Friday, August 26, 2011

NBC bites, Fox Soccer bites back

This man could be living on your TV soon
In a desperate bid not to be relegated to the U.S. soccer broadcast shadows by NBC's recent MLS mega-deal, Fox Soccer reached out to the Europa League this week and cast its lot for a three-year TV deal that includes a staggering 205 EL matches. Fox Soccer elbowed out GolTV and DirecTV to be the sole US provider of the second tier European club competition. Don't forget, Fox Soccer also has the rights to air 146 Champions League matches as well.

If NBC snapped up the MLS niche, Fox Soccer struck back by firmly entrenching itself as the go-to network for European club matches. Its as though Fox Soccer GM David Nathanson said, "You want MLS? We'll take Europe, please and thanks."

That wasn't all. Seems FSC is getting sneaky on us. Glasgow Rangers and Fox Soccer are in talks over a possible TV deal, foreseeably cutting Rangers in on a huge swath of America (33 million homes, to be precise). The details are vague at present, and what all this would entail is murky since, to my knowledge, nothing of this nature has ever been brokered in the States.

The move is especially interesting considering Rangers' actions in the summer transfer window. It's clearly a tactical move to increase exposure since, in addition to Maurice Edu, Alejandro Bedoya and Carlos Bocanegra both signed on with Rangers this month. That raises some obvious questions. Were these moves both part of a larger marketing ploy, or is this simply Rangers brass capitalizing on the happenstance that three Americans are now in Glasgow? In my mind, doubtful. Seems like an awfully expensive gambit to have cooked up in the last few weeks, doesn't it? The upside of course is that Rangers are an English-speaking club in an area of the world quite familiar to most Americans. I'd be shocked to find an American soccer fan who wasn't aware of the club, so the brand recognition is there. Whether this move makes financial sense will come into light when we know more details. If we know more details.

It is interesting that they see the American market as ripe for pilfering when, by all accounts, Rangers are yearly enmeshed in a two-horse race in a sub-par league across a vast ocean. As we've seen with Fulhamerica, American fans will gravitate toward teams that nurture USMNT talent. But as far as becoming reliable fans that spend money on merch and tune into games at wild hours? Those are nearly impossible to create solely through television sets. It happens, but you're talking only the hardcores. Message board banter aside, the only way to fully cultivate lifetime support is face to face interaction with the club.

Bringing Rangers games into US homes regularly will create fans Stateside. I'm pretty confident of that fact. But with the transitory nature of modern soccer and the unreliability of steady play, it is unlikely that Bedoya, Boca and Edu will be long for the club. So will they make back in revenue what they spend on an American TV deal? I won't say no definitively without knowing anything more than what's baking, but this seems like a pretty hit-or-miss proposition. It also raises some immediate questions about the legitimacy of favoring a single team over another. I can only imagine the legions of Celtic fans who will swear off FSC forever... or at least until they calm down.

But 'ey, if you're a Rangers fan living in America, follow on. You could be in TV heaven soon enough. Now about that Roma deal, FSC...

- Will Parchman


Darius said...

The difficulty Rangers will always have is that the sectarian stuff with Celtic that defines so much of each club's identity will be totally meaningless, at best, to Americans and an active impediment at worst.

I mean, I don't care about Protestant versus Catholic stuff; I don't want to root for clubs that find that interesting.

Cam said...

I'd like to say I agree with you...but if you're looking for clubs that don't have any political or religious you're
going to miss out on a lot of good football

At Real Madrid games against Barcelona they sing the Spanish National Anthem (in response to Catalonian separatism)...Barcelona's motto, mes que un club (more than a club) suggests political origins

other clubs off the top of my head with contrasting political viewpoints Partizan and Red Star Belgrade in Serbia and Lazio v. Roma in Italy...Heck it's the the same way between Hearts (protestant) and Hibs (catholic) in Scotland

My point is if you're trying escape political and religious conflict...European Soccer is not the place to do it