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Russell Berrisford

Russell Berrisford

Russell’s support of Derby County eventually led him to leave the country. He has lived in Canada since 2007 and currently writes about soccer for The Vancouver Sun.


Why North American TV Coverage Is Like The Europa League

Written by on August 17, 2011 | 7 Comments »
Posted in General, MLS

Any television viewers in America waiting for their first glimpse of their national team under new coach Jurgen Klinsmann must have been somewhat surprised to find that ESPN were giving priority to a regional semi-final of Little League baseball instead of the game against Mexico..

Similarly viewers in Canada have been perplexed to find that they have, on occasion,  missed the beginning of a Whitecaps game due to a Toronto Blue Jays game going into extra innings, and any Toronto FC fan hoping to watch the entirety of their upcoming Champions League game will have to avoid any news of the result as it is only being shown on tape delay due “ongoing baseball commitments”.

It sometimes seems that soccer coverage in North America is the media equivalent of the Europa League. Everybody strives desperately to achieve it, trumpets their delight when they get it, and then spend all their time ensuring that the least resources go into it when the event finally rolls around.

Maybe now that the MLS has announced a deal with NBC then things will change but currently the game is being a done a huge disservice by the people entrusted with broadcasting its product.

There are those who will argue that MLS teams should just be grateful that their games are broadcast at all given the low ratings numbers that they achieve, but this begets a “chicken and egg” argument about whether the casual soccer fan who is used to the high quality coverage that European Leagues enjoy is able to stomach poorly timed cutaway shots and missed kick-offs that are the current staple of much of the coverage for any length of time.

In other words; if the shop window looks a mess then few people will want the wares inside no matter how good they are.

In the opening weekend of the EPL words such as “Sunderland” “De Gea” and “Suarez” were trending on Twitter in both the USA and Canada. The interest in soccer is there (that debate is surely over now)  and some of us will watch whatever the networks put out as long as they manage to train the camera on the ball for the majority of the time, but the game deserves and needs, better from its domestic broadcasters.

The time may be fast approaching when they need soccer more than soccer needs them, so now would be a good time to lay down a solid foundation of goodwill amongst the viewers by treating the game with far more respect and professionalism than the vast majority are currently demonstrating.

7 responses to “Why North American TV Coverage Is Like The Europa League”

  1. An update: Since the time of writing it has been announced that the TFC Champions League game will be live on Setanta (but the initial decision not to show it only emphasised how little some TV companies understand what soccer fans actually want).

  2. You can add that the second half of the spanish supercup is on spanish television on the basic cable

    The problem with soccer is its lack of commercialization. Timeouts in basketball, inning switches in baseball, possession switches in the gridiron offer an easy space for advertisements. Soccer has always been a direct sport, with advertising dominated by the field and the players for most of its time, disregarding the halftime.

    The states corporate interest especially in advertising , are not fans of soccers form

  3. Clay says:

    The North American addiction to advertising in televised sports is a joke in some countries. Why play when we can watch some nerdy guys demonstrate the value of beer in attracting super models? Less inane and more informed chatter would be good and I soooo wish we would lose those stupid half-time player or mid-game coach interviews. As a fan, I welcome player/coach comments but I want them after the game. At half-time, I want the guy in the bloody dressing room listening to the coach/manager about tactics – not answering ridiculous questions (Q: What do you have to do to win? A: Play better in the second half. Q: How do you think you are playing? A: We need to close them down and/or make more of our chances? Q: Can you secure/obtain a win? A: Yes, provided we do what I said in the previous question; etc.). All answered with a “Can I go now?” look on their face. While MLS continues to turn to overseas leagues for players, perhaps it might be well served to have their broadcasters do likewise. Malcolm Parry commentating the Caps/TFC game? Now that would be refreshing…and I bet he wouldn’t be looking to interview Jay De Merit at half-time (although at least his questions might be better).

  4. Russell Berrisford says:

    CLH- “The problem with soccer is its lack of commercialization” isn’t a phrase that many in Europe would agree with but you are right that it is a different type of commercialization which North American broadcasters (and MLS) will surely one day latch on to.

    Clay- yes those half-time interviews are without a doubt the least enlightening aspect of the whole broadcast.

  5. Berrisford- Clay hit it on the head. Advertisers are the ones who put that in their to give themselves more time to place advertisements. Soccer at its worst doesnt allow ads except at the half and before and after the game and fans can turn the channel before and after so halftime is key but fans can go somewhere then. you cant leave the t.v. on a quick timeout in basketball, or one of those coaches decisions flag things in the gridiron which is definitely designed for advertisement sake, Baseball’s is built for commercials.

  6. Adriano Scanga says:

    I used to be a consumer/fan of NFL, NHL & MLB till I got fed up w/ commercial breaks cutting into the onfield action. I gave EPL, Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A, CL, a chance and now find myself to be happily hooked. Seriously, what in sports is better than a 45 + minute half devoid of advertisement ?

  7. Brian says:

    “The problem with soccer is its lack of commercialization.”

    I don’t know… the Champions League, World Cup and Premier League have seemed to figured out the commercialization thing. But in this country at least, those events are produced professionally.

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