Fox Soccer Channel > ESPNBy: Daryl | April 2nd, 2009
News of ESPN losing the UEFA Champions League US TV rights to Fox Soccer Channel first leaked about two weeks ago. Mostly because Fox’s Jamie Trekker is very very bad at keeping secrets.
But the deal was made all official today when FSC put out a press release, which Unprofessional Foul have embedded on their site using some form of widgetry. Basically, Fox will broadcast CL games on Tuesday and Wednesday across Fox Soccer Channel, Fox Sports Net, Fox Soccer en Espanol. Somewhat bizarrely the final will be on FX. And if it’s a slow news day or if Bill O’Reilly fancies a day off, maybe it’ll be on Fox News.
Or not. Setanta will still have a few games too, but FSC is basically replacing ESPN as the primary broadcaster. As a US based footy viewer myself, I’m mostly pleased about the switch from ESPN to FSC. I think.
The big downside is that FSC doesn’t have the same reach as ESPN. If you walk into bar in the US on a Champions League matchday, you could just ask the friendly barstaff to switch on ESPN2, and they’d do it happily.
But now you’re going to have to ask for FSC, and the friendly barstaff will say they’ve never heard of that channel and do you know what number it is and can you wait here while I go get the manager because he might know better.
There’s also the fact that ESPN – for all their multiple faults – were getting better. Slowly but surely. Over the last couple of seasons the on screen graphics have become less obtrusive and the studio segments have become a bit more entertaining/informative.
But the major factor for me is that ESPN didn’t really care. In terms of sporting events that draw bigger numbers in the US, they always had and always will have bigger fish to fry. Champions League is just a medium sized goldfish to everyone on Bristol, Connecticut, but for Fox Soccer Channel it’s like the great white from Jaws. They’ll treat the Champions League with the awed reverence only a football-dedicated network can provide. They might even need a bigger boat, and will get one when they finally get on the HD bandwagon later this year.
In some ways, this switch from ESPN to FSC points to where soccer sits on the US TV sports totem pole. On the grand scale of things, it’s still pretty low and still something of a niche sport. And you know what? I’m OK with that. I don’t want to watch the game on ESPN along with Joe Six Pack (or whatever his name is). I’ll be quite happy watching my niche sport on a niche channel like FSC.