13 September 2011

Tuesday Football: FOX Sports' oddly sensible programming trick

Last Sunday, FOX Sports used its NFL telecasts to pitch next week's Manchester United-Chelsea match, which it plans to show on tape delay.

Wait.  Back up.  Scratch that needle back across the vinyl.  FOX ran ads promoting a taped soccer game on its flagship network, and nobody's head rolled?  Apparently, everyone got out without so much as a paper cut.  In all seriousness, though, this coming weekend is already a major milestone in U.S. soccer history.  Think about it a bit:  One of the U.S.'s major English-language broadcast networks now feels comfortable not merely counter-programming live NFL games with a foreign soccer match, but proudly announcing the move to the general public.

FOX Sports has made the correct calculation:  American sports fans may not be watching American soccer clubs, but they are watching soccer.  ESPN2 has been airing live English Premier League matches for years, and it appears that this season, one will air on that channel every week the EPL is playing.  Both the News Corp and DIsney syndicates are showing live Champions League games.  Last season, either ESPN or ESPN2 broadcast live matches from Spain, sometimes directly opposite NFL games.  [All that is before we even get to the big Spanish-language channels.]

Mind you, it's only five games, and the first four are on tape.  What's interesting is the timing:  FOX will air the taped EPL games on those weekends when CBS is running NFL doubleheaders.  Where I live, the Chicago Bears will play at New Orleans at 12:00 on FOX, then the MUFC-Chelsea tape will run at about 3:15, after the Bears' game has finished.  [The same goes for Saints fans.]  In the Metroplex, the situation will be the opposite.  Since the Cowboys are away to San Fransico, the soccer match will show up at 12:00, while the 'Pokes-49ers game starts at 3:15.  Either way, viewers will choose between the MUFC-Chelsea match on FOX and an NFL game on CBS.  The honchos at FOX Sports think that fans will blow off the CBS game for the taped soccer -- and in a sizable minority of cases, they will be right.

FOX Sports will air three more EPL matches this way.  Then, on Super Bowl Sunday, it will air the return Chelsea-Manchester United match live from London.  That will probably get impressive numbers, too.

While this development doesn't suddenly make soccer America's Number One Sport™, it should put to a permanent rest the notion that soccer is not a major spectator sport in the United States.

Slow starts win races, anyway:  Both my fantasy football teams lost Nate Kaeding, their shared kicker, on his opening kickoff, but both muddled through to win their openers.

Tom Brady blew open a tight opener against Flying Hawai'ian, handing the Horde a 106-92 win, but there will be serious changes, as Darren Sproles has run past Ryan Grant for the RB2 spot.  Danny Amendola may or may not return this season, but fortunately, I have kick-return emperor Devin Hester handy to take his WR3 position.  Finally, Robbie Gould becomes the third Chicago Bear to join the Horde, replacing Kaeding.

Meanwhile, the Ghost-Grey Cats saw Patriot RB Danny Woodhead provide adequate relief for the injured Arian Foster.  The Cats struggled without Kaeding, but their opponents were just bad.  Kittehs 88, Super Steeler Fan 77.

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