Thursday, June 08, 2006

US Soccer and the Future of Television

US Soccer is one of a host of organizations that have turned to generating their own content (beyond traditional PR) to connect and engage with their fans/customers, and the Fed deserves huge kudos for producing a terrific web TV show from Germany. “Studio 90” has done a fantastic job bringing fans content about the Yanks that the mainstream broadcast, internet, and print outlets simply cannot. Mind you, Studio 90 serves up the party line, so won’t see DaMarcus Beasley’s claim that he’s “irritated” that he doesn’t know where he’ll be playing on the 12th. As long as the ship sails smoothly, however, the added access surely outweighs the lack of "real journalism" on the show. Neil Buethe is growing into his role as host and interviewer as the days roll on, and while the “ad spots” for the team’s online store are as amateur as they come, Studio 90 puts fans right in the middle of the team’s World Cup experience. A blog by the production team, while a little less focused on the players, is a nice addition as well.

If you’re reading this, of course, you know how comparatively little press (World Cup-time excluded) that the US team, and soccer in general, gets in this country. With increased penetration of broadband access here, major media companies are getting into the internet television game. Disney’s ESPN360 (which will show World Cup matches LIVE) and ABC, Viacom’s MTV, Comedy Central, and CBS, and Time-Warner’s CNN are a few, and combined with online-only sites YouTube and Fox's MySpace, IPTV (internet television) has finally become a reality.

Soccer enthusiasts need no longer be reliant on their televisions for their soccer fixes. The internet finally offers fans high-quality live and archived video as well as inside access to the world’s most (and least) popular teams. During this World Cup, Asian and European fans can download game highlights through their cell phones. By 2010, that technology should be stateside as well.

Aside from Studio 90, another piece of US Soccer content which I wholeheartedly recommend is the “Journey to Germany” DVD, available at The disc does a great job portraying the ups (and very few downs) of the Yanks’ 2005 final World Cup qualifying round. Watching Dr. Bob and Sunil Gulati hanging in the back of the locker room after the US’ clincher vs. Mexico in Columbus, sharing a hug as Bruce congratulates his players, and then running away to avoid a champagne bath was priceless. Added “extra time” features include a special recap of the US-England match, a recap of every goal scored by the US during qualifying.

With the World Cup finally upon on, it’s a great time to be a soccer fan! Enjoy the games, everyone!

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