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The Future Of Watching Sports On Broadband Is Here

laptop user The Future Of Watching Sports On Broadband Is Here

Now suspend your disbelief for a minute, and imagine the following scenario. What would you say if you had the following service available online?

  • A mix channel where you could watch up to nine games all once on your screen (or you could watch one at a time, or a few at a time — your choice),
  • High-quality streaming video compatible on a PC/Mac,
  • HD quality picture (where available),
  • Live game DVR functionality,
  • Live game picture-in-picture,
  • Player tracker,
  • Home and away feeds (where available),
  • Live game radio option (where available),
  • Archived and condensed games,
  • Best of all, all games would be available online (unless you live in the area near the home team — in which case, the live Internet streaming would be blacked out), and
  • Last but not least, a very reliable service that would be dependable and would actually work flawlessly.

It would be legal, high quality and the features would be like nothing you’ve seen before and not available anywhere else.

Now, honestly, how much would you be willing to pay for this per month? Think about that, and then keep that price in your head (and don’t change it).

After you have that price in your head that you’d be willing to pay, click the link to read the rest of the story to find out all of the details.

Now, what would you say if I told you that this incredible online service already exists? Except that it’s not available for Premier League followers, but it’s instead available for Major League Baseball fans.

MLB.TV Premium is available for an incredibly low price of $19.95 per year. And unlike the Premier League, baseball doesn’t have an average of ten games per week. Instead there are literally 100′s of games per week.

In addition to the annual subscription of just $19.95, you also need to get either a Boxee or Roku player to watch the live and archived games. The Roku player is $99 (which also allows you to watch movies and more, for an additional cost, if you’re interested).

To see the wealth of features available, take a minute and play this impressive video that showcases MLB.TV Premium. You can also watch these review videos on YouTube (here and you can see a great example of the mix/mosaic feature here).

Now, of course, this isn’t a baseball website. But the above example of MLB.TV Premium goes to show how much Premier League broadband coverage is in the stone age.

The biggest difference for me is that it’s the league that’s controlling the content. In the current Premier League model, the league licenses out the broadband rights on a region-by-region basis which is often confusing to the football supporter and the quality and service of the content is sometimes suspect.

With a model similar to Major League Baseball, the Premier League could maintain control, maximize profits and reduce piracy by giving football supporters worldwide a product that is far more superior and reliable than illegal streams. The Premier League could make more money using this model, which would in turn allow them to put more money into the bank accounts of Premier League clubs.

The argument that some Premier League clubs would make is that they could offer their own broadband channel and market that themselves. While this is true, it would be far wiser and more profitable for all 20 Premier League clubs to ratify an agreement to allow the Premier League to market its online content worldwide under one service.

Piracy remains a rampant problem worldwide for the Premier League. But if it was to create a package similar to MLB.TV Premium that offered all of the games online for $19.95 (after purchasing a $99 Roku player), who would pass up this unbelievable opportunity?

I’d be interested in reading your comments about what initial price you considered fair for the features I mentioned earlier in this article. Please click the comments link below to share.

This entry was posted in General, Leagues: EPL. Bookmark the permalink.

About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013.
View all posts by Christopher Harris →

25 Responses to The Future Of Watching Sports On Broadband Is Here

  1. You are right on with this one. I never understood why league across the world didn’t do this. Obviously you can sell streaming rights to ESPN360, but to have control of the content would be a step in the right direction for doing things legal.

  2. F1Mikal says:

    Unfortunately until the FA is rid of the old gray haired white men stuck in the mentality of the previous century, nothing will change.

    There is nothing wrong with copying an existing successful model, but this reaks of ‘common sense’ and that ‘old boys club’ cannot fathom such.

    Unless a very powerful and smart group of PremierLeague sponsors stand up and say that they want this.

    My 2p.

    mikal in nyc

  3. Alex says:

    MLB.tv is a great product and I wish all professional leagues gave us this option, but the full season cost is closer to $119.95, and not the $19.95 for the remaining two weeks of the season currently on sale.

  4. $19.95 a year to cure insomnia!

    I say science has never been better.

  5. Double J says:

    I agree 100% with the possibilities of the future; however, that 19.95 price, is the promotional offer for the remainder of the MLB season. (few weeks left) Normally, the price for MLB.TV is like 89-115.00 a year. But with the Epl playing far fewer games, it would make this a cheap and exciting offer.

  6. AtlantaPompey says:

    The correction on the price is essentially correct. It is more than $20 a season, but it is not prohibitively expensive for 6 months of baseball. There are usually no more than 100 games a week, though, not hundreds. (15 games per day, 7 days a week, 105 games, subtract travel days and you get to roughly 100 per week, doubleheaders are very rare except for rain makeups)

    I would gladly pay this price, especially if I could access this content anywhere I had internet connection, even my iPhone. I believe the games are available for replay as well, much like ESPN360? Correct me if I’m wrong.

    Unfortuantely, F1Mikal is correct: this is too close to common sense for the league to consider it right now. Maybe in the not too distant future?

  7. great analogy. Having clear access to the games on a computer would not seriously hurt Espn or FSC, the current American rights holders. People will still subscribe to cable for the full television experience. Full credit to baseball for providing a great service to its fans and for making an attempt to grow the sport.

  8. Gaz says:

    Damn, you had me thinking Christmas was here early.

    In reference to the number I had in mind: I’d say $20 is really pretty much on the mark… that’s the number I thought of – though I think anything even in the $30s would be considered fair by most.

  9. Rob says:

    The NHL has a similar package to the MLB as well. Its awesome.

  10. Patrick H says:

    So, maybe I’m just an addict, but I think a monthly subscription would be acceptable. I’d be willing to pay $10/month for this service, especially if it let me access replays from previous weeks. Just my two cents.

    Or $10. Whatever it winds up costing, I’ll pay it. ;-)

  11. Nick Davies says:

    Would be nice but will never happen with all the rights in all the different countries plus some of the ex football league teams (like Hull, Stoke etc) have current contracts for online audio that was purchased by PLTV or whatever they are called now.

  12. Kevin says:

    I think this analysis is somewhat simplistic.

    In baseball, MLB TV uses the announcers which are already announcing the games for a TV Station. I’m not sure how many languages MLB tv is announced in but my guess is only English. The fact that the EPL is hugely popular all over the world means announcers are needed in multiple languages. This means increased costs, which the EPL would foot the bill on and would be paid by the subcription fee.

    Secondly, I think piracy is much less of a problem for baseball, since most people live in the region where the baseball game can be seen on TV. This means, the online package is for out of market subscribers, and the local television channel which pays for the TV rights is not affected by the online rights.

    In the EPL everyone is essentially an “out of market” subscriber. So they sell the TV rights for huge dollars to FSC, ESPN, Setanta in the US. If they did sell broadband rights in addition my guess is they get less for the TV rights. You just can’t sell the live rights for broadband to one company and the television rights to a broadcasting company. This would likely end up in a more complex system for subscribers where certain games are live on television, others live on broadband.

    Finally, I think its easy to see the EPL and NFL share a similiar business model, partially due to how similiar they are (few games per week, attendance concerns etc.) The NFL does not yet have a broadband channel for NFL Sunday Ticket (allows you to watch every and any game you want). The package is only available on DirecTV for a sizable fee ($300-$400). The broadband version has been talked about as beginning 2012. The 2 leagues made the decision its easier to manage, reduce expenses, be the most profitable to only sell television rights and broadband rights seperatly rather than own the entire operation. As an outsider it may seem simple but the issue really is more complex than you laid out.

  13. Panda says:

    The EPL and the NFL have a similar television model and because of that, it’s going to be hard for them to make the transition to an online subscription model. These companies pay top dollar so people watch their networks and not some computer screen.

    Online streaming of shows is not rated the same as broadcast/cable television. In the end, you may have the same amount or even more viewers than you did but by splitting them between online and TV will hurt the TV bottom line.

    Sure, the EPL and Sky could come together and set a price to make up the loss of ad revenue but, in their eyes, it’s not enough to make up for the loss of viewership on TV.

  14. Daryl says:

    “The argument that some Premier League clubs would make is that they could offer their own broadband channel and market that themselves. While this is true, it would be far wiser and more profitable for all 20 Premier League clubs to ratify an agreement to allow the Premier League to market its online content worldwide under one service.”

    It would definitely be more profitable for teams like Wigan and my beloved Wolves, but for a team like Man Utd there’s surely much more profit to be made selling the rights individually.

  15. babaya says:

    100% agree. Why the EPL has not done this yet is mind boggling.

  16. Harry says:

    i would LOVE this

  17. Robert George says:

    Its not gonna work. Someone else is gonna purchase and restream the games for free on the various streaming sites.

    • Panda says:

      True, but you’d be surprised how many people want a legitimate, HIGH QUALITY option. There will always be those who stream games for free on Justin.tv or other sites but to pay for HD streams of games…no need to buffer or risk of getting the stream cut off cause of copyright issues is worth the cost.

  18. Andrew says:

    http://www.free-football.tv/ has a similar option. I’m not sure on the details, and I don’t know the quality of the matches. I’m a mac owner and the service only runs through windows, but if anyone knows about it, they should post comments. It’s the same deal 20 USD a year, and runs about 300 games a week, EPL, La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga, cup competitions, and international matches. I’ve been seriously considering picking up a copy of bootcamp to run this.

  19. V says:

    I’d pay $20+ a month if its a HD stream, i mean hell i pay over that now with DirecTV to get Setanta and FSC.

  20. efrain says:

    The price I first thought of was $19.95, but not per year…. per month! I would definitely pay this monthly fee to be able to watch any and/or every premier league game. Especially if it was high quality (preferably HD). Heck, I am paying $15 a month to get Setanta Broadband (since my idiot cable company refuses to carry it!)

  21. Timm says:

    You are spot on with this post. I have subscribed to MLB.tv for a few years, and after a shaking start and brief flirtation with SilverLight, they have produced a wonderful product.

    I can watch all my beloved Boston Red Sox games live (except when they play Baltimore because of blackout restrictions). When they play Baltimore or on Fox or ESPN, I can watch the games on delay. All 162 of the games. All for $119.99. Less than a $.75 a game.

    With the current EPL set-up, I would have to pay $225+ (based on Foxsoccer.tv at $9.95/month and Setanta-i at $14.99/month) to watch ManU matches.

    However, the biggest difference between the two is the quality. Both Fox and Setanta are abysmal when compared to MLB.tv. Both simply stretch the picture to fit widescreen TVs or apply the 4:3 black bars on the side.

    With MLB.tv, I can even watch games through my Roku box, which hooks to my 37-inch HD TV. The picture quality, while not 1080p, is still impressive and has afforded me to the chance to delete cable or satellite altogether.

    One would think an entity as popular as the EPL would be the forerunner in such distribution instead of being hopelessly stuck in the past.

  22. Quakesin2kNever says:

    I am a huge baseball/fantasy baseball nerd and I subscribed to this service last year. It wasn’t good and I did not renew my subscription this year. It is not all that it is cracked up to be… they make the demo’s look really good but in real life it’s mediocre and I get 100 times better viewing quality just watching my teams play on HD via comcast cable. Also, the hexagonal ability to watch many games at once also sucks… it degrades the picture quality even more and most high speed connections can’t handle it so the videos all skip every few seconds… making it basically unwatchable.

    Yes, it would be better than what the premier league offers now on the internet, but it’s not that great… it’s still more important for leagues to get more soccer games in HD on cable/satellite TV. FSC going HD in January 2010 should help a lot.

  23. ronvelig says:

    I’ve been thinking a similar thing recently. But you need to remember that you cannot watch all of the games live in the UK as the broadcast of 3pm Saturday matches is banned to increase attendances at games. So in the UK, possibly the biggest market for this, the PL could not offer a comprehensive package. Games played outside of this window are almost always broadcast live on Pay TV (Sky, ESPN etc) that the majority of football fans will already take

    This doesn’t stop people from finding the 3pm games if they want to. Illegal streams are in abundance and many bars have satellite dishes that can pick up a variety of foreign stations broadcasting games. Maybe it’s time for the governing bodies to rethink their entire broadcasting strategy

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