With an eye toward boosting its sponsor roster, Fox Soccer Channel is poised to put itself in the back of the Nielsen net.
The network, which now counts more than 33 million cable and satellite subscribers, will become Nielsen-rated on Oct. 1.
Converted from Fox Sports World in 2005, the network has become soccer-centric over that period with an array of futbol fare including NCAA action and the U.S.’s Major League Soccer; England’s Barclays Premier League; Italy’s Serie A; the Argentine First Division; tournaments like the UEFA Cup, English FA Cup, FIFA Club World Cup, CONCACAF Champions League and FA Community, plus a host of World Cup qualifiers featuring such nations as England, Spain, The Netherlands, Russia, the Czech Republic, Saudi Arabia and Japan.
Now, it wants to use Nielsen measurement data to verify what its internal research has shown over the past two years: That it has strong delivery of affluent viewers ($75,000-plus households) many of whom are men between the ages of 18 to 34 and 18 to 49 (65% to 70% of the audience).
“We found that there isn’t necessarily a lot of crossover with other sports,” said executive vice president and general manager David Sternberg. “The viewers have pretty high incomes. They have passports and have done some traveling. They may have spent some overseas, which fueled their passion for soccer.”
FSC vice president of ad sales Mike Petruzzi said that being rated will serve the network with a marketplace assist.
“Some clients would not consider us, saying, ‘You’re not rated yet and you’re not in 50 million homes,’” he said. “Well, we’re surmounting one of those obstacles.”
As for the other, FSC, which has deals with all major cable, satellite and telco distributors, increased its count from 26 million subscribers at this time a year ago. Sternberg said the base will continue to expand as digital cable grows and as the network strives to advance from tier positioning to digital basic.
Although it doesn’t run commercials during the flow of the game, FSC offers clients crawl positioning on the bottom of the screen, logo-score clock association, as well as commercials during pre- and post-game, as well as halftime. It also has avails in news and highlight programming and proffers integrated sponsorship positions like it did for Bass, for which FSC built a pub setting for its Sunday Sunday + show.
General-market advertisers also include Captain Morgan, Jose Cuervo, Guinness, Red Stripe, Corona, Volkswagen, Wyndham Hotels, Geico and Verizon Wireless, plus endemic sponsors like World Soccer Shop and bootmaker Puma. New sponsors on the lineup: Levi’s, Acura and Dick’s Sporting Goods.
The FSC officials would not disclose their market estimates. They did offer some clues, though, noting that there has been growth with Serie A and MLS, but that 80% of its top shows have come from the BPL, particularly with fixtures involving the circuit’s top four clubs, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal
Pressed for a number, Sternberg said FSC would likely deliver “comparable ratings for elsewhere in the general market with soccer. In some cases, we’ll be better, in some cases we won’t.”
Season to date, MLS matches on Wednesdays and Thursdays have averaged a 0.2 household rating and 290,000 viewers on ESPN2, according to Nielsen data.
Flanking its move to becoming Nielsen-rated, FSC will step up its marketing efforts. Sternberg said the channel would have a strong presence in New York and Los Angeles, its top two markets. Elsewhere, there will be buys on DirecTV and Dish Network, a cross-channel cable push, and schedules on young male-targeted Web sites. These efforts will feature tune-in spots for specific matches for the first time.
Elsewhere, the network is selling a broadband package of about 500 live and on-demand matches from Serie A, BPL, UEFA and the World Cup qualifiers, at foxsoccer.tv. Pricing is $4.99 (on-demand) or $7.99 (live) per match, $29.95 for a 10-match package or $149.99 for a season package covering a year’s worth of FCS streaming action.