FOX and the FOX networks have taken its share of criticism for their soccer coverage over the years. Some of that criticism was from us, some of that was from other places in the blogosphere. Yesterday, FOX committed more than 10 hours of continuous coverage, and then some, on the FIFA Presidential Election and the Extraordinary Congress. Not only did FOX show the respect that was deserved for an event like this by covering the complete event, but they covered all corners and kept things pretty entertaining throughout the entire time, even if what was going on in Zurich wasn’t that exciting.
The team of Rob Stone and Alexi Lalas along with others in Los Angeles went on the air at midnight PT. Kate Abdo and Grant Wahl were in Zurich covering the events in person and in a way more appropriate time zone. But for all of them, it was at least 10 hours of live TV coverage throughout the night in the United States with the occasional commercial break giving them time to regroup.
I have no clue how those in front of the camera, as well as those behind the cameras were able to keep up the energy throughout the night but they certainly didn’t seem fatigued at all throughout the show.
In addition, the magnitude of coverage was also great to see. From interviews with all five candidates before the election to the coverage of the voting itself, FOX did their very best to cover all five candidates and to cover all angles of the election. They certainly had the time, but FOX did it in an entertaining and informative way that wasn’t “dumbed down” for the general public. FOX realized the importance of this election and how it would shape the foreseeable future of FIFA and soccer in general and gave it the respect it deserved.
FOX even extended coverage past their regularly scheduled time on FS1. The original plan was to have election coverage on FS1 until 9 AM ET/6 AM PT and then move to FS2 to make room for NASCAR truck practice. Since FIFA was in the middle of the first ballot of two when the clock struck 9 o’clock, the decision was made to stay on FS1 for about an hour before moving to FS2 after the first ballot results were announced.
FOX has received some criticism from soccer fans when the network chooses to show other sports like NASCAR on FS1 instead of the FA Cup or Bundesliga games, which could get moved to FS2 (which about half of cable and satellite customers have) or FOX Soccer Plus (which a lot more people do not have). Some of this is understandable, nobody wants to see their favorite sport relegated over another. I am sure NASCAR fans feel the same way when FOX decides to show soccer instead of NASCAR. But in a strict business decision, I can definitely see why FOX would prefer to show NASCAR because even a practice session gets better viewership than an FA Cup or Bundesliga game. It may not be what soccer fans want to hear, but that’s the reality.
What was different about the broadcast was FOX decided to push NASCAR to FS2 for an hour for this election. This wasn’t a soccer game. This was seeing people sitting around in suits talking in a political realm that for the majority of the 1o hours, wasn’t that entertaining on its surface. While FOX and soccer fans realized this was an important meeting and vote for the future of soccer and FIFA, we all realized only the most diehard fans would be watching a sizable portion of a very niche program like the FIFA Extraordinary Congress. The fact that FOX preferred to keep the election on FS1 for an hour and have about seven hours worth of coverage on FS1 before moving to FS2, should say something about how FOX cares about soccer. FOX may not show it all the time in some of the decisions they make but they do seem to care.
All in all, this is the kind of soccer coverage I would like to see from FOX in the future. Their coverage of the Extraordinary Congress was substantial and a very legitimate attempt to gain respect from fans.
I am not expecting FOX to run their soccer coverage like NBC runs their EPL coverage because it’s tough to compare the two networks. And in no way I am expecting FOX to devote 10 hours of soccer coverage a day or anything. But if FOX keeps up with the type of soccer coverage and reporting like they did with the FIFA Extraordinary Congress, the respect they’ll gain for their soccer coverage and the network as a whole will greatly increase.