. For free in the US you will be lucky to get 4 main networks and PBS. Outside of PBS those stations have 1/3rd of every 60 minutes showing commercials. Cable/satellite normally has a low introductory price but outside of premium channels they all have nonstop commercials. Never mind that large operators like Comcast/NBC hold monopolies in many communities where they are the only provider for cable or cable internet. This is without even going into their ridiculous fees (Comcast/nbc still charging a HD fee nearly 2 decades after HD became the standard / local channel fees even though you could get them for free / getting rid of the ability of people to use their own modems so you can charge them $9-12/month, etc) and unless you have 1 television the extra fees normally rival the subscription charge. Then in the UK you have soccer, rugby, motorsports, etc, that don’t allow for nonstop commercials. We have NFL, NBA, MLB, which are basically sports that advertisement executives would create if they didn’t exist. I wonder how many Brits would continue this nonsense like sports viewing is some Mecca in the US if soccer games took 3-4hrs and had nonstop commercials.

  15. JP

    December 11, 2019 at 9:06 am

    The same can be said for ESPN the last few years prior to their recent ESPN+ push. Lost their partial EPL package, lost WC, lost UCL (ESPN Deportes and ESPN3). Only left with Euros and MLS, much like Fox now only has men’s/women’s WC and MLS.

    Maybe capturing these rights is mostly a losing proposition and that is why ESPN and NBC are pushing to monetize it with streaming rather than take up air time on programs that grab more viewers/advertising dollars?

    BTW, I am a soccer fan, but just stating the reality of soccer coverage/popularity here in the US.

    • Paul

      December 13, 2019 at 8:30 am

      ESPN+ soccer coverage is great.

      • JP

        December 13, 2019 at 9:05 am

        It is, but only if you already follow soccer and know what matches you want to watch. Isn’t pulling in new fans IMO. May even deter the casual fans (know it will lessen my Bundesliga viewing next year). If it weren’t for Serie A probably wouldn’t have even bothered to subscribe.

        • MAHLUF

          December 16, 2019 at 9:34 pm

          Buuuuuut, you subscribed.

          • JP

            December 17, 2019 at 9:33 am

            You’re missing the point, the people watching soccer on that service were already hardcore fans (as with Serie A for me). It is not going to grab casual fans (as me Bundesliga for me). May be others who subscribed mainly for FA Cup, etc. But again they were already hardcore fans of that tournament, I have not watched any FA Cup since they left Fox. If you’re only appealing to the already converted eventually going to lose your fan base/subscribers as they age out and no casual/new fans to replace.

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