It was a good Sunday morning if you were a soccer fan. Not so much if you wanted to watch auto racing programming.
Yes, the Southern 500 at Darlington took place on Saturday night, and perhaps it worked out that way for FOX Cable Networks, which runs channels such as FX and SPEED. Had there been a Sprint Cup race scheduled for this Sunday, the likes of a live soccer game bumping “NASCAR RaceDay” would probably be slim to none. But the fact that there was no action on the NASCAR circuit this Mother’s Day perhaps made it easier and more convenient for FOX to use SPEED as an overflow network for Barclays Premier League Soccer – especially on a day when there were ten games being played simultaneously. “Survival Sunday,” it was being dubbed.
FOX Soccer Channel was broadcasting the Fulham/Tottenham soccer match. Over on FOX Soccer Channel Plus, you could watch Bolton take on Stoke City. Meanwhile, FX was carrying the Manchester/Sunderland matchup, while FUEL TV was carrying the Liverpool/Swansea City tilt. In addition, The Arsenal/West Bromwich scrum was airing on regional FSN networks, as well as MSG and NESN.
Also, Queens Park/Manchester City was on ESPN2. This is because of their deal with FOX which entitles them to one select match per week. That leaves FOX with nine soccer matches to air amongst their networks, with the rest being confined to Internet streaming.
The Blackburn/Chelsea game had to air somewhere – and so FOX insisted that it would be cleared on SPEED.
“If you thought rednecks reacted badly to soccer being on ESPN,” wrote Deadspin’s Timothy Burke on Twitter, “wait until they turn on SPEED this morning.”
Such was the premonition of others on Twitter that shared that sentiment.
And it wouldn’t take long – say, around 10 AM Eastern time – for the aforementioned “rednecks” to start chiming in on the odd programming they were watching on SPEED.
“Soccer is not racing,” complained Kevin Chambers. “I’m pissed. I’m boycotting the channel for one week.”
“Soccer? Really?,” Rick Wolslagel tweeted directly to SPEED. “You gotta be kidding me. Bad idea!”
Terrance Wilson tweeted angrily, “Soccer on SPEED channel? Somebody is brain dead!”
“It’s Mother’s Day, not April Fool’s Day,” wrote The Truth Slinger. “Give me anything with a petrol powered engine over this.”
What appeared to tick off some SPEED viewers was that they cut from a live F1 racing event to go to the Blackburn/Chelsea Premier League soccer match. “Soccer instead of F1 interviews?,” wondered Nate. “A travesty after such a great race.” While Curley said this of SPEED’s move: “How ESPN of them.”
True, it may be hard for regular SPEED viewers that may not have any knowledge of the businesses of sports and television to understand why a soccer match is on their precious racing network. So much so that it leads them to jump to conclusions about what other bizarre programming might pop up on other cable networks.
The fact of the matter is, this isn’t the first time, nor the last time, such unorthodox programming decisions will be made on niche cable channels. Just this year, we’ve witnessed the business-oriented CNBC carrying Stanley Cup Playoff games, as part of a new deal that guarantees nationwide coverage of each and every NHL playoff game.
I mentioned that one of the many FOX cablers showing Premier League soccer on Sunday morning was FUEL TV – not exactly a hotbed for soccer. But you may recall that FOX has plans of blowing up FUEL TV in favor of a new national general sports network to compete with ESPN. Predictably, there was some outcry from FUEL viewers witnessing soccer on the network, but said outcry was so weak, I literally included links to all of them in this sentence. That proves what small viewership FUEL has, so even though FOX hasn’t officially committed to reconstructing FUEL for their new sports channel, which is said to be known as “FOX Sports 1,” it appears that FUEL’s days are all but numbered.
The good news for race fans is that, while NASCAR’s next two races will be under the lights, it doesn’t appear that there will be another case in which FOX will park an overflow soccer game on SPEED for the foreseeable future. Also, not only will SPEED replay the live F1 event from Sunday morning on Monday at 12 Noon ET, but it will include the post-race program in its entirety.
For years, there have been programming conflicts in television that have resulted in viewers of niche channels discovering programming that they are not accustomed to. “Survival Sunday” is just an example of that.
And if you thought the backlash from the SPEED viewers was bad, wait until coverage of the 2012 London Olympics is underway on “the NBC family of networks” – which may once again include CNBC, and, yes, even MSNBC.
Swimming on MSNBC during an election year? We can’t have that, now, can we?