May 24, 2012
SHAKING THINGS UP
Success of soccer TV brings in new competitor
By Charles Cuttone
The American soccer television landscape will have a new player later this year with the planned launch of beIN Sports USA, a new network that will be available in both English and Spanish and is backed by Qatar-based Al-Jazeera.
The new network says it has already secured the rights to Spain's La Liga, Italy's Serie A and France's Ligue 1, as well as the Copa America and South American qualifying matches for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Fox Soccer Channel and Fox Soccer Plus previously had the rights to Serie A and Ligue 1, while GolTV held the rights to La Liga.
GolTV, which has never been on the most solid footing, would appear to be in the most danger of a threat from another network. In addition to losing a key property, it reportedly also has lost lead announcer Phil Schoen to beIN Sports.
GolTV still has U.S. rights to the Bundesliga, while Fox has the Champions League through 2014 and the Premier League through 2013.
Even with its deep financial backing, the biggest obstacle for beIN Sports would seem to be an ability to get carried by cable operators, who already have a flood of sports channels to choose from.
Both Fox and ESPN have big hits on their hands with their international soccer programming; FOX's telecast of the Champions League final averaged a 1.1/3 household rating/share with an average audience of 2 million, according to figures released Thursday by Nielsen Media Research, making it the second most-watched ever. The three Champions League Finals broadcast on FOX have averaged 2,049,000 viewers, a 676% audience increase over the last decade (the 2002 Final on ESPN2 delivered 264,000 viewers).
The 2012 Champions League Final was +10% in rating (1.1 vs. 1.0) and +25% in audience (2 million vs. 1.6 million) compared to the 2010 game, which also featured Bayern Munich (vs. Inter-Milan). Last year’s match, buoyed by the presence of Barcelona and Manchester United, posted a 1.4/4, with 2.6 million viewers, and is the most-watched Champions League Final ever in the US.
Likewise, ESPN enjoyed its most-viewed Barclays Premier League season in 2011-12, highlighted by three telecasts that rank among the top-five most-watched matches on its U.S. networks. The title-clinching match on May 13, the thrilling 3-2 victory by Manchester City over Queens Park Rangers, was seen on ESPN2 by 600,000 viewers, making it the third most-watched Premier League match on ESPN networks. An additional 189,000 Hispanic viewers watched the match on ESPN Deportes.
In all, an average audience of 321,000 viewers watched each Premiership match on the networks in 2011-12, a seven percent increase compared to 301,000 viewers in 2010-11. Telecasts averaged 269,000 household impressions in 2011-12, an increase of nine percent versus 246,000 impressions in 2010-11.
On ESPN Deportes, an average of 58,000 Hispanic viewers watched Premier League matches in the 2011-12 season, reflecting a four percent increase compared to 56,000 Hispanic viewers in 2010-11. Among Hispanic viewers, telecasts averaged 46,500 household impressions in 2011-12, a six percent gain (44,000 impressions in 2010-11).
ESPN’s live presentation of the thrilling Manchester derby – Manchester City’s 1-0 win over rival Manchester United on April 30 – was the most viewed match of the season with 1.033 million viewers, also a Premier League U.S. cable television record.