Once again FOX is promoting its English Premier League coverage as part of its Sunday sports package. The network is offering a high profile match-up (Arsenal/Manchester United) on the FOX mother ship as part of the lead-up to the network’s live broadcast of the NFC Championship. As we have reported, the network has seen great ratings from its re-broadcasts of the EPL and the live telecasts promises to generate an even larger audience. FOX’s broadcast of Liverpool’s 2-1 defeat of Chelsea on Nov. 20 delivered a 1.1 household rating, with 1.67 million total viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research. Two weeks after the January 22 match on Championship Sunday, the network will offer live coverage of Chelsea and Manchester United as part of the lead-up to its Superbowl telecast.
Following its successful record bid for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups, FOX is certainly reaffirming its committment to the beautiful game. What this means for Major League Soccer remains an open question. MLS and FOX severed ties at the end of 2011 with NBC stepping in as the league’s second broadcast partner. Commissioner Garber has repeatedly stated that he remains engaged with FOX and that league relationships with its former broadcast partner remain strong. However, the network’s devotion to the EPL certainly can be considered cause for concern for the domestic league. If FOX becomes the leader among US networks in delivering soccer, it will hurt MLS to be detached from that entity. However, NBC and ESPN are still powerful names in American sports broadcasting and the league has at least three years of a financially beneficial relationship with both organizations.
For now, it will be interesting to see what efforts FOX makes to promote its EPL coverage. The NFL pre-game studio will likely promote the match aggressively. The network will also use its in-game opportunities during NFL telecasts to pump the EPL. Will EPL advertisements pop up during prime time FOX broadcasts?