Soccer fans in the US have had it really good for a really long time. Thanks to NBC Sports, we have more Premier League games available to watch on a given match day (at least the “we” that is the body of cable subscribers) than do people in England - you know, the place where the league actually is. Even last year, with the introduction of NBC Sports Gold and the hiding of a few games a week behind a paywall, this held true, albeit Gold was a slightly ominous harbinger of the future of watching sports on TV.
Today, we got a much clearer picture of that future. And it’s not good.
Last year, Turner Sports won the right to broadcast Champions League and Europa League matches starting this season, and today they issued a press release that outlined what that coverage would look like.
Turner is partnering with Bleacher Report for their coverage, and the vast majority of said coverage, regardless of whether it’s branded as Turner Sports or the newly created B/R Live, is going to be behind a paywall. Here are the “highlights” of their Champions League coverage:
- Two Champions League group stage matches per matchday on TNT, the remainder of CL matches behind the B/R Live paywall
- All subsequent rounds of CL available on both TNT and B/R Live
More germane to 2018/19 Arsenal, the TNT and B/R Live coverage of the Europa League can be summed up in one easy-to-understand, infuriating sentence: Every game is behind a paywall until the final.
Yep, that’s right; the Europa League is no longer available over cable until the final. B/R Live has the rights to every group stage game and knockout round game, so that’s yet another pay service if you want to watch every single Arsenal match.
How much? Well, it’s not cheap. The one “nice” thing about this service is they have a pay-per-game option at $2.99/match, which I don’t believe other paywall services do. But, if you want to watch ‘em all, it’s $10/month or $80/year. That’s one of the more expensive pay services - NBC Gold is $50/year, and you also get way more stuff on NBCG than just Premier League games.
It’s unclear what else will be on B/R Live, but as of right now, it’s basically just Champions League and Europa League, although they are rumored to be in the running for Serie A rights in the US, and if this service takes off, they’ll probably bid on other cups and competitions as well.
But in the meantime, this is a huge step backward - an expensive service that locks every game of a competition in a vault? Not great, Bob.
UPDATE: There is still going to be a (relatively) free way to watch the Europa League, if you’re a cable subscriber. As with the World Cup, Univision owns the Spanish language broadcasts rights to the CL/EL for the coming season, so if you already have Univision, go grab the Univision Deportes app and you should be able to get Spanish-language broadcasts of CL/EL games.