Wednesday, April 1, 2009

FSC Gets the Champions League

...and all I get is this free t-shirt?

In all seriousness, though, Fox Soccer Channel has picked up the rights to next season's Champions League. Big news? Certainly, because it speaks ill of ESPN's commitment to the beautiful game.

ESPN owns the rights to the next two World Cups and did a great job televising last summer's Euro Cup. They also supposedly bid a large sum to televise English Premier League games, though from what has been gathered, that was just for the British rights--not the rights to show games in the US.

Why does it matter? Because ESPN is basic cable, and ESPN has more than one station to program these games on. As it is, it's impossible to watch Arsenal Champions League games on television because of ESPN's love of Manchester/Liverpool/Chelsea, but at least the chance is there. I don't even want to think about what could happen if the games are on one station (I'd do the probability of seeing an Arsenal game, but this isn't the "fair dice" that they talk about in statistics class, so I'll pass).

The ratings for Champions League games are solid, especially considering that the games are shown in the middle of the day. 255,000 households on average per game? Over one million for the final during the middle of the day? UEFA is making a huge mistake in letting it go to FSC. I know it probably came down to the money, but if they care about the teams becoming brands in the United States, it would be in their best interests to have the game on the station in 98 million households as opposed to 34 million households.

Of course, the argument is that if you care about the Champions League, you've already got FSC anyway. Fine. That keeps the numbers static and does not foster growth.

Shame on you, UEFA. And shame on ESPN for deciding, for the very first time, that it was not worth the investment. It can't be that FSC could have outbid ESPN by that much...

...then again, FSC is owned by Fox, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also happens to own SkySports, the company that bought the rights to most of the British air rights of the EPL games.

It's a similar situation across the pond--SkySports is premium cable while other sports networks are not. At least, though, they've got access to the stadiums to go out to the games if they wish.