Friday, September 2, 2011

Will EPL Work Well As Partner to NFL, Super Bowl?

FOX television broadcasting company announced Thursday that three EPL tape-delayed matches will be partnered with NFL games on Sundays this fall and one live match on Super Bowl Sunday.  "Soccer is moving into the mainstream of American sports," said FOX Soccer general manager David Nathanson.

He went on to say it only makes sense to use NFL Sundays to broadcast EPL matches to a broader audience.  The three tape-delayed matches will be seen before or after an NFL game.  The live match will begin its broadcast several hours prior to the start of the Super Bowl.

FOX television missed a golden opportunity with MLS during the span of their contract to move some matches from their FOX Soccer Channel to their main 'Simpsons' network, FOX.  Then, they missed out again to sign them up for a new contract.

NBC moved in when they could and took advantage.  NBC Sports will begin its MLS contract with only a few broadcasts on its main network, NBC, and put the majority of them on their new purchase, NBC Sports Network (currently, Versus).  But, it looks like in the upcoming years, NBC Sports has plans to increase the number of games shown on its most prized network, NBC (main Peacock).

NBC and FOX are two of the most watched television networks, according to Nielsen ratings.  They are accessed mostly from basic cable TV packages.  Of course, they are part of digital, expanded cable and satellite TV, as well.

This move by FOX is an obvious counter to NBC's deal with MLS and their promos during Sunday Night Football.  FOX wants to try and usurp the spotlight from NBC by using what is considered by many experts as the greatest Soccer league in the world, the EPL.

Aside from tape-delay and time difference issues, does this marketing move work for FOX?  Will they be able to bring in more American viewers to their EPL future broadcasts?  That is the point to what they're doing, one would think.  Probably, there will be some latent effect.

A bigger question is, can EPL ever gain a mainstream sports audience in the U.S.?  And, an even bigger set of questions are, between the two leagues, EPL and MLS, which is more likely to get the mainstream status, if it ever happens, and who will get it first?

NBC is betting MLS will capture a mainstream audience and trending would indicate they have a lot on their side.  There is nothing currently to suggest FOX television can move EPL to its main network and win over a mainstream sporting audience.

Too many Americans will never accept a foreign league as their own league.  This is just the way it is.  It doesn't matter how good EPL is, Americans will always place a priority on its own league, MLS.

FOX has its baby, the European Champions League Cup, which it showed on its main network for the first time, earlier this year.  Barcelona dominated Manchester, but the skill was splendid in the game and surely it taught more Americans to become fans of European Soccer.

At this point, as chief decision maker for a big TV network, which league makes the most sense for an American audience?  The overall skill may be less in MLS, but American sports fans either may not realize it or may not care.  Watching their own cities is preferable to watching foreign ones.

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