The final weekend is upon us. And with all the English Premier League fixtures kicking off at the same time, the age-old question arises: where the hell do I watch my match?
Stateside, where I live and watch, three channels will show live games. Villa, Newcastle, Sunderland, Chelsea, Hull and Manchester United fans need not worry. Your matches will be live on Fox Soccer Channel and the two Setantas. If you support West Ham, Middlesbrough, Arsenal, Stoke, Blackburn, West Brom, Man City, Bolton, Fulham or Everton, you’ll need to show a little patience. Your match is on delayed broadcast. Liverpool, Tottenham, Wigan and Portsmouth supporters: time to rent the van and organize that road trip. Setanta Sports Canada is the only one who has what you need. It’s on a delay as well, but you can use the extra time to stock up on fireworks and Cuban cigars.
These aren’t your only choices. Many will huddle around the old laptop and soak up a p2p stream. I can’t officially condone this. Not simply because it undermines the licensing agreements of the big broadcasters, but it looks like crap on my poor old Mac, and the constant wait while the buffering corrects itself is liable to make me toss my laptop out the window.
I myself am fortunate to be living in Boston, surrounded by a million Irish pubs who are willing to open their doors as early as 7am, sharing their satellite feeds along with eggs, toast, black pudding and pints of cold lager. There are plenty of places to watch around here, and plenty of people crowded in, eager to roar, cheer, cry and moan right there with me.
Like many Americans, I’ve got FSC at home. Setanta has been tougher. For years, it was only available as part of satellite packages. But you could always go to Setanta’s US Website and use their venue finder to find bars and clubs in your area to catch a match.
Things are getting even easier as cable companies have started carrying Setanta. You can now enjoy it in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Washington D.C., Northern Virginia and Arizona via regular cable. Between Fox and Setanta you’ll be able to enjoy more English top flight matches without a satellite package.
Even with the decent Stateside coverage, it is still a matter of which games get shown live. Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United supporters are generally in good stead as the appeal of the “big four” holds sway. The broadcasters see the market for the big clubs and give them precident. The licensing rights can dictate which channel will show which match, but odds are the big four will be shown on one of these channels and probably live. Hull City fans have not enjoyed such consistent viewing luck this season.
In the final weekend, though, these channels have caught on to the undeniable appeal of the relegation battle. Mid-season, Liverpool v. Tottenham wouldn’t likely get the bump from Villa v. Newcastle, but the broadcasters realize seeing who plays in the next UEFA Cup or who secures second place isn’t as exciting for most viewers as watching a struggling side try to keep its head off the chopping block.
With all the advances in technology, I don’t understand why we still have these limitations. We should be able to see whatever match we want, in good quality, via the web.
I hope leagues soon see that offering their own, high-quality broadcasts through the internet would be the best way to slake the thirsts of fans worldwide. Premier League TV. Supporters could pay for a year’s subscription and watch all the EPL they want through their computer without the inconsistencies and poor quality of p2p streaming. Hell, the EPL and other leagues could save all the money they spend on legal battles over streaming, and fight the phenomenon with a better internet product. The leagues would control the rights, and advertisers would buy spots directly from the EPL, et al.. If they want to maintain the deals with the traditional television entities, they can always put a system in place to black out parts of their own direct feeds in areas when that particular match is available through Fox, Setanta, Sky or whoever. I don’t see the need, though. We can get the goods right from the source.
With all the advancements in modern media, supporters shouldn’t have to scour the land for a broadcast of their match. The demand is there. The technology is there. The providers need to make it happen.