The EPL, the UFC and musical chairs on cable

NBC’s purchase of Premier League rights will affect your viewing habits even if you care about nothing but MMA and don’t even know what a “Premier League” is.

Fox has never hesitated to spend money on sports. The network vaulted into respectability when it landed NFL rights nearly 20 years ago. They let the NHL slip away after a few years, but they have aggressively bought rights to everything else in sight.

In 2011, Fox made two more big moves. The deal with the UFC took them in a new direction. The rights to men’s and women’s World Cups from 2015 to 2022 were a perfect fit for the soccer-happy company in the same corporate umbrella as Britain’s Sky Sports.

And Fox started revving up its cable affiliates. Fuel, formerly an obscure action-sports network, got a steady stream of UFC programming. Fox Soccer, formerly the esoteric Fox Sports World, built itself up as the channel of choice for international soccer, adding the World Cup rights to its audacious swipe of the Champions League a couple of years ago. The question mark was Speed, the motorsports channel that had lost Formula One rights to NBC but still had plenty of NASCAR programming.

Now Fox has another question mark. Fox Soccer’s programming is essentially Premier League, more Premier League, and Champions League. Without the Premier League, can Fox justify keeping an all-soccer network along with its all-motorsports network and an MMA/action sports network?

If I were running Fox, I’d combine Speed and Fuel into a motorsports/action sports channel, then rebrand Fox Soccer as Fox Sports, which would still be the source for Champions League and other soccer but would also be the home for any UFC action aside from the occasional show on Fox (the full-fledged Fox, the one with The Simpsons and so forth).

That would solve a recurring complaint about UFC fans — network confusion. One week, it’s a UFC pay-per-view with prelims on FX. Then it’s UFC on FX, with prelims on Fuel. Then UFC on Fuel. (And Spike thinks MMA fans still think everything is airing on Spike, and they won’t notice when it becomes Bellator instead of UFC reruns next year.)

But with Fox’s history of aggressive bidding, perhaps they keep Fuel and Speed as is, then buy more properties for Fox Soccer or Fox Sports or whatever they want to call it. Maybe they’ll actually show some of the rugby they currently hold over for Fox Soccer Plus.

Meanwhile, NBC has become a soccer and international sports fan’s dream — Olympics, Premier League, MLS, cycling, Formula One, etc. They also have the sporadically available Universal Sports.

Oh — and the World Series of Fighting, debuting right now.

Exciting times for the sports we love at Sports Myriad, even if we’re wearing out the “Guide” function on our remotes just trying to keep up with it all.

Paralympics: How about we treat participants as athletes and show the sports?

You can’t really say the U.S. media had no impact on the Paralympics. Jay-Z is part of the media, and he added a Paralympic/Olympic-specific verse to Coldplay’s Paradise at the Closing Ceremony.

The Closing Ceremony drew a peak audience of 7.7 million, by the way. That’s in Britain, of course — not here in the USA, where we could only watch via streams.

And the lack of Paralympic coverage is something NBC might need to explain when the next Olympic broadcast rights are up for negotiation. (HT: ThinkProgress)

To be fair to NBC, it’s not as if the rest of the U.S. media rushed to fill the void in Paralympics coverage.

Perhaps one reason the Paralympics don’t get much play in the USA is that we forget to think of Paralympians as athletes. A BBC roundup of leading countries, their medals, and their media led to this conclusion:

Most news coverage has focused not on results or the medal chase, but on human interest stories or curiosities, with headlines such as “Shark attack survivor wins bronze.”

Contrast that with another quote in that roundup: Paralympian Josh George via The New York Times:

Even more amazing than the fact that Londoners have opened their arms and hearts to the Paralympics is the fact that they are interested in us for our athletic ability, not the fact that we don’t spend every day in our rooms crying about the fact that we can’t walk, or are missing a limb or two.

South Park has probably said it best on several occasions: People with disabilities often just want to live as everyone else does. And maybe we should focus on wheelchair rugby as a fun sport to watch instead of trumping up the “human interest” angle. We’re all “human.” Paralympians happen to be great athletes as well.

Then again, don’t we often hear the same criticism about NBC’s Olympic coverage?