Media Musings: Thoughts on Color

Listening to Taylor Twellman’s color commentary during the Philly/Columbus game, we got to thinking about some of the color commentators now populating national broadcast media in American soccer. Twellman is a recent addition to the group and has shown some flashes in his first few outings in the booth.  Having a recent player is often an advantage because he can add insights not available to most commentators.  Twellman is still a bit reluctant to criticize players and has the unfortunate habit of referring to players by their first names, but he has been solid in the booth and if his career on the field is over, he could be a mainstay for ESPN going forward.

Another former player who has been a large part of ESPN’s coverage over the last couple of years has been Kyle Martino. Martino serves as the color commentator for the Phildelphia Union and on the World Wide Leader.  Martino has steadily improved over the years and is now a solid stabilizing voice with whomever he has been paired.  Martino has been out of the league for more than two years, but still has knowledge of the players and coaches on the field.

Christopher Sullivan has been a mainstay in the FSC booth for MLS and other games.  The former US International has been out of the professional game for more than a generation.  Sullivan is a solid pro who has been paired with numerous partners over the years.  Although he tends to rely on a series of standard analytical points, his game analysis is clear and informative.

FSC has also recently employed former US International Paul Caligiuri to provide color commentary.  Caligiuri is new to the booth and his commentary shows that inexperience.  He struggles to find openings to speak and much of his analysis is fairly basic and uninformative.

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Business Snapshot

After an exciting and remarkably popular (in the US) month of World Cup soccer, we thought it worthwhile to take a quick look at the business of American soccer moving forward from July 12, 2010.  The World Cup was a business success in the States, with ESPN’s significant investment of resources validated by the ratings earned both over the air and online.  Sponsors who invested in ad time were rewarded with viewership often 50% greater than pre tournament expectations.

In MLS, action has restarted after the World Cup break with strong attendance around the league.  An array of international friendlies will draw big crowds to MLS parks across the country as will the All-Star game at Reliant Stadium against Manchester United.  We also saw the opening the opening of PPL Park in Philadelphia.  Starting with the expected reveal of Thierry Henry of July 14, this coming week will see the formal introduction of Designated Players in DC, Seattle and elsewhere.  MLS fans will also be interested to see what what surprise players make the trip to MLS. At the same time, it will be interesting to watch MLS ratings and whether ESPN can continue its devotion to televised soccer.

American soccer fans will also be casting a business eye to Europe to follow the transfer market for American players based in Europe.  Following the World Cup, a number of American athletes will likely be on the move, parlaying their South African adventure into big contracts and impressive transfers.

WPS is settling into its second season with a new stadium in Atlanta, a successful All Star game and additional jersey sponsors entering the league.  WPS is now part of the American sports landscape and looking to grow.

The Monday After & Some World Cup Ratings

The big soccer story of the weekend took place in South Africa, but with MLS back in action there were a number of story lines in domestic soccer that deserve mention.  Sunday afternoon saw the opening of the PPL park in Chester, PA and the park looked great on television.  ESPN did a nice job with the telecast using Glenn Davis and rising star Kyle Martino in the booth.  The announced sell out crowd (looked a little short on the screen) was in full voice and the field and views looked great.  It also appeared that the ESPN broadcast included some new national sponsors (including Wendy’s) which would be a good sign for the league.  ESPN’s limited plugging of the match during their World Cup broadcasts seemed a little short.  Attendance around MLS was fairly solid with good crowds seemingly everywhere except Houston.

The early US/Ghana ratings are in and the numbers were great for ABC.  The preliminary ratings suggest that just under 15 million people watched the match on ABC. These numbers represent an increase over the England/USA match and are the high water mark for the tournament.   From a ratings standpoint, this is likely the highest number until the final for the World Cup.  These numbers do not include viewers for Univision which could bring the total number up over 20 million.  Statistically, San Diego has continued to be the top market for the USA matches.

Soccer Business Bits: Soccer on TV & September Preview

tv soccerIt is time to turn the page on the calendar and the “summer of soccer” in the United States.  WPS is done for the year, MLS is entering the playoff stretch drive and the USMNT is facing a double shot of immense matches in World Cup Qualifying.  These are some big games, but actually finding them on television may pose a bit of a problem.

While ESPN (and not Mun2) will televise both upcoming qualifiers, they will do so on ESPN Classic, one of the weak sisters of the ESPN family.  Both ESPN and ESPN2 reach almost 100 million households, while Classic reaches closer to 60 million.  Moreover, Classic is frequently on a pay tier and thus not readily available to many potential viewers. This is a tough blow to soccer fans still irritated by Telemundo’s ownership of the Mexico/USA match.

Keeping to the TV theme, it will be a slow month for ESPN and MLS.  The Worldwide Leader is presently scheduled to televise one match in MLS in the month of September (San Jose/Colorado on the 18th).  FSC will continue its regular schedule of weekly games, while Telefutura will skip the first weekend in September and will televise only three games.

ESPN will continue to offer its slate of EPL and La Liga matches and FSC will continue to offer EPL and Serie A games.  Gol TV will also maintain its array of European and South American matches.  FSC will also show a variety of World Cup Qualifiers from around the globe.  It was also heartening to see ESPN promote its MLS broadcasts during its EPL telecasts.

US/Mexico 2

tv soccerYesterday we posted the following:  There are a couple of interesting TV notes surrounding US soccer this week.  The most significant is the announcement that the English rights to the USA/Mexico World Cup qualifier belong to……Telemundo.  According to Mr. Goff, Telemundo will show the game in Spanish on its main channel and in English on “mun2″ a station available in only 30 million households.  Telemundo is owned by NBC.  According to Goff, ESPN attmpted to purchase the game from Telemundo, but the rights were not for sale.  Given the strange start time (4:00 p.m. ET) for the midweek game, the match will likely not be a ratings dynamo.  Yet, the lack of availability in English will dramatically impact the ability of the work crowd to catch the game at a bar and of the college/school crowd to watch the game at home.  This is the biggest World Cup qualifier in years, and Telemundo’s power play will likely deny millions of American sports fans the opportunity to watch the game.  In the last 24 hours, the issue has generated a substantial amount of publicity.

Here is another post from Match Fit USA on the issue.

There is an online petition circulating in order to convince Telemundo and its parent NBC to move the game to a more traditional english langugage network.  Go here to participate.  The American run in the Confederations Cup generated a substantial amount of interest in American soccer and there is no bigger US soccer event than then a World Cup Qualifier against Mexico.  Given that confluence of factors, it is a shame that the game will not be on traditional US TV.  While the benefit of online petitions is dubious, we recommend that you participate.

Soccer Business Bits: Soccer on TV

us-soccerThere are a couple of interesting TV notes surrounding US soccer this week.  The most significant is the announcement that the English rights to the USA/Mexico World Cup qualifier belong to……Telemundo.  According to Mr. Goff, Telemundo will show the game in Spanish on its main channel and in English on “mun2” a station available in only 30 million households.  Telemundo is owned by NBC.  According to Goff, ESPN attmpted to purchase the game from Telemundo, but the rights were not for sale.  Given the strange start time (4:00 p.m. ET) for the midweek game, the match will likely not be a ratings dynamo.  Yet, the lack of availability in English will dramatically impact the ability of the work crowd to catch the game at a bar and of the college/school crowd to watch the game at home.  This is the biggest World Cup qualifier in years, and Telemundo’s power play will likely deny millions of American sports fans the opportunity to watch the game.

In other TV news, FSC landed the big match (for viewership purposes) of the MLS season to date.  Beckham’s Thursday night match in NY and return to MLS should be a ratings draw in prime time for the soccer network.  FSC has done a good job of promoting the game during the Gold Cup broadcasts.  At the same time, ESPN2 definitely drew the short straw for the week (yet a better game), with a 1:00 ET Saturday Toronto/Houston match.  The Toronto game is probably the better match-up, but the Galaxy contest is the sexier game.  Saturday times were not historically successful for ESPN, and a 10:00 a.m. Pacific start time (even in Toronto) will probably continue that trend.

Finally, the semi-finals of SuperLiga are upon us, with a two match doubleheader at Gillette on Wednesday night.  The game promises to be lightly attended (although the Revs are including this in their season ticket package).   All SuperLiga games are televised on Telefutura, yet the semi-finals have also been picked up by English language TV in New England on Comcast SportsNet.  The game will be shown in Mass, Conn. and Rhode Island using the Revs usually play-by-play man Brad Feldman.  superliga