Saturday, August 15, 2009

15 August 2009: Surprise

Switched on the TV this morning and almost splurted my fresh cup of PG all over the floor.

ESPN2 showing Premier League footy. Seriously. Chelsea v Hull, live on ESPN2, complete with poor-quality British commentators mixing metaphors in classic Motson style. Why was this?

First thing I thought of was the UK rights story, where Setanta went under and ESPN (despite not having a UK presence) bought Setanta's small slice of the Premier League pie and decided to make a minor commitment to the UK market. But that's the UK - as you may or may not know, Setanta is actually still going over here in the US and doing quite well (for instance, they offer Championship football on subscription-basis over the internet as well as on satellite/cable), and anyway Setanta US didn't have any EPL ('English Premier League': that's what it seems to be universally known as outside of the UK) rights here anyway.

But, unquestionably, ESPN2 were clearly showing the game live, even down to the highly-unlikely event of six minutes of injury time, during which Chelsea scored their oh-so-predictable winner. So what was going on?

Well, according to this news story (dateline yesterday), ESPN's US operation negotiated a deal with Fox Sports International (who actually hold the EPL rights here in the US) to show up to 48 live games this season, essentially including the early Saturday game (or a regular 3pm UK time game if there's no early game) and the 12 Monday Night games (Monday afternoon over here). No hint as to why they did this other than ESPN's self-proclaimed "continued efforts to serve soccer fans in the United States."

A few years ago I would have been cynical about that, but given the amount of coverage they give the Champions League, combined with World Cup qualifiers and the native MLS coverage, ESPN is now giving a genuinely half-decent service without the need to fork out additional premium subscriptions for the Fox Soccer Channel. Maybe, just maybe, the world's most popular sport is actually making some serious ground here in the US. The fact that no other major sports take place on Saturday mornings certainly helps with scheduling.

Of course, nobody showed the real important matches today, including Argyle's Chelsea-esque injury time goal to grab a point off a reportedly superior QPR side, or Saints getting walloped by Huddersfield.

Huddersfield? Sheesh.

Footnote: as a few of you may have noticed, I've been playing around with a 'Feedjit' widget thing that I saw on Doug's blog that tells you where (geographically) visitors to your blog come from. Interesting stuff, although I seem to come from any of kokomo, Carmel and Indianapolis - but it also shows how they reached the site. Fascinatingly, I learned that if you Google for 'Dietmar Van Nostrilboy', my relevant blog entry comes up top. So a big hello to all you Nostrilboy fans out there...


Rob said...

Not so sure about this Feedjit lark... went to Doug's blog to test it out.. and apparantly i'm from Salford...

Which for any US readers out there is where I have my 2nd castle and where i entertained The Queen for tea last week.

Spike said...

Totally forgot to tell you on the phone the other day-- get hold of The Duckworth Lewis Method's album. Probably the best cricket themed concept album I've ever heard.