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Battle of the Broadcasters: How Has US Soccer Coverage Stacked Up?
The landscape of broadcasting US Soccer has drastically changed over the last 2 years, with BeIn Sport emerging, NBC taking control of the EPL and ESPN losing the rights to everything but international soccer. What you have the rights to in America doesn't necessarily mean you've got the best soccer coverage, so here's a breakdown of the best to worst soccer broadcasting networks in the USA, based on the number of channel, coverage, broadcasting talent, 'soccer shows' (like Fox Soccer Daily, NBC Match of the Day) and Non-TV availability.
Networks: Fox broadcasts the beautiful game on Fox Sports One and Two, the regular network FOX, and their subscription network FOX Soccer Plus. More times than not, matches are only shown on Fox Sports and Fox Soccer Plus, with cup finals being broadcast on FOX. The issue with this, is that the average fan can only watch 2 games, due to Fox Soccer Plus being a very uncommon channel. 7/10
Coverage: FOX's major club coverage includes both of UEFA's cups, the Champions and Europa League, the Copa Libertadores, along with the FA Cup and Community Shield. It also owns the rights to the CONCACAF Champions League and select National Women's Soccer League matches. On the International spectrum, FOX airs the CONCACAF Gold Cup, Euro Qualifying and various international friendlies. The coverage itself is more times than not horrible, complete with awful commentary. Their CONCACAF Champions League coverage wins the award for worst TV coverage of a sporting event in America, with camera work that seems like Monkeys are doing the work. 6/10
Broadcasting Talent: This is where it gets really bad for FOX. FOX brought famed basketball commentator Gus Johnson over to soccer, and the decision has been horrendous. While Johnson obviously enjoys the sport, his commentary is flat out awful, a mix of yelling and simply irrelevant points. Fox then appointed Julie Stewart-Binks, a fairly unknown commentator to host their marquee soccer show, Fox Soccer Daily, and it was arguably a worse decision than Gus Johnson. Stewart-Binks often mixed up teams, leagues and players, irritating supporters nationwide. There are a few bright spots with Eric Wynalda and Brian McBride proving to be highly underrated commentators, while the occasional Grant Wahl appearance is always welcome. Other than those mentioned, the rest of the cast is mainly all unknown, and usually horrible, commentators. 2/10
Soccer Shows: Once again another weak spot for FOX, who recently took their show Fox Soccer Daily off air due to poor ratings. The show was a downgrade from Fox Soccer News and Fox Soccer Report (both aired on the now extinct Fox Soccer Channel) and never really caught on. It will be interesting to see how FOX executives attempt to revive it. 1/10
Non-TV Availability: Fox Soccer 2Go, Fox's online service, oddly offers more options than the TV Network themselves. Along with the leagues mentioned above, fans can also satisfy their craving for Israeli, Scottish and Australian soccer. Fox Soccer 2Go is also available via a mobile app, however the app is known for crashing or simply not working. 7/10
Overall: FOX ends up with a failing 23/50, becoming the worst soccer network in America.
Networks: Only the main network GolTV here, although they get bonus points for being completely bilingual. GolTV is the least popular of the five networks listed here, mainly because they are a soccer only network. 6/10
Coverage: GolTV owns the rights to the Bundesliga, Brazil's Serie A, Mexico's Ascenso MX the Eredivisie and select World Cup Qualifying matches (mainly of South American teams). GolTV also has the rights to some Primera División Uruguaya and Primera División Argentina along with the Swiss Super League. As for international matches, they broadcast all of Argentina's friendlies along with the Women's Champions League. As mentioned above, GolTV is bilingual, with the South/Central American games usually broadcast in Spanish, and the European games broadcast in English. The commentators are average commentators, no different than who you would hear during a regular European match. GolTV provides a nice heaven for those who enjoy watching European Leagues not named the English Premier League. 9/10
Broadcasting Talent: As mentioned above, the commentators are nothing out of the norm, however that's a good thing in the case of GolTV. The hosts of their recap shows are entertaining for the most part, with the host "Oh My Gol!" a memorable persona. 6/10
Soccer Shows: The network features recap shows from the Bundesliga, Europa League and South American leagues, along with hour long best goal highlights. All around decent. 6/10
Non-TV Availability: Highlights are available online, but streaming is non-existent. 1/10
Overall: GolTV proves to be the true underdog, with a variety of solid coverage throughout the world. A 29/50 doesn't look great on paper, but it's only that low because of their lack of non-TV availability. A gem in the rough. 29/50
Networks: The main network ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes make up the majority of ESPN's soccer coverage. ESPNU will feature the occasional college soccer match. 7/10
Coverage: Since losing the rights to EPL and FA Cup matches last year, ESPN has taken a backseat to soccer coverage. The self-proclaimed 'Worldwide Leader In Sports' airs Major League Soccer and Liga MX and holds the Spanish language rights to the Europa League. On the International side, ESPN offers (lots) of International friendlies along with World Cup and Euro qualifying. It's diamond is the 2014 World Cup, which is the last of back to back world cups that ESPN holds the rights to. ESPN's coverage is a tried and true system, with the same commentary team as from seasons before. 5/10
Broadcasting Talent: For the most part very good, with Bob Ley showing FOX how to correctly turn a basketball commentator into a soccer commentator. Adrian Healey and Ian Darke have proven to be lovable commentators while Taylor Twellman has been a rising star. Alexi Lalas has been a love or hate character for ESPN, while Julie Foudy has been fantastic in her role of commentating women's soccer. Overall a very strong team. 8/10
Soccer Shows: ESPN FC debuted late 2013 and proved to be a hit despite it's late nighttime slot, drawing in viewers and creating a loyal following. ESPN FC provides world renown soccer writers, something that has proven to be a main reason for success. 10/10
Non-TV Availability: ESPN is the industry leader in non-TV availability, with the 'Watch ESPN' website and app a proven service. Like FOX, ESPN also features leagues not shown on their TV coverage via 'Watch ESPN'. Most notably is the Italian Cup, the Coupe de France, the Copa MX, Portugal's Primeira Liga and the DFB Pokal. 10/10
Overall: ESPN's non-TV coverage and ESPN FC save ESPN from a lackluster year of TV coverage, giving them a solid 40/50.
Networks: Only beIN Sport and their Spanish language section. 7/10
Coverage: Since jumping on to the scene in 2012, beIN Sports has picked up what the big boys didn't want, and has created a dynamic package by doing so. beIn Sports holds 3 of Europe's 5 'major leagues' with the rights to Ligue 1, La Liga and Serie A. The network also airs the SkyBet Championship, Copa Del Rey and South American friendlies and world cup qualifiers, along with the TIM Cup, Russian Premier League and Copa América. 10/10
Broadcasting Talent: beIN Sport came in with an average broadcasting crew, but has since removed their weak links, creating a great line of on air talent. Ray Hudson and Phil Schoen lead the way in play-by-play commentary, while analysts Ian Joy, Ross Dyer and Kay Murray have sparked in the spotlight. 10/10
Soccer Shows: The good times continue for beIN Sport who have without a doubt some of the best soccer shows in the country. 'The Locker Room' and 'The Express' have proven to be the highlight shows that Americans that don't only follow the EPL have been craving. Other solid shows include Barca TV and Real Madrid TV, which is exactly what their names are. 9/10
Non-TV Availability: Both an app and an webpage to stream live games, although the app works during some updates, and won't even open in others. 7/10
Overall: The underdogs come close, but can't defeat Goliath, taking a solid 43/50. Either way, beIN Sport is a fantastic network that can rival the quality of European networks.
Networks: NBC and NBC Sports, along with a 24/7 channel dedicated to the EPL. 10/10
Coverage: If you missed the giant Times Square screens of Gareth Bale or the millions of ads throughout the country NBC used to promote their new coverage, NBC added the EPL this season, promising to air every EPL game via television or online stream. Outside of the EPL, NBC doesn't have the rights to much more, airing select MLS matches along with a two US friendlies a year. 8/10
Broadcasting Talent: Rebecca Lowe, Arlo White, Gary Lineker I could go on all day. NBC's group of broadcasting talent is outstanding, producing top notch production. Rebecca Lowe had been the star of the show and in December she picked up Sports Illustrated's Newcomer of the Year award in their Media award competition. There isn't a single weak link in this cast, giving them a perfect score. 10/10
Soccer Shows: NBC unveiled eight new shows to accompany their EPL coverage, with everything from the basics with 'Premier League Goal Zone' to new programming such as 'Premier League 36' (They follow an EPL player for 36 hours). On par with beIN Sports, earning them solid marks. 10/10
Non-TV Availability: A solid online platform allows supporters to stream live games along with replays, however the mobile app rarely works. 7/10
Overall: NBC's superb coverage of the EPL gives them the gold medal as the best network in America for supporters of the beautiful game. 45/50