ESPN, Fox Sports International Need to Get Act Together

02 August 2010

As I type this, we are five days from the start of the English Championship Season (sponsored by nPower), and twelve days from the start of the Barclays Premier League season. However what we don't know as of yet are how these games will be split between ESPN, and the networks of Fox Sports International (Fox Soccer Channel, and Fox Soccer Plus).

The Championship games are probably easy enough, as there is nothing on ESPN3 in the interim, and all games that are to be broadcast in the opening weekend are on Fox Soccer TV Online. However, we still have no idea how Premier League games will be split up between ESPN and the channels of FSI. While last season's last second deal was understandable due to Setanta bailing last minute on payment for rights, the fact ESPN and FSI have had plenty of time to iron out a deal, and have not done so is simply pathetic.

What is more baffling to me is ESPN's move of putting the opening game of the season between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City premature of a deal being made and removing it when people started questioning it. In a matter of six months, we've gone from ESPN definitely getting 83 games, to 'well we're still negotiating'. At this point, deals should have already been made, contracts signed, and both entities promoting the hell out of what games they would be showing on opening weekend.

Now what do I think are the bones of contention? While I have nothing official, I have my own theories. From ESPN wanting to include all games they broadcast on ESPN3 (along with other media platforms), to FSI seeing the ratings of the World Cup on the Disney networks and jacking up the price they wanted for games, to ESPN wanting another lucrative time slot other than the time slots they had last season; something has gone amiss between the two parties. Now, with 12 days left, we're all still in the dark.

Further more, unless you are on a platform that carries Fox Soccer Plus (and if you are, congrats), you are still waiting for the price structure that Fox Soccer TV Online will be providing for this season. At this moment, all we know right now is that $4.95 will get you a one day pass. While this one day pass is up allegedly to clean up some of the programming from last season, I find that excuse extremely weak. If you need to close the site for maintenance, pick two or three days when no programming would be live and get it all done and over with.

With that said, we still don't know what their monthly or season prices will be. That's leaving it way too late for people to make up their minds. I can promise you one thing: if the status quo remains on the opening day of the Premier League season, I don't see too many people forking over $4.95 to see the games on offer on the product. To be even franker, I don't think many people will be paying $14.95 a month for the online service. They maybe willing to pay 99 dollars for the season, but at this point, it's not even an option to consider. The longer they wait, the more likely people are going to be willing to keep the money in their own pockets and make technology their personal best friend.

Time's running out on both Fox Sports International and ESPN to get these deals done and games promoted for opening weekend. The longer they wait, the lower the ratings will be. The longer FSI waits to provide potentially paying customers sound prices for their online product, the less likely people will be willing to pay their rates. The deals should have already been done, and should be now.

Instead, all we know is one thing: Fox Sports International has the rights to games. What games they will show, what networks will be airing games, and what prices we'll have to pay for either Fox Soccer Plus (if new platforms are made available), or for Fox Soccer TV Online are about as good as anyone's guess.

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Johnathan Starling, the self proclaimed 'most brutally honest man on the net, dishes out his own unique brand of opinions, and analysis on the Premier League, Bundesliga, and all things US Soccer.

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