By Ridge Mahoney & Mike Woitalla
Following its aggressive programming of Premier League and Champions League matches on its major outlets, Fox Sports is airing the English FA Cup Final Saturday on its regular channel, FOX.
The 150th renewal of the world’s oldest sporting club competition (first played in 1872) matches rich and powerful Manchester City against minnow and relegation candidate Wigan at Wembley Stadium. The broadcast begins at noon Eastern time, with play-by-play announcer Gus Johnson and analyst Ian Wright on-site. This will be the first FA Cup Final to be shown live on U.S. network television.
Manchester City won its fifth FA Cup two years ago; Wigan is playing in its first final. Manchester City has won both Premier League meetings this season, taking a 1-0 victory at home and beating Wigan, 2-0, away.
Regardless of the result or whether it is relegated, Wigan’s appearance in the final guarantees it a place in the 2013-14 Europa League competition. The FA Cup winner earns an automatic berth, and since Manchester City has already qualified for the Champions League and a team cannot play in both competitions in the same season, the spot goes to Wigan.
The game will have an added subplot swirling around Wigan coach Roberto Martinez, whose excellent TV work highlighted ESPN's coverage of the 2010 World Cup. Martinez is being mentioned as a possible successor for David Moyes, who is leaving Everton to take over for retiring Manchester United coach Alex Ferguson.
Fox Soccer’s coverage will include pre-game and post-game segments from its Los Angeles studios. Host Rob Stone and analysts Warren Barton, Brian McBride, and Eric Wynalda offer their insights, with McBride set to host a Twitter chat on his account (@BMcBride20).
FIFA RE-UPS WITH EA SPORTS. FIFA is extending its licensing agreement with video game developer EA Sports through December 2022. With more than 100 million units sold, its FIFA series is EA Sports' best seller. It also produces Madden NFL and NBA Live.
MLS DIGITAL GROWING. MLS's subscription game-streaming service, MLS LIVE, has increased subscribers by 50 percent year over year. With a $59.99 subscription, fans have access to more than 230 out-of-market games across multiple digital platforms. This weekend, MLS LIVE is offering a free trial. MLS Digital's free mobile applications (iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows 8) have seen a 30 percent increase in downloads in 2013.
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