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Resources Mar 29, 2013

Death knell rings for Fox Soccer Channel

By Charles Boehm

It’s been a known fact for weeks, and on Thursday it was officially confirmed: Fox Soccer Channel, for years the flagship cable television network for soccer in North America, is being shut down and replaced by a new entertainment channel called FXX, a spin-off from FX.

“FXX, which will replace and expand upon the current Fox Soccer Channel, will launch Sept. 2, targeting the “millennial” audience of adults ages 18 to 34,” writes USA Today’s Gary Levin.

“It’s expected to reach 74 million homes, and will be the new home of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, returning for a 10th season; The League, back for a sixth; Legit, to return for a second; and late-night series Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell, which will expand to a five-nights-a-week talk show from its current weekly format.

“A fourth comedy will be added later, and FXX also will air reruns of How I Met Your Mother, Parks and Recreation, Freaks and Geeks, Arrested Development and Sports Night.”

This news was more or less expected in some form following FSC’s loss of English Premier League and Major League Soccer broadcasting rights to NBC.

But its demographic and political implications have prompted attention in many diverse quarters of the media, including Washington, D.C. insider publication Politico, where Dylan Byers notes that “Fox Soccer was homebase for a growing audience of U.S. soccer fans that, according to demographic trends, will make up a very large chunk of the U.S. population in the not-too-distant future.”

Combined with newcomer beIN SPORT’s cash-fueled leap into the U.S. TV market with the acquisition of North American rights to Italian Serie A and Spain’s La Liga, FSC’s live, original offerings had dwindled down to UEFA Champions League — a massive holding, but not enough to sustain a 24/7 cable network.

So FSC is nominally being replaced by a comedy-centric entertainment vehicle. But in reality, its programming will live on through the debut of Fox Sports One, a new channel which will air Champions League games as well as a range of other programming as part of Fox’s attempt to challenge ESPN’s supremacy in the cable sports market.

Contrary to how it might appear, this news may actually be a sign of the U.S. soccer audience’s growth and maturity as the sport moves into the TV sports mainstream, notes capitalnewyork.com’s Howard Megdal.

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