The headline is a bit misleading as the Fox 6 programming options for Sunday did not include the “Brazil Butt Lift, the Supermodel’s Secret to a Perfect Butt”. The Butt Lift infomercial had been snapped up by a local Fox 6 competitor and was being shown simultaneously on WVTV Channel 18.
Fox 6 did choose, however, to carry taped programming including infomercials Sunday morning instead of a historic live broadcast of a Barclay’s Premier League soccer match. I sent Fox 6 a list of questions Sunday about the decision, but they have yet to respond to my inquiry. So I’m not sure if their programming folks don’t realize that Milwaukee historically has been one of America’s great soccer cities or more likely, they simply don’t care.
Fox 6 Vice-President and General Manager Chuck Steinmetz lives in Whitefish Bay and is active promoting Blue Dukes football and local Little League. He rose through the ranks as a sales executive and surely puts a premium on the direct money generated from the infomercials, but surely must also recognize the importance of not alienating swatches of his audience. I'm guessing this issue didn't reach his desk until the public outcry this weekend, which was too late to make any changes.
As a matter of background, please consider that Milwaukee obtained a national reputation as a great soccer market before most other American cities picked up on the sport. Generations of locals were early adopters of the sport and helped develop Wisconsin’s well-earned reputation. In fact, scholars say that students at Carroll College played the first recognized game of soccer in the United States near Milwaukee in Waukesha, Wisconsin on October 11, 1866.
Early 20th century immigrants from Germany, Poland and elsewhere in Europe created ethnic based soccer clubs in Milwaukee earlier than many other parts of the country. The Milwaukee Kickers Soccer Club launched in the 1960s and quickly became the largest soccer club in the world. The Bavarians SC, founded in 1929, earned respect and six national championships before other cities knew what a soccer ball looked like.
The area produced some of soccer’s greatest stars on and off the field in the United States in the latter part of the 20th century. These included US Soccer Federation President Gene Edwards, United States World Cup Head Coach Bob Gansler and World Cup player Jimmy Banks. The “soccer Johnny Appleseeds” in Wisconsin sowed the seeds for the incredible growth of the sport throughout the state and country. Their efforts led to success on both the amateur and professional levels. Professionally, the Milwaukee Rampage won the outdoor A-League national championship in 1997 and 2002. The Milwaukee Wave, founded in 1984, is the oldest continuously operated professional soccer team in the United States or Canada and has won five indoor league championships.
I mention all this evidence of Milwaukee as a great soccer community to contrast the reality of the ignorant and condescending manner the sport of soccer was treated Sunday by Fox 6. Its decision to pre-empt the historic broadcast of the Manchester United vs. Arsenal match Sunday morning in favor of infomercials and pre-taped outdoors shows served to insult Milwaukee’s large and passionate soccer community.
The broadcast was historic, not because it featured the matchup of two of the world’s highest profile clubs, but because it was (in most of the country anyway) the first Barclay’s Premier League soccer game to be broadcast live on US network television.
All of the network affiliates seemingly had to make room in their Sunday morning programming for the broadcast. Most did. In fact, 90 percent of the United States had access to the live broadcast on the Fox network. Thanks to local Fox 6 executives, however, Milwaukee was in the 10% kept in the dark for three hours until the match was shown on a delayed basis head to head against the AFC Championship game. Milwaukee was one of 23 of Fox’s 185 affiliates that chose to air something else instead of this historic broadcast. Most were small markets such as Billings, Montana, Minot, North Dakota and Macon, Georgia. Miami, Cleveland and Atlanta are the only markets of Milwaukee’s size or larger that refused to air the game live. None of those markets has the soccer tradition and reputation that Milwaukee does.
Fox 6 likely committed to the paid programming before the game was made available by their network. More than 160 of their network siblings were able to adjust their scheduling to accommodate the historic broadcast. I suspect executives at Fox 6 didn’t bother to try to work an adjustment out with their paid programming partners.
Instead of the match, Fox 6 aired paid programming from Discover Mediaworks - Discover Wisconsin and Into the Outdoors (both pre-packaged Wisconsin tourism promo vehicles) and infomercials for Eggies and ski resorts.
Fox 6’s decision to tape delay the game instead of moving the paid programming caused a storm in social media circles among angry fans who wanted to watch the game live. Twitter posts included a customized hashtag (#Fox6HatesSoccer) and the following G and PG rated comments (there was plenty of less family friendly Tweets that I omitted):
@kebzach Congrats @fox6sports RT @Deadspin: Corky Romano And The Other Things Your Fox Affiliate Is Showing Instead Of Soccer http://t.co/oLBDGC8W
@jairobonilla @fox6now - Why are you guys not showing Arsenal vs Man U? Don't you want viewers? Why delat the @FoxSoccer game tomorrow? #Fox6HatesSoccer.
@JoshWoolwine #Fox6HatesSoccer, Thank goodness I'm in Neenah
@matchpricks #FOX6HatesSoccer Why won't Milwaukee TV show Arsenal-United live? 1 of 6 in America to delay the game! Ridiculous. @arseblog @jackwilshere
@finetoothcombs @fox6local can't even be bothered to show Arsenal-Manchester United like the entire rest of the country. Pathetic #Fox6HatesSoccer
@championspub Bar of soccer fans and no live coverage of #epic match #fox6hatessoccer
@djz3rocool #fox6hatessoccer 11,000 pissed off phone calls and a bar full of pissed off hooligans, the PD from fox 6 needs resign http://t.co/Slozoguz
And from the Fox 6 FaceBook page:
Andrew Groetzinger What is wrong with your idiot programmers? A live broadcast of any sport, no matter what sport, should supersede any weekend morning news program. Nobody likes to watch something on tape delay unless they DVR it themselves.
Bill Prange Glad to see you decided to air paid programming instead of the soccer game this morning, even though the soccer game was supposed to be aired on national TV on FOX. Do you let the interns handle your programming on Sundays or something? What a joke. Amateurs.
Brent Atema I live half way across the country and just wanted to let you know that this station is a disgrace for not showing the match live. If you believe that any publicity is good publicity than you are doing well. But from the comments I've seen about your station from people all over the country, I'd say this is a major PR hit. I honestly had never heard about the Milwaukee FOX affiliate before - but I have heard a lot about it today. Nice work.
I did reach out to Fox 6 management on Sunday and through their contact page asked them to respond to criticism for this blog post. These are the questions I asked:
I am writing a blog post on Whitefish Bay Patch about the Fox 6 decision to preempt and delay the live broadcast of the Manchester United vs. Arsenal match today.
Please let me know if you can have a representative call or email me with responses to the following questions for publication by 6 pm Monday (tomorrow).
Q. Why was the game broadcast live in 90% of the country, but not in Milwaukee?
Q. Did Fox 6 consider or try to adjust the other programming by negotiating with the infomercial providers?
Q. How many complaints did you receive and is this considered a large number?
Q. Do you believe this paid programming is better for the community than the soccer match?
Q. Do you believe this situation will be repeated in the future/what steps are being taken to prevent it from happening again?
Q. Is there anything else you would like to say to viewers who are upset or disappointed about this programming decision?
Thank you very much.
I have yet to hear back from Fox 6 even though I included both my phone number and email address and their contact page seems to assure a rapid response:
“Do you have something you'd like to share with the FOX6 News or FOX6Now.com team? We want to hear about it, good or bad.
Simply fill out the form below. Be as complete as possible. We'll address your comment, question or concern as quickly as possible.”
If I get a response after this is posted, I will add it in the comment section below.
I try not to get too concerned with traditional media’s ignorance of soccer. After all, soccer is a young person’s game and traditional media skews older both in consumers and decision makers. Support and interest in soccer has been greater in each ensuing generation over the last 50 years. Several factors including globalization, the growth of Major League Soccer and the improvement of soccer talent at all levels ensure that the sport’s growth will continue into the next generations.
The mainstreaming of soccer in the United States is inevitable. Things will be different in the future when more decisions such as the one made by Fox 6 executives are made instead by people who grew up appreciating and respecting soccer. By that point, people like those executives will be in retirement homes watching Brazil Butt Lift infomercials on cable, while soccer games like Sunday’s will be broadcast live nationwide as they deserve to be - even in Milwaukee.