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Manchester United Match Gives Fox Soccer Channel a Win, Sets Sights on New Fox Soccer Plus

News Corp’s Fox Soccer Channel drew its biggest audience ever in a match-up between English Premiere League powerhouses Manchester United and Arsenal last Sunday. Their coverage of Manchester United’s 3-1 triumph over the London-squad Arsenal on Jan. 31 at 11pm averaged 370,000 viewers, says Nielsen overnight data.

The Man U-Arsenal numbers move past the 369,000 viewers who watched the U.S.-Mexico CONCACAF Gold Cup Final during the summer of 2009.

The match between the Red Devils and Gunners tied for second among network airings relative to households since Fox Soccer Channel became a Nielsen-rated channel back in October of 2008, with an average of 0.7. FSC also came in third with men 18-to-49 (0.9) and with men 25-to-54 (0.8).

After Arsenal’s loss to Man United, they will square-off against No.1 ranked EPL club Chelsea on Feb. 7 at 11 am, which is expected to be another boon for the soccer channel along with their kick-off of a new premium channel.

Though there has been no official announcement from either side, it appears that Setanta Sports will be ceasing their U.S. and Caribbean operations under a deal with FSC. There have been rumors of a deal between the Euro-centric sports channels.

Both channels have been reportedly running crawler ads touting Fox Soccer Plus, which is scheduled to launch March 1, as a high-definition, premium channel. It seems Setanta has transferred some soccer and rugby rights to FSC who is attempting to increase market share for broadcasting high-value EPL matches in the U.S.

Late last year, Fox Soccer Channel said it would reclaim top soccer rights with the broadcast of Barclays English Premier League and UEFA Champions League properties. FSC stated that it had been sub-licensing to Setanta and that they would become part of the new Fox Soccer Plus.

Some sources have indicated that Setanta, which through the end of February will present its existing lineup, including games from the BPL, FA Cup, UEFA Champions League, Heineken Cup, Magners League and Guinness Premiership, has upward of 120,000 subscribers in the U.S. All existing Setanta customers have been notified by a simple postcard that the network will go dark near the end of February.

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