EPL Talk.com links to an AP item confirming Fox Soccer Channel — the cable/satellite outlet that hasn’t quite learned the meaning of the words “high definition” — has wrested rights to the UEFA Champions League away from ESPN, and will begin showing the competition next fall.
It’s a curious move for a number of reasons, the first of which being FSC’s limited availability throughout the country. While ESPN’s coverage of the tournament is hardly above critique, the WWL has certainly done far more in recent years to promote marquee matchups and devote more time to relevant highlights on “SportsCenter”. If there’s more interest stateside in the Champions League compared to earlier in the decade, ESPN and John Skipper deserve some portion of the credit.
(4/2/09 addendum : details on FSC’s plans)
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When you think about all manner of curious moves, they can usually be boiled down to who pays the most. ESPN tended to only show a game if it had Man U., Chelski, Liverpool, or Arsenal in it — which is understandable from a ratings viewpoint, but there are more teams participating that most who are actually interested in the CL would like to see. It’s better to have the sport on ESPN b/c of sheer exposure, but as for number of games actually shown — FSC’s better at that.
It’s not like ESPN’s HD coverage of UEFA was much better — the HD feeds always had bars anyway.
“itâ€™s better to have the sport on ESPN b/c of sheer exposure, but as for number of games actually shown â€” FSCâ€™s better at that.”
I’m not sure how FSC can be any better than ESPN for showing live matches unless they come up with an FSC2 or 3. Presumably FSC can show matches that are less likely to be a ratings bonanza via tape delay, but ESPN was already doing that with ESPN Classic (and Setanta was was also showing additional matches throughout the evenings).
I’m sure there are those frustrated by ESPN constantly relying on the EPL’s big 4 to anchor their Champions League coverage, but Setanta was showing live matches during the earlier rounds, too.
If there is some way in which FSC’s Champions League coverage can take on more hours per week than ESPN’s, that’s great. That would be in marked contrast to FSC’s live EPL telecasts.
ESPN also broadcasts a pretty decent number of CL and other European matches through ESPN360 – which doesn’t mean much if you have to pay for the service and/or care about the aesthetic quality. But as someone who works at a university – ESPN makes 360 free to university-hosted IPs – it’s always appreciated.
Sadly, Setanta seems to be dish-only in my part of the world — which means I drag my ass to the local Irish pub more often than not. I just think ESPN has higher priorities for its coverage time than as many live CL telecasts as possible. What happened with the WBC and their overnight airings of Asia-based games should have been the norm for CL coverage.
The overnight WBC games weren’t going head-to-head with other WBC games. The Champions League, however, features many matches happening at the same time. If ESPN can’t/won’t manage to program multiple matches simulateously when they have 5 channels to choose from, I’m not expecting much more from FSC’s one.
If UEFA were to stagger the start times of CL matches (other than the allowances they make for different time zones), that would afford FSC more of an opportunity, but the same could be said for rights holders around the world.
Crow eating time for me folks ; Fox plans to show CL matches on FSC, Fox Sports Net, Fox Sports en Espanol, w/ leftovers still going to Setanta. FSN matches in HD, FSC going HD in late 2009. Even if this deal was all about the money, there seems a greater likelihood that in S2N’s words, in terms of number of games shown, U.S. soccer fans come out ahead with this deal.