After gradually increasing their soccer programming, ESPN has added a whole new set of programming. Starting August 11, ESPN FC will possess a half an hour on ESPN 2 every night of the week.
ESPN already covers MLS, US and Mexico men’s national teams, college soccer, Liga MX, Liga Portuguesa, and Eredivisie across their ESPN and WatchESPN channels. They did have Barclays Premier League coverage until NBC Sports bought the TV rights for $250 million.
ESPN already has a show called ESPN FC Press Pass that airs at 2:00 AM EDT on ESPNews in the United States, but the show is only taylored to European audiences. The proposed “ESPN FC on TV” will marry all the coverage of ESPN American soccer broadcasts into a half-an-hour show.
ESPN will show highlights from all of their coverage on the new “ESPN FC on TV,” and will also include highlights from other leagues. What will be interesting to watch is how it will differ from Fox Soccer Tonight, which airs from 11:00 to midnight on weeknights.
Where is this coming from? Is it just mere coincidence that Fox Sports 1 debuts just six days later? Is it mere coincidence that ESPN is adding soccer programming after losing the premier league to NBC Sports?
Maybe it is just a response to the gradually growing soccer market in the United States. After all, the MLS attendance has grown 4.0 percent, 7.2 percent, and 5.2 percent in each of the last three years. Television revenue has not yet followed; the MLS only amassed $27 million in television revenue last year, and this year ESPN is averaging 200,000 viewers while NBC Sports Network is averaging 100,000 viewers.
Still, soccer is growing, and ESPN could be tapping the untapped. Just look at the World Football Challenges that the MLS is scheduling every summer to supply the growing soccer demand. Even Miami Dolphin’s owner Stephen Ross is getting into the action, creating a soccer tournament, the International Champions Cup, in his Sun Life Stadium.
“ESPN FC on TV” could be as watched as “Jim Rome is Burning” or “NASCAR Now,” or it could turn into a longtime time-slot partner with “Baseball Tonight.” Regardless, it will be an interesting experiment, and could also help the MLS squeeze a little hire on the crowded US professional sports scene.
(Photos Courtesy of espnfc.com)