Champions League a big test for FSC

fscAmerican television coverage of top level European club soccer has transformed over the summer. ESPN has entered the market with English Premier League and Spanish La Liga games broadcast live in HD – a huge shift that has major implications for the growth of the sport in America.

Another significant change has been Fox Soccer Channel taking over broadcast of the Champion’s League from ESPN. Now, in stead of the one game per day available on ESPN, soccer fans will get one live and up to three additional day-of matches and most of the games shown over the course of the week. That is just a massive amount of soccer coverage and should be a boon for the game.

While this is a tremendous opportunity for FSC, it is also a big test of the network’s ability to produce high-quality programming to match the play on the field. ESPN has easily developed a studio show around its games that puts the rather poor Fox Soccer Match Day broadcast to shame. ESPN’s quality isn’t surprising—after all, it produces about a million hours of SportsCenter everyday, if it couldn’t do a good studio show it would be a surprise. But it is a reminder that FSC needs to up its game.

I never used to mind that FSC’s programming wasn’t all that good. You had to want to watch soccer to see enough of the FSC-produced shows to matter, and it was unlikely that any of those fans would be turned off under any circumstances. That’s not true with the Champion’s League. These games are spectacles that draw in the casual fans that know of Barcelona, Manchester United, and AC Milan, but don’t follow the game closely. Those big name teams draw in new supporters and get them hooked on the beautiful game.

Existing fans will love the expanded coverage, and while they may grow tired of Max Bretos, its unlikely to deter them from watching. I fear that the same may not be true for those drawn to the star power of the Champion’s League. For the game to grow in this country, we need those fans to get hooked and keep watching. Its now on FSC. Good luck.

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