FOX has been making a big move in their attempt to become a legitimate home for world-class soccer, both on the pitch and off in terms of production. While FOX has admittedly taken some lumps along the way, slowly they've been taking steps to right the ship.
Their documentary series "Being: Liverpool" got off to a fantastic start in the ratings with their premier on FOX network TV drawing a respectable 1.3 rating. FOX continues to slowly improve their Champions League coverage, even though they still import world feeds instead of supplying their own broadcast talent like ESPN. But the boldest step FOX has taken in preparation of broadcasting the men's and women's World Cup later in the decade was broadcasting the English Premier League on FOX during the NFL season.
And, in an unsurprising result to even the most pessimistic soccer haters, the move was an outright success. EPL matches shown on tape delay drew well over 1 million viewers on NFL Sundays. While there are still issues with possible preemption, FOX has decided to double down on the strategy by announcing three more games to be broadcast this fall to a national audience.
Somewhat surprisingly, all 3 games involve Manchester United, Liverpool, and Newcastle United. No Chelsea. No Arsenal. No Manchester City. But, the three broadcast dates (Sep. 23, Oct. 7, Nov. 4) could certainly be expanded upon if the second year of EPL broadcasts remains successful.
Not only will continued broadcasting of EPL games help FOX become a destnation for world class soccer, it provides the network more reps at replicating the amazing job ESPN has done broadcasting international soccer in the last several years. Now, FOX is still way behind in depth of on-air talent (specifically play-by-play men and analysts), but with the inclusion of Rob Stone and the improvement of other studio personnel (former US National team striker Brian McBride has been a nice addition), FOX is making small strides.
In my opinion, the next step for FOX is to build their soccer reputation to the point they can broadcast live soccer on the network without fear of preemption for infomercials or local access. Soccer can draw, at least world-class international soccer. The proof is in the ratings pudding. And while the NFL Sunday broadcasts give a nice boost, the true question will be whether or not FOX uses the momentum to continue making major strides in their soccer presentation.
[H/T EPL Talk]