ESPN Sports

History of the UEFA Champions League on Television (Part 2)

Summary

FOX Sports When FOX first acquired the UEFA Champions League broadcasting rights, the broadcaster had yet to introduce its dedicated sports channels and its football broadcasts were limited to FOX Soccer Channel, a niche second-tier cable broadcasting channel. FOX used […]

FOX Sports

When FOX first acquired the UEFA Champions League broadcasting rights, the broadcaster had yet to introduce its dedicated sports channels and its football broadcasts were limited to FOX Soccer Channel, a niche second-tier cable broadcasting channel. FOX used to have a reputation among soccer fans as inexpensive production with presenters and commentators all worked in LA’s smallish soccer punditry community.

The limited distribution of FOX Soccer Channel forced FOX to group two matches a week during the group stages on FOX Sports regional networks (RSN’s). In 2009, the network of 23 RSN’s affiliated or owned by FOX gave the broadcaster essentially the right to create national distribution without owning a national cable channel.

These channels worked in a cable sense how local broadcast affiliates offer over-the-air network programming to a local audience. Suddenly networks such as FOX Sports Florida – whose programming was once completely local in scope including the University of Florida, Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, among others – were broadcasting soccer’s most prestigious international club event.

Out of the gates, somewhat surprisingly, FOX performed well with the elements of the presentation it controlled. A full studio show bracketing the televised matches was introduced led by the soccer-savvy presenter Christian Miles and Eric Wynalda, who had recently worked at ESPN, and Bobby McMahon, typically based in Winnipeg as part of FOX Soccer Channel nightly Canadian-based news show, to serve as an analysts from LA.

But what FOX could not control – because they didn’t recruit a Rae-caliber presenter on their team – was the quality of commentary on the UEFA-produced international feed in English language. UEFA was at the time using commentator Tim White’s consultancy to deliver English language commentary for the international feed. White’s team offered some of the worst match commentary one had ever heard in the English language for a high-level competition. After years of listening to Rae and other high-level ESPN announcers, fans were frustrated.