Thursday, June 2, 2011

FSC’s Soccer Night in America Has Just One Flaw

Zac Wassink of Yahoo Sports writes of what's wrong with the Fox Soccer Channel's Soccer Night in America.

There's an old Boy Meets World episode where Cory surprises Topanga while the latter is babysitting. The young boy being babysat eventually introduces himself to Cory, and explains that he would like to stay up until 9:30 to watch his favorite show. A confused Cory doesn't understand why "they," the television executives for that particular network, would move the show from it's original 8:30 time slot to 9:30. The very upset young boy responds "they're trying to kill it! They're trying to kill it!" This was, of course, an inside joke regarding ABC's treatment of the Boy Meets World series.

The joke also kinda/sorta works for FOX Soccer Channel's Soccer Night in America.

What FSC and/or MLS failed to remember when creating the Soccer Night In America schedule is that there is no sect of people lazier than American television viewers. We can't be bothered to get up and walk a few feet to turn our TVs on or change the channel or volume. We don't even need to bother reading TV listings in the paper, a TV Guide or the scrolling channel guide TV station. Those of us with digital cable or satellite boxes can simply press an arrow button on our remote to see what's going to be on different stations over the next 24-48 hours, and even read a short description for every show by pressing an "Info" button. Technology's great.

My simple point is that not every TV viewer that watches sports in this country is a diehard fan. The casual sports fan may not know which teams are playing, but he does know that if he puts his TV on ESPN at 8 pm during the summer, a baseball game will be on. He knows that some football game will be on FOX and/or CBS during a fall Sunday afternoon, NBC during that evening and ESPN the following night. How does he have such knowledge? Because he's been programmed to know this information through years of repetitious television viewing.

That's not going to happen with FOX Soccer Channel and Soccer Night in America, however, due to games being scheduled at all kinds of different times throughout the summer. The June 3 pre-game show begins at 10:30 pm. Seven days later, coverage starts off at 8 pm. Such time changes occur throughout the season, and broad commercials for the Soccer Night in America program (at least commercials broadcast in NY/NJ and PA) tell viewers to "check local listings."

No casual sports fan in this country that wasn't going to watch the show in the first place is "checking local listings" or putting in any such effort to watch soccer. Not a one.

FSC's Soccer Night in America isn't about getting me or similar MLS and soccer fans to watch. Chances are, we're going to somehow learn whenever any live soccer match is shown on FSC and FSPlus and, at the very least, check the score of the game at least once. Soccer Night in America is a real opportunity to establish a true TV soccer tradition in the United States. When such a tradition is established, viewers may not know which teams are playing on a particular night, but they'll know that if their TVs are on FSC at 8 pm on Saturday, a live soccer match, one that's probably featuring Major League Soccer clubs, will be on.

MLS fanboys hurt by any criticism of the league will tell you that such a set schedule for Soccer Night in America is impossible due to the west coast teams in the league. West coast teams are featured in Sunday Night/Monday Night Football broadcasts and Sunday Night Baseball showings throughout the season. Changes are made to team schedules to accommodate TV. Major League Soccer has already done this with Soccer Night in America. The Red Bulls vs. New England match originally scheduled for June 11 was moved to June 10 specifically for Soccer Night in America . No biggie.

The point of having a Soccer Night in America show is to have an actual "soccer night" in America, a night each week that, as time goes on, has more and more viewers watching and enjoying the sport. SNIA has, thus far, been a fine television program and I look forward to more of it throughout the season. Next year, though, pick a night and a time and stick with it.

And give the program a better theme. The old BCS theme just isn't doing it for me.

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