It must be three or four weeks ago when I read that the FOX Network in the US had taken the decision to show their first English Premier League game on the Network as part of their Sunday coverage of the NFL. Whilst already having shown the UEFA Champions League Final live for the previous two years, this represented the next step for soccer in the US market. Broadcasting tape-delayed coverage of tomorrow’s clash between Manchester United and Chelsea was a huge opportunity for many NFL football fans, not traditionally the demographic of soccer fans, to see what the game is all about. Couple that with the type of aggressive, physical style of play in England, the potential was huge. Except in Chicago.
The announcement by FOX implied that the game would be broadcast at either 2.00pm or 4.30pm Eastern time depending on whether the NFL game being shown in that area, was an early or late game. Imagine my reaction when I checked my listings for WFLD Chicago, the local Fox affiliate, and found that the game was not scheduled to be broadcast in this area until 12.35am Monday morning ! I’m sure there will be a ton of people just itching to watch at that time of the night. As rabid a soccer fan as I am, I doubt I’ll stay up.Thank heaven for DVR.
Now the game is being shown live on FoxSoccer Channel which is a cable subsidiary of the main network so it isn’t like the coverage is being shut out completely. It is available in HD as well, provided you aren’t like me and suffering with Comcast as your Cable provider in which case the HD option isn’t offered, but the sad part is that the event has been bumped to so late in the day.
I contacted the TV station and couldn’t get an official comment except to say that the decision was taken that since the Chicago Bears were playing in the early time slot at noon Central time against the New Orleans Saints, that viewers in Chicago would much rather see post game Bears coverage rather than “some soccer game”. Once again, Chicago soccer fans are being cast aside in favor of one of the “BigFour” sports, which in reality isn’t all that surprising. This city is NFL football crazy and the Bears own the hearts and the minds of the people who live here, and with the team having won it’s it’s first game so convincingly last week, demand is high. However, I think a golden opportunity has been missed for the sport of soccer in this country, and in this metropolitan area, to generate interest from a demographic that ordinarily wouldn’t take the time to watch a game.
They are right when analysts say TV rules and viewing figures rule absolutely.