Commentary

Soccer and TV Rights: a Burgeoning Anachronism

Off The Post missed this weekend’s Italian Super Cup clash between Juventus and Lazio. You probably did, too, because, apparently, the game was only televised in the USA on RAI International, which is not part of OTP’s cable network package. If it is part of yours, you might have seen Juve beat the Romans 2-0 thanks to two quick-fire second half goals from newcomers Mario Mandzukic and Paulo Dybala.

It’s too bad, really, because given Juve’s usual dominance of the Italian Serie A, cup games are just about all OTP watches in Italy. He’s also not the only one that’s slightly irked by this.

Napoli President Aurelio De Laurentiis, whose team was in this competition versus Juventus last year, also had a hard time finding the game on TV. He and the squad were in Portugal where Napoli had just drawn against Portuguese champ FC Porto. Apparently the TV rights weren’t sold in that country, so the irate ADL, as he’s affectionately referred to, went on a rant, as he does:

“I was forced to hack into a RAI feed, that’s absurd, what I did was illegal, it shouldn’t happen because this is a very feasible thing, it’s very simple, because the Lega does not protect its product,” the Italian film producer said. He went on to complain about the fact that Serie A President Maurizio Beretta, whom he called on to resign, moved the game to Shanghai as part of an overseas marketing move yet much of the world could not watch the game because the rights weren’t sold. He later added, “I’ve always wondered -- why do Lega officials have to take some of the money from the Supercoppa?”

ADL often says lots of suggestive things -- like Beretta and friends taking a chunk of Super Cup revenue --  but we’re not going to dwell on any scandals here today. That said, OTP certainly shared his pain about not being able to watch the game on live TV. Of course, anyone could be a few Google searches away from figuring out how to hack into RAI’s stream, too, but when the Premier League opener between Manchester United and Tottenham is being shown at the same time, what’s the point? 

So the Serie A season curtain-raiser lost a customer. Big deal, right?

Well, no, it’s definitely not a big deal, but it is an example of the maddening world of sports broadcasting rights.

Earlier on Monday, the Premier League, which enjoyed a wonderfully surprising opening weekend, announced that NBC had re-upped its existing contract with the EPL for the broadcasting rights in the U.S. for six years, keeping England’s popular first division in the NBC family until the 2021/22 season.

On the one hand, kudos to NBC. The network’s move shows its faith in the growth of soccer in the U.S., even if the product isn’t an American soccer product. Its coverage is also generally very good, the production is excellent, the analysis, etc, all very good -- no problems with any of that.

But, on the other hand, OTP, like so many devoted soccer fans, was kind of hoping he could give up his ridiculously over-priced cable subscription before 2021-22. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. 

Why, because NBC is a subsidiary of Comcast, and Comcast is a cable provider that wants you to subscribe to the thousands of channels it offers for hundreds of dollars a month in a gigantic bundle that you couldn’t possibly surf through in one sitting before going absolutely mad.

Indeed, no offense to Rebecca Lowe & co., NBCSN or even NBC, but your parent company represents just about the most anti-consumer thing going in media today. Most cable subscribers OTP has ever talked to agree that these services are bulky, costly, accompanied by all kinds of irritating rules and totally unnecessary when most of the world’s people like to watch maybe five or so channels, tops. 

So, today’s NBC EPL rights win comes with a hefty does of disappointment, because OTP will likely be forced to carry on pouring over hundreds of dollars a month into an enormous product suite he does not want, need or have time for.  

At least Fox Sports, one of the big American sports networks that carries some soccer programming, provides an alternative through its Fox Soccer 2 Go service. For the uninitiated, this service allows subscribers to stream Fox’s soccer programming to their devices for $20 per month. If NBC really wants to serve the soccer community for the next six years, it will come out with a similar product. The big question, of course, is whether parent Comcast would let it.  

3 comments about "Soccer and TV Rights: a Burgeoning Anachronism".
  1. aaron dutch, August 11, 2015 at 9:08 a.m.

    Our football in the US is a mess, the federation, broadcasting, development, leagues, pyramid , media, approach. This makes it so difficult to drive our building a top tier football culture. We have 15+ million hard core fans and another 30 million following fans/ or would follow fans if it was easier. that is a larger fan base then Germany or England.

  2. Eric Cornell, August 12, 2015 at 7:22 a.m.

    FOX Soccer 2 Go is a nice option, but still far from perfect. They're carrying every match in the German league, I believe, but only 60 of the matches in the Scottish league (and mainly those that feature Celtic, I've noticed). If only the leagues offered their own streaming packages.

  3. Andrea Hana, August 12, 2015 at 12:42 p.m.

    Watch ESPN, Fox Soccer 2 Go and others that are available to subscribe to with either a Roku device or Apple TV have blackouts on key games. So it's not worth it, if you want to watch some playoff games or rivalry games. You have to have cable for those. It's a scam. I wish that they would just quit all of this nonsense and, FINALLY, dump these cable companies, allow people to subscribe to what they ACTUALLY WANT to watch and simply let US decide.

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