Monday, May 30, 2011

Problems with the Fox UEFA Broadcast


I give kudos to the Fox Network for broadcasting the UEFA Champions League Final on their main broadcast network rather than a subsidiary like FX, Fox Sports Net, or even the actual Fox Soccer Channel. By putting the game on "big Fox", the powers that be were giving this game as much exposure as possible. To any soccer fan, this game is about as big as it gets, outside of the World Cup. The final features the two best clubs in the world, and even though I try to pimp up the MLS at every opportunity, I'm not that big of an idiot to know that, world-wide, the MLS is viewed as a second-tier league and rightfully so. For me, the expectation of the broadcast from Fox was that they would deliver a well-produced, well-package game, entertaining to die-hards and first-time viewers alike.

I couldn't have been more wrong though in what to expect. In the same vein of how Fox dumbed down their college football broadcasts by showing shots of the university's bands at nearly every possible turn, Fox did even more disgrace to the game of soccer by dumbing it down as much as possible, at one point even explaining that teams in soccer and football both have eleven players on the field at the same time. Seriously. And worst of all, they had Michael Strahan enlighten us with that fact:



My goodness. Michael Strahan should be nowhere near a soccer broadcast of any kind, the same way he should be nowhere near the sitcom genre. Yet, Fox decided to bring him in and cater this broadcast to the casual sports fan rather than the die-hard soccer fan. To me, that's a huge mistake. First of all, this game was broadcast on a Saturday afternoon and in most cases you were only going to watch this game if you knew it was on. I'll venture to guess that not too many people that stumbled onto this soccer broadcast when they were channel surfing stayed with the program. You either like soccer, or you don't. That's just how it is. Trying to get Michael Strahan in there to make it appealing to fans of American football isn't doing anybody any favors.

Second, didn't people just get sucked into the World Cup last summer? Even if you are a sports fan that doesn't care too much for soccer, you at least understand the game a bit don't you? Yeah, the offsides rule can be confusing at times, but do you really need a former defensive linemen telling you that soccer players can play the ball with their heads? No! You don't, I know you don't. It's one thing to dumb down the broadcast, but it's another thing to assume that nobody has ever heard of the game of soccer before. It's not like Fox doesn't know how to package a soccer game either, as they have a little channel called the Fox Soccer Channel. And a second channel called Fox Soccer Plus! They know what they are doing, and they can do it quite well. There really was no need to give it the "let's teach soccer to the game of America" treatment.

Now as I shared with you a few weeks ago, I recently did participate in the broadcast of a high school girls soccer game at the radio station I work at, and I would say that the broadcast was a bit dumbed down, but in the way that it should have been. The game that we broadcast was aired at 5pm on a Thursday, which is typically a big time for listenership as it's a) drive time and b) our big nightly news show. The news was preempted for soccer, so for those people that did stick around I wanted to make sure that they knew exactly what was happening. Soccer is a tougher sport to describe on the radio than basketball or football in my opinion, and I wanted to make sure that people that were listening to soccer on the radio for the first time could follow with me. I have to believe that the percentage of people that listened to me by channel surfing was larger than the percentage of people that watched the game by channel surfing, just because of the different market samples and natures of the mediums.

When I say that we dumbed down the broadcast, again, I mean that in a good way. What our broadcast of the game was turned out to be the play-by-play of a soccer game mixed with explanatory details of what was happening, and why. The way I dumbed the broadcast down - and the more I keep saying "dumbed it down" the less I like that phrase - was that I took the time to explain things such as why a team would play more defensively when they are inferior, what a goalkeeper does when she isn't facing a lot of shots. Things of that nature that are beneficial to hear to both soccer fans and first time listeners alike. At no point did I ever assume that someone that was listening was so unfamiliar with soccer to the point where they have never heard of the sport. That may not have been Fox's intention, but it is how the broadcast came off. And that really isn't acceptable for a game of that magnitude in a sport that people are, in fact, familiar with to some degree.

The experience was even worse for fans of the game in the Minneapolis / St. Paul market, as the broadcast was interrupted with weather coverage, and the anchor, Tim Blotz, kind of went off on the fans that were calling the station. Here's the footage, courtesy of Awful Announcing:



As the author at AA, Matt Yoder, notes "I wonder if he would warn Vikings fans, NBA fans, or college football fans to not "cheese us off." I've never seen an anchor arrogantly dismiss a viewing audience like that, that takes some serious marbles. It's also the first time I've heard "cheese us off" since 1945". Well said.

For more on the garbage that was the coverage of the UEFA Final, make sure you check out EPL Talk's take on the matter as well as more on how insane Fox 9 was about their weather coverage.

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