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Fran
10-11-2008, 03:26 PM
Fox Soccer Channel to show women’s league

By TRIPP MICKLE
Staff writer
Published October 06, 2008 : Page 35

Women’s Professional Soccer, the new women’s league set to debut in April 2009, has finalized a three-year partnership with Fox Soccer Channel that will see a minimum of 20 regular-season games aired on the network.

The partnership, which is expected to be announced today, will give WPS national coverage in 34 million homes through Fox Soccer’s exclusive WPS Game of the Week on Sunday evenings. It also will see its postseason aired on Fox Sports Net.

WPS spoke with other media companies, including NBC, ESPN and Versus, regarding its programming before working out a deal with Fox Soccer.

Terms of the deal were not available. Representatives for Fox Soccer and the WPS declined to comment on the structure of the agreement except to say that no rights fee is being paid and that Fox Soccer will handle advertising sales for the programming.

The deal represents a significant change in the value of women’s professional soccer on TV. In 2002, three years after the U.S. women’s national team’s historic World Cup win, Pax TV agreed to pay a reported $2 million for rights to two seasons of the Women’s United Soccer Association, a league that ended operations in 2003.

Both WPS and Fox Soccer believe the deal can help them expand their demographic reach. For the WPS, it gives the league a chance to reach all soccer fans through a network with a predominately male, 18-to-49-year-old demographic that’s already interested in soccer. For Fox Soccer, it offers the chance to attract a female audience it might not reach otherwise.

“We’re a women’s sport, but we don’t believe we appeal to just women,” said WPS Commissioner Tonya Antonucci. “There are soccer dads and the male soccer audience who may get exposure to the women’s game at the highest level and see what it’s all about.”

David Sternberg, Fox Soccer executive vice president and general manager, said, “From a programming standpoint, this really deepens our offering to soccer fans of all stripes. We’ve had some women’s college soccer on our network and women’s national team games, but this takes it to a whole different level and opens up a new source of viewers for us.”

The WPS and Fox Soccer settled on Sunday night broadcasts because the window wouldn’t conflict with other soccer programming during the day on Saturday or Sunday.

Antonucci said that the night also is one when families are more likely to be home and able to watch games. She added that she doesn’t believe playing Sunday night games will hurt attendance.

“It was quite conscious for us on our part,” Antonucci said. “We feel like it’s a great time slot for us.”