My Turn

Football (English) is Coming

8/11/2009 5:25 PM

English Premier League football (soccer), so tempting a product ESPN snapped up U.K. game rights and has reformated a channel there to show them on, returns Saturday, amid the buzz of FIFA 2010 World Cup and UEFA Champions League qualifying matches.

UEFA Champions League, you know, the tournament that will even be seen on FX next May, hence the promotional ads you might have seen for English Premier League matches during Rescue Me episodes. The ad is for sister channel Fox Soccer Channel, which plans two live matches on Saturday and another on tape delay.  FSC’s upcoming EPL slate is listed here.Setanta Sports USA — not to be confused with the financially ailing Setanta channel in the U.K. that had to revert the EPL rights  bought by ESPN — promoted its EPL slate today. The premium channel has one live match Saturday and three in “same-day coverage.”

(Update on Wednesday: as commenter Ivan points out, it’s been reported, by the EPLtalk blog, ESPN is close to a deal to sublicense, from Setanta SportsUSA, EPL games that air at 7:45 a.m. Saturdays and 3 p.m. ET Mondays. That’s not confirmed yet. Setanta would keep other EPL matches.)

Setanta is sharing UEFA Champions League matches (a tournament featuring Europe’s top clubs) with Fox Soccer Channel, Fox Sports en Espanol and (for the title match next May 22) FX. Fox and Setanta outbid ESPN for the rights. Fox’s schedule of Champions League matches is listed here.

Before any of that (tomorrow, coverage starting at 3:55 p.m. ET) comes a World Cup qualifying match of high domestic interest: Mexico vs. USA in Mexico City, a match that Eric Wynalda, new co-host of FSC’s Fox Football Fone-in show, confidently predicted last night the USA will lose unless it rains. To cut through the pollution, you see. He’s a former player who’s been there, done that, so I defer.

The Mexico-USA match will air on … NBC-owned mun2, a secondary channel to the Telemundo network. mun2 is arranging free previews on cable and satellite platforms to get it to as many fans as possible.

With so much inventory, spread across so many platforms — and not even getting into tasty football treats like the German Bundesliga on Gol TV — the beautiful game is poised for a great summer on U.S. TV. You might even see young men walking around bouncing a pelota on their heads all day long.

Play on.

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