This is a bit belated but with friends of mine coming to me asking how happy that I'm that the broadcasting juggernaut Fox has bought the rights to the upcoming World Cups I felt I must address it. Feeling like a cynic I express my disappointment to them and I, not being a political man or interested much in the financials of the game I address my displeasure form a fan's standpoint.
A little background for those who don't know last week $1 billion was payed by Fox and the Spanish-language network Telemundo for the rights to broadcast the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in the United States, television executives said last Friday, that " this 'win' is a demonstration of the steady and diverse growth of soccer in America." It's clear that the game is growing in this country, but Fox's acquisition of t.v. right's is not nessisary to maintain this upward movement. On production alone, compared to ESPN, Fox's is, if I may rubbish. Having sat through years of English Premier League games shown on Fox Soccer Channel (FSC), In their so-called HD, I know what crap quality looks like. Further more you cannot kick off a game with 2 minutes of the first half already elapsed, it's un- canny that stuff like this has been allowed to stand. But money talks and that's why they have won the rights. ESPN's production the the World Cup in South Africa was fantastic, showing each and every game on ESPN, and ESPN2. Purchasing or already pre-owning pay for viewing channels were not necessary to view the entire tournament. Along with this was the top drawer production value. The spectacle has to be great to dazzle the masses, fans and individuals just viewing the games for the monumental occasion of the World Cup, all want to see a well produced product. This is what captures audiences, and what makes it easier for people to like the game.
A similar coup occurred not to long ago when ESPN lost the television rights to the Champions League. Fox maybe taken as joke by ESPN, beat them the previous holders to the punch in securing the rights to televise. Plain and simply put, the production value decreased significantly. Along with the apparent disregard for quality, one of Fox's primary channels for showing soccer is Fox Soccer Channel (FSC), a channel that's not free. In fact my cable provider Comcast requires I purchase an entire sports package to even view this one channel. For a huge fan of the game I had to do it, even of it's against my principals. The casual watcher, I gather will most likely not shell out the cash for these sorts of channels, making viewing the game even more of a rare and illusive prospect. If we are to take anything from this, looking forward to Fox's broadcast of the 2018, 2022 World Cups, I would surmise to say that casual fan's wanting to watch the World Cup, won't pay for a channel in order to see a one month competition. FSC's stance in Fox's networks is self explanatory...It's the flagship channel for broadcasting the beautiful game. Come 2018 a large majority of the games will be televised on that channel, forcing American soccer fans to purchase FSC in order to watch the games. This is off putting to say the least, and in terms of "growing the game in this country," doing nothing but hindering it.
ESPN puts out an un-paralleled product in terms of video quality, pre game, commentary and things of that sort. So in that light with Fox winning the rights I remain skeptical about the product they will put out on display. Also ESPN has a vast amount of free channels to watch the game as well as ESPN and ESPN 2, where each and every game was shown in 2010, not requiring any un-necissary purchasing of channels.
With this HUGE injection of t.v. rights money it has been suggested that the large companies involved may get too involved. The companies will most likely feel that with the money invested, should make them a figurehead when it comes to making decisions over the World Cup. In truth I see problems ahead that reek of corporations sleeping together and the more than likely lobbying for t.v. rights and control of rights in years to come.
So my answer for those who care, is that I'am disappointed