Why Fox responded to soccer’s rising popularity by killing Fox Soccer Channel
The death of the Fox Soccer Channel was officially announced Thursday, with the company indicating that as of September, the once-constant home for soccer will become FXX, an entertainment channel.
In another era, this would be a simple story about soccer once again failing to catch on in America, with all the attendant skepticism about the sport as a whole.
But it was interest in soccer and competition for it that killed Fox Soccer Channel, not a lack of it.
For years, Fox Soccer Channel contained much of what an American soccer fan could possibly care about. Generally, to watch the English Premier League, you'd tune to Fox Soccer, with the exception of the occasional match on ESPN. That future changed last October, when N.B.C. won the American rights to broadcast the league, beginning in 2013-14, outbidding Fox and ESPN at a rate of $250 million.
That loss, one year after N.B.C. also won the rights to Major League Soccer, along with most of the other major European leagues getting purchased by upstart BeIN Sport, left a Fox Soccer Channel with some U.E.F.A. Chanpions League games, and a handful of others. It was hardly the kind of live content that makes a 24/7 channel worthwhile in the first place.
The marketplace is also changing in terms of how people access these games. With those games still in Fox's grasp moving to their new Fox Sports One channel, debuting in August, many viewers can watch there as a part of the effort to lure soccer fans to the E.S.P.N. competitor. But there's also Fox Soccer Go, widely expected to fold its content into Fox Sports 2Go, an on-demand product for people to watch via technology like the computer, IPad, or Roku box.
The viewer experience with Fox Soccer 2Go was often infuriating, with games starting and stopping, or failing to show at all. That so many complained about this reveals, once again, that the failure was one of technology keeping up with demand, not a lack of domestic interest in watching soccer.
For soccer fans here just a few years ago, the conversion from the amorphous Fox Sports World was greeted as a glorious achievement. Finally, it seemed, soccer fans had a spot on the dial to watch the sport, year-round.
But we were also part of a sports ghetto. No longer. In a world where the snowstorm-plagued World Cup qualifier between the United States and Costa Rica is broadcast on E.S.P.N., and became the talk of Twitter, Fox Soccer Channel didn't really make sense. Soccer is a permanent part of the sports landscape; it is everywhere. This is to be celebrated, not mourned.
Elsewhere in New York sports:
Johan Santana re-tore his shoulder capsule, and it is expected his Mets career, if not his entire career, is over.
David Wright will play Friday and if all goes well, Monday's Opening Day as well.
Lyle Overbay will get first shot at first base in Mark Teixeira's absence.