Fox Soccer Nets Viewer Gains

11/02/2009 2:00 AM Eastern

With its first year-over-year comparisons, Fox Soccer Channel has netted ratings and viewership gains across its key properties and news programming.

Fox Soccer, which became rated by Nielsen for the first time in October 2008, scored advances with its coverage of Barclays English Premier League, Italian circuit Serie A and domestic league Major League Soccer, as well as news fare and ancillary programming.

Gauged on a total-day basis, viewership rose 125% to 27,000 in October 2009 (Sept. 28-Oct. 25, 2009) from 12,000 in October 2008 (Sept. 29 through Oct. 26, 2008), according to Nielsen. Among men 18 to 49, impressions improved to 15,000 from 5,000.

“The delivery has exceeded our expectations, and has been greatly expanding over the past year,” said Fox Sports International executive vice president and general manager David Sternberg, who attributes the gains to the quality of matches, the increasing interest in soccer in the U.S. and the channel's grassroots marketing efforts.

He noted that most of the audience gains have emanated from people seeking out the service, as its distribution base has only expanded by some 400,000 to 34.7 million since October 2008.

Not surprisingly, the Barclays Premier League, the network's top property, is its strongest Nielsen producer. Fox Soccer saw its ratings double to a 0.2 in October 2009, averaging 142,000 viewers for live and first-run matches, according to Nielsen data. That represented 69% amelioration from 84,000 watchers for similar Premier League contests in October 2008.

The Oct. 25 Liverpool-Manchester United match was the fourth highest-rated, ad-supported cable program among men 18 to 49 (a 0.7 mark against the demo), and the third highest-rated, ad-supported cable program against men 25 to 54 (0.8) demo during the Sunday 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. (ET) time slot.

Sternberg is pleased that parent Fox Sports International has been able to retain rights for FSC and sister service Fox Sports en Espanol for the 2010-11 through 2012-13 seasons.

Sternberg wouldn't discuss the particulars of the Premier League rights extension pact, covering all 380 of the circuit's annual games. “We're looking at all distribution options for the package,” which also include broadband mobile rights, he said.

Asked about sublicensing negotiations, Sternberg anticipates having “something more to say about that before the end of the year.”

For their part, Serie A live and first-run matches were up 48% to a 49,000 viewer average in October, while Major League Soccer audiences surged 89%, averaging 51,000 viewers to 27,000 over the same period in 2008, according to Nielsen.

Relative to non-match fare, the 10 p.m. edition of Fox Soccer Report advanced 142% to 29,000 viewers, and 63% to 13,000 at 1 a.m. Sky Sports News at 7 p.m. jumped 350% to 36,000 from 8,000 and 600% to 21,000 in its noon time slot.

FSC ancillary fare, Super Sunday Plus was up 252% from 21,000 to 74,000 impressions in 2009, while Fox Football Fone-In scored a 108% gain from 12,000 to 25,000 average viewers.

Sternberg said having the ratings data available has helped FSC attract new advertisers like Quiznos and Tires Rack, and expand schedules with others like Volkswagen.

“We have seen increases with auto category and retail. They see Fox Soccer Channel offering an important audience, with a strong proportion [of men 18 to 49] within our subscriber base,” Sternberg said.

Sternberg added that the results have more than justified incurring the daily ratings expense with Nielsen.

Although it has not yet firmed up a specific date, January will mark the launch of a high-definition Fox Soccer Channel.

“We're talking to distributors about how quickly they can get up and running,” said Sternberg, noting that FSC could pick up some incremental distribution from the HD bow, en route to being in a projected 40 million homes in 2011.

At the outset, the network will feature a pair of BPL matches in the enhanced format — the late Saturday (12:30 p.m.) and Sunday windows (11 a.m.), and can draw from four live Serie A matches, all of which are presented in high-definition. Sternberg said the Saturday MLS Game of the Week also would be presented in HD when the 2010 season kicks off in March.


Fox Soccer Channel's most-watched matches:

Rank Date Program Viewers (2+)
SOURCE: Nielsen
DATES: Sept. 29, 2008, through Oct. 25, 2009 *CONCACAF Gold Cup Final, **FA Cup Semifinal, *** FA Community Shield. All other matches: Barclays Premier League
308/29/09Man U-Arsenal294,000
410/25/09Liverpool-Man U282,000
504/19/09Man U-Everton**261,000
709/12/09Tottenham-Man U246,000
908/09/09Man U-Chelsea***227,000


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