The Monday After: Champions League Final on Fox

UPDATE:  SBD is reporting that the ratings for the game were not good, only a 1.1.  That is slightly better than last year on ESPN. 

It was an outstanding attendance weekend in the world of MLS with typically outstanding numbers in Seattle and Toronto, big numbers in Houston and a solid showing in Los Angeles.  Only a smallish number in New York on Thursday dampened an otherwise outstanding showing at the gate.

However, the big story in American soccer over the weekend was a match played in Madrid on Saturday.  For followers of the business of American soccer, Bayern-Inter was not notable for the result, rather, it was Fox’s decision to televise the game to a national broadcast audience across the country.  Fox felt so strongly about the ratings potential for the game that the network elected to show the match in lieu of its typical Saturday afternoon baseball.  The Yankees/Mets game was bumped back a couple of hours and the Final was shown in its entirety.  Some sources indicated that Fox was hoping to reach 2 million households with the game.  The final last year was seen by just over 1 million households on ESPN.  The game had been scheduled to be broadcast on FX, but the network (which owns the American rights to three years of UEFA broadcasts), moved the game to to its main network.

The broadcast was sponsored by GEICO, Nike and Heineken and included a pre-game show hosted by Fox NFL Sunday’s Curt Menefee.  He was joined by Bruce Arena and Eric Wynalda.  Fox used Martin Tyler to broadcast the game and the coverage was generally high quality and the pictures came courtesy of the international shared feed.  Fox preceded the match with a pregame show on FSC.

It was obviously quite significant that a major American network elected to devote a Saturday afternoon soccer game from Europe to stateside audiences.  The final ratings will determine whether Fox made the correct decision, but with the World Cup just weeks away, soccer will be front and center in the American sports conscience.