Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Fox's coverage of the Women's World Cup may be top notch, but the streaming leaves something to desire

Fox's coverage of the Women's World Cup has been on par with what ESPN has provided in the past, and there's a big reason for it. Most people may not realize this, but ESPN never provided the video feed for the World Cup matches. Fox is also not providing the video feed for the world cup matches. In both cases FIFA's international video feed has always been used, and it continues to be so with the Women's World Cup.

So what's the difference between Fox's and ESPN's coverage? Obviously it's the studio personnel during pre-match and Halftime coverage, right? While that is true, that is only half the factor. The other factor would be the streaming coverage. Let me explain.

By now everyone probably knows that Fox is streaming the FIFA Women's World Cup on Fox Sports Go and Fox Soccer Plus. While these platforms provide a means of streaming, there are still major setbacks with them.

First off let's start with Fox Soccer Plus. I criticized Fox last year for this, and I'll continue to do so right now. Fox Soccer Plus only archives the International broadcast feed. While I'm sure the soccer purists love this, there are some major withdrawals for the casual American fan. First off there is no score bug. The World Cup international feed has never included a score bug. The only reason you see it on the Fox broadcast is because they add it on there. A casual fan wanting to watch the game is sometimes turned off when there is no score bug available. Another complaint is that not everyone cares to hear the British commentators. Sometimes it's a huge shock if you've only seen the American broadcast to hear the British commentators on the call since there is usually no analyst involved.

There is an easy solution for this. Fox needs to follow the example of MLB.TV and MLS Live's video streaming services. They merely need to make it where you can choose which broadcast to watch and add their own production on the feed as an alternate. You can't tell me this can't easily be done. MLB.TV streams the games live and has them available within 30 minutes. They deal with a lot more feeds (home tv, road tv, home radio, road radio, and SAP options are all available). MLS Live also does the multiple video and audio options, though they take 48-72 hours before it becomes available.

Another streaming resource that gets it up fairly fast is ESPN3. They usually have most of their games up within half an hour after the broadcast because they focus solely on their broadcast, not the international feed. And in a way that shouts Fox can do this, they make the DVR of Big Ten Network games available within 15 minutes of the completion of the broadcast. Fox Soccer Plus does the same thing, sometimes going as long as 3 or 4 hours before it's up, but it is available at a very fast speed. If you need to wait a day or two to make this alternate feed available, then do so, but get your own broadcast archived, not just the international broadcast. 

That brings me to my criticism of Fox Sports Go. Why is there not an archive section yet? You can't tell me you don't have the capabilities. Last time I checked Fox owns a major portion of Big Ten Network. Big Ten Network has an app that lets you watch the DVR form of a game within 15 minutes of its conclusion. Why have you not moved this over to Fox Sports Go? You can't tell me that Big East Digital Network wouldn't love having fans be able to watch their games archived. You can't tell me that there aren't people, like myself, who may not be able to watch a match live who wouldn't love being able to do so 3 or 4 hours later. Yes, some groups (like Longhorn Network and Pac-12 Network) resolve this problem thanks to their contracts with specific schools. However a large portion of the audience doesn't have the capability of watching a Fox Sports match archived unless they have placed it on their DVR solely because Fox doesn't provide that as an option.

My next complaint about Fox Sports Go- why does every region not have access to their own Fox Network broadcasts? I pulled up Fox Sports Go to try and watch the Fox broadcast of the Germany/ Ivory Coast match yesterday. While I did have access to Fox's alternate coverage via Fox Sports Go, I didn't have access to the Fox broadcast of the game. Fox advertises that this selection should be available in every region as long as your carrier has Fox Sports Go, so why isn't it? Do you have to have access to specific Fox affiliates in order to watch them live on Fox Sports Go? If so, then you're lying to the people Fox. You need to get this resolved ASAP.

My final complaint with Fox Sports Go is why hasn't Fox Sports followed the example of ESPN and made it available on every university campus? Many people may tend to forget, but one of the first steps ESPN did with ESPN3 was make it where all college campuses had access to t for free. Students off campus could also get access for free if they visited their main campus and got the correct info to log into the service. Yet here Fox is, with coverage of the Big East, Big 12, Conference USA, Pac-12, and sometimes smaller schools like North Dakota, Northern Arizona, and the Southland Conference. Are these games made available to their campuses to view at no cost? No, you have to have a subscribing partner.

Yes, my complaint is mostly about the streaming services. If these small things get worked out, Fox could find many more fans that have no complaints. However I did mention the commentary early on, and there is one big complaint I have for it. Why is there commentary going all the way up until the anthems?

Fox needs to cut away to the stadium before the teams are walking out, not show video of them walking out while your analysts express their final thoughts. During the first match (Canada/China PR) Kate Abdo had to cut off Ariane Hingst's comments so they didn't run into the anthems. During the second match (New Zealand/Netherlands) the comments were stopped while the teams were marching onto the field, and then an awkward silence filled the airways for nearly 45 seconds before any of them realized they had more time to comment, nearly a full minutes worth, two minutes if you include that previous silence.

There's a simple solution to this. Instead of having comments go on until the anthems, have the comments end when the teams are shown in the tunnel waiting. It'll be much easier for the commentary teams at the stadium to share thoughts and allow fans to feel the reverence that comes with each team marching out than it is for the studio analysts whom are having to watch it on a screen and are uncertain how much time they have.

Overall Fox has a decent start, and I won't stop watching because of these small things. However there is room for improvement.

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