Over the weekend, the latest entrant in the Sports channel wars hit the airwaves with the launch of Fox Sports 1. The newest channel joins the crowded space including multiple ESPN outlets, NBC Sports, beIN Sport and others. These channels offer a wide array of sports programming 24 hours a day from around the globe. At the same time, sports specific networks like NFL and NHL attract devoted viewers. RSN’s from around the country offer focused coverage of local teams that further siphon sports viewers. Finally, college conferences are now forming their own networks to showcase the student sports beloved by so many.
The popularity of these networks is easy to understand. Sports are the last bastion of live appointment viewing, allowing advertisers to reach viewers in real time. Sports fans represent the most sought after demographic of young males with disposable incomes and impressionable minds. Yet the key driver of any sports network is content. With a limited amount of sports available, networks are paying outlandish rights fees to broadcast live action to fans with an ever increasing array of viewing options. Live content is king and with local sports glued to the RSNs, the expanding set of sports networks will be competing for a limited pie.
For soccer fans, this means that the beautiful game in all of its forms will be available more often, on more channels than any other sport. There are now soccer studio shows on all of the sports networks, showing highlights, providing commentary and analysis. Games from leagues around the world are available 24/7. Over a one week period, fans in the United States have had almost an endless supply of top level soccer available at all hours. It is a new world. What this means for MLS (will the rising tide lift all boats, will it get lost in a sea of soccer) remains to be seen. For now, soccer fans can be content with soccer overload.
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