Fox To Go Live With Premier League Coverage, Studio Show

NFL fans will be treated to a bit of Breakfast with Barclays on Sunday. Fox Sports will kick off its NFC Championship Sunday with the first live regular-season Barclays Premier League soccer match ever to appear on U.S. broadcast television. Although Fox has aired three tape-delayed matches on its single-header NFL Sundays this season, the Arsenal-Manchester United match will be the first delivered live.

CNN’s Piers Morgan will join the studio talent for Fox’s live coverage of a Premiere League match from London.

Fox will take the world feed from Emirates Stadium in London, which is being produced by BSkyB, for the game itself. However, Fox will produce its own pregame, halftime, and postgame shows out of Studio A at its Los Angeles broadcast center. Studio A is usually the home of the Fox NFL Sunday studio show, which is being produced on-site in San Francisco for the Giants-49ers NFC Championship Game.

“For the network [studio show], we have to approach our coverage in a very different way than we would on [cable channel] Fox Soccer,” says Don Bui, studio show and features producer, Fox Sports. “People who watch Fox Soccer are die-hard soccer fans who know the league, players, and coaches. But, in this case, the [broadcast] network is introducing the sport to new fans. The philosophy of the show will be to take that into account, while not disrespecting those hard-core fans.

A-Level Talent To Match Studio A
The half-hour pregame show, which will begin at 10:30 a.m. ET, will mark the debut of former ESPN soccer announcer Rob Stone as the lead studio host for all of Fox Sports Media Group’s soccer coverage. Joining him will be former U.S. Soccer star Eric Wynalda and CNN talk-show host — and Arsenal supporter — Piers Morgan. In addition, Sky Sports reporter Geoff Shreeves will provide on-site check-ins from Emirates Stadium.

“Our guys will focus in on the players and personalities of these teams,” says Bui. “We won’t focus on the X’s and O’s as much as [the Fox Soccer studio show] would. We will try to fill in those people who do not follow the league on a week-to-week basis.”

ENG Paves the Way
In an effort to further differentiate the coverage from Fox Soccer’s typical studio show, Fox Sports sent ENG crews to England to capture Rob Stone’s interviews with Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson and several Man-U and Arsenal players.

“Sending over ENG crews is something that Fox Soccer has not done regularly,” says Bui. “We felt that was necessary for this type of [studio show].”

In addition, Fox’s NFL production teams will provide preproduced previews of the NFC Championship that will be featured during the halftime and postgame segments of the soccer production.

Ratings Gold on the Horizon
Not surprisingly, the live game is expected to be Fox’s top-rated Premier League broadcast of the season, beating out the tape-delayed telecast of Liverpool-Chelsea on Nov. 20, which delivered a 1.1 household rating and 1.67 million total viewers.

On May 28, Fox hit its international soccer high point when the Barcelona-Manchester United UEFA Champions League Final drew 2.6 million viewers. That record could be challenged on Feb. 5, when Fox airs the “Game Before the Game.” The annual Super Bowl Sunday live Premier League offering will move to the mothership after setting viewership records on Fox Soccer in years past. This year’s incarnation will feature one of the league’s most intense rivalries, with Chelsea hosting Manchester United live from its Stamford Bridge stadium.

“In terms of [the studio show], it is going to be pretty consistent to our tape-delayed coverage of the [Premier League] on Fox during the NFL regular season,” says Bui. “But we will also do everything possible to take advantage of the live element this Sunday and for the Game Before the Game.”

Fox’s soccer coverage on Jan. 22 begins on Fox Soccer with Manchester City-Tottenham at 8:25 a.m. ET. The broadcast network takes over at 10:30 a.m. with pregame coverage of Arsenal-Manchester United. Highlights from both matches will be featured on Goals on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. on Fox Soccer. Fox NFL Sunday begins at 6 p.m., with kickoff of the NFC Championship slated for 6:30 p.m.