Chicago--When Fox Soccer kicks off its coverage of the Barclays Premier League and UEFA Champions League seasons in August, the programmer will serve up a new appellation, logo and look to futbol fans.
The network, which now counts some 40 million U.S. subscribers, will punt the word "channel" from its name, while presenting a fresh feel and high-tech on-air graphics, according to David Nathanson, executive vice president and general manager of Fox Soccer and sister premium service Fox Soccer Plus. The designs are scheduled for on-air kickoff Aug. 13.
In the meantime, Nathanson, along with former Hall of Famer and former U.S. national team member Cobi Jones, will unveil the rebranding at the Fox booth at the Cable Show this week. At the convention, Nathanson and other officials will also pitch a new bundled offering tied to the premium service.
In a migration closer to its Fox Sports Media Group family, Fox Soccer's new look across all platforms will feature a bold, brash typeface, underlining its irreverent heritage.
Since coming board in January 2010, Nathanson has overseen the debut of Fox Soccer Plus, from premium predecessor Setanta Sports U.S., and the transition of Fox Soccer Channel to the HD format.
Nathanson, who noted that the network is still developing a new tagline that will be focus group-tested, calls the rebranding "the next stage of our evolution. Our fans and viewers already refer to us as Fox Soccer. It's a modernized, uniform look across the properties, Fox Soccer, Fox Soccer Plus, FoxSoccer.com and our broadband service Foxsoccer.TV. The re-branding symbolizes our continued commitment to push the limits and evolve with the game in this country."
The new branding will also encompass VIZ RT effects and super slow-motion replays.
"Our audience comes to Fox Soccer for one thing: to interact with the game they love. They are smart, they want new technologies, they want the best coverage," he said.
An upgraded location for the service's shoulder programming is also on tap, as Fox Soccer will begin producing shows from Studios A and B at the Fox Network Center in Los Angeles, with marked increases in size and design from previous sets.
"We're going to a new studio, moving from a luxury condo at [current home] 1440 Sepulveda [Blvd.] to a mansion of sorts at Studios A & B, where the NFL on Fox and other properties are produced," he said.
Nathanson believes the rebranding and relocation come as the network is building momentum, especially with the programmer's sweet spot of males 18 to 49 and guys 18 to 34. "We're attracting younger viewers for a number of reasons," he said, pointing to the residual effects of youth soccer's status as the No. 1 participation sport in the U.S.
Moreover, Fox Soccer is drafting off the surging popularity of the World Cup, the UEFA Champions League and video games.
"Among consumers 18 to 34, EA Sports' FIFA 11 is the No. 2 video game behind Madden, and it's not even a World Cup year," Nathanson said. "Young adults are finding their favorite players, teams and announcers in playing the game and then following them on Fox Soccer in the BPL, Serie A and the Champions League."
Fox Soccer holds rights to domestic circuit Major League Soccer through the end of its 2011 campaign; Serie A until the conclusion of the 2012 season; the BPL through the year after that; and with a UEFA renewal, the Champions League through 2015.
"We have a mix of top-level, exciting product. The network is healthy and we have a core audience that is building through marquee events," Nathanson said.
This summer, the lineup not only includes MLS action, but coverage of the Gold Cup, CONCACAF's biennial tournament, the winner of which plays in the Confederations Cup prior to World Cup 2014. In addition, Fox Soccer has a slate of international friendlies and qualifiers for the Euro 2012 tourney.
Nathanson and the affiliate team also hope to get busy with the bundle tied to Fox Soccer Plus, which as a premium service proffers the BPL, Serie A, Champions League and England's FA Cup on the soccer pitch, as well as top-flight rugby action from the Heineken Cup, Aviva Premiership, Magners League and more, for $14.95 per month at retail.
"A lot of the action takes place during the middle of the week, when fans are at work. This bundle will give cable distributors a chance to showcase their ‘TV Every platforms,' " said Nathanson of the network's game plan here.
Among major providers, Fox Soccer Plus already counts affiliate deals with Time Warner Cable, Cox, Cablevision, DirecTV, Dish Network, Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-verse. Nathanson is confident the bundle will increase consumer uptake. Officials at Fox Soccer Plus, which currently does not include Charter Communications or Comcast on its affiliate roster, would not disclose its subscriber base.