Commentary: Familiar faces in shorter time slot an improvement in FOX Soccer Daily debut | SIDELINE
The days of original studio content airing on FOX Soccer Channel are dead and gone. FOX Soccer Report and FOX Soccer News have long since been retired and put to rest.
Flip to the onetime haven for soccer fans these days and all you're likely to find is a UEFA Champions League overflow game from the new FOX Sports 1 channel which debuted last weekend, or lots of Champions League and Europa League re-runs from the 2012-13 season.
At some point, FOX Soccer is rumored to be going away and disappearing altogether. In many ways, that is an incredibly sad reality, that is, if today was still 2011 and NBC Sports had yet to launch its venture into the soccer broadcasting world so brightly and successfully.
Quite simply, when the NBC Sports Group snatched three years of rights to the English Premier League beginning this past weekend away from FOX, the need for a 24-hour-a-day soccer channel quickly went out the window. As long as FOX held both Premier League and Champions League rights, they had enough live, re-run and studio content to fill 168 hours every week from fall to spring.
With the launch of FOX Sports 1 in its near future, FOX rightly chose to transfer the vasy majority of its soccer programming to the new mothership, which will reach significantly larger audiences that otherwise never before sought out the same shows when airing on FOX Soccer.
Over the past 24 months, FOX Soccer came under heavy criticism from its viewers over the quality of its numerous characters' analysis and their individual personalities, and that's probably a bit unfair considering just two years ago you could find shows similar to FOX Soccer Report or News nowhere else on American television.
Despite that, and unsurprisingly so, the core of FOX's on-air soccer personalities remained intact for the Monday debut of FOX Sports 1's new daily show, FOX Soccer Daily. Controversial analyst Eric Wynalda and the equally divisive Warren Barton served as the two voices and sharers of opinions on the European game, while Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl and Wynalda discussed in-depth the latest issues of the game domestically.
A particular bright spot in terms of the on-air talent was new host Julie Stewart-Binks, who happens to have obtained her masters degree in London where she fell deeply in love with the sport. The benefit of this fact? No stuttering or mispronunciation of names with which other "non-soccer" broadcasters often struggle.
Perhaps a similar formula to old FOX Soccer shows, but in a shorter, more condensed, 30-minute program, with less time to erk viewers can be lauded for Daily's positive debut. The FOX directors seemed to roll with the old adage of "keep it simple," and in doing so, delivered a product of higher quality than they had done in quite some time.
With the English Premier League kicking off this past weekend, it was no real surprise that highlights and discussion regarding these games lead the show off and garnered a large chunk of air time.
The brightest highlight of Daily's debut was actaully a real doozy, in providing this in-depth and incredibly telling interview with LA Galaxy star and soon-to-be free agent Landon Donovan.
Continuing to land exclusive interviews like this one, given their established history and connections with players and coaches at the top of the American soccer landscape, may just be FOX Soccer Daily's best plan of strategy to remain relevant in a time where NBC Sports and ESPN have very recently upped their own soccer broadcasting efforts.