Why Fox Soccer and Premier League Need To Be On Roku

The year is 2010. Fox Soccer Channel still doesn’t have a podcast, which would have been a perfect medium to tell people about going to HD, and to answer questions about Fox Soccer Plus. And neither Fox Soccer Channel nor the Premier League have an official iPhone app, although in case of the Premier League, maybe it has more important things to worry about right now such as the first EPL club going into administration.

So, is it too much to ask that either Fox Soccer Channel or the Premier League will launch anytime soon on Roku? Based on the above information, I believe the answer is, sadly, yes.

Let me explain.

Roku is a set top box that sits on top of your television set and plays streaming video on your television set. So far, Roku has sold more than 500,000 units (a Roku box starts at $99) and it has quickly risen to become one of the must-have gadgets for tech-savvy consumers in the United States. Backed by deals with Netflix, Amazon Video, Major League Baseball, Pandora and many other content providers, Roku stands on the precipice becoming absolutely huge in 2010.

But where is the soccer content? Where is Fox, the Premier League or other soccer content providers on Roku?

The answer is they’re nowhere to be seen. One, we’re not sure if they’re even aware of Roku. And two, even if they are aware of Roku, they may see it as “the enemy” instead of a new distribution channel.

In the case of Major League Baseball, who has embraced Roku, the channel offers an incredible amount of live baseball coverage in HD which far exceeds the experience you could find on television (and even satellite). Read more about how Major League Baseball is on the cutting edge of broadband elsewhere on EPL Talk.

We all know that the Premier League is an albatross when it comes to adopting technology especially online. That’s partly because the league has a stubborn grip on its cash cow, television, which its TV rights worldwide is expected to cross the 1 billion pounds mark shortly. Even outside of online rights for its matches, the Premier League continues to be behind the times. The league didn’t launch its own website until 2002. And it’s current website’s only saving grace is the Fantasy Premier League, which I’m sure the league has little to do with on a day-to-day basis.

So what would Roku offer the Premier League? It would give the league the opportunity to bring Premier League soccer into the living rooms of people worldwide, cutting out the middle man (i.e. TV providers) and delivering matches in HD with superior quality. As we have seen in the United States, some of us (myself included) have been waiting several years for our TV provider to make Setanta Sports available, which limited the amount of Premier League soccer we could see (thankfully, Setanta-i filled that gap for many of us). Even though Setanta US is closing its doors this Sunday, the problem still remains that many of us in this country will not be able to see all of the Premier League games that will be televised.

The same issue happens around the world. The Premier League would be better suited to launch a Premier League Broadband channel on Roku making it available to viewers around the world and offering every game in HD on a monthly or annual subscription rate.

The reality is that a Premier League Broadband channel on Roku would not kill Fox Soccer Channel or other TV providers. Many soccer fans would still subscribe to DirecTV or their local cable provider to get the full array of content available including Fox Soccer Channel (or their local 24/7 soccer network, depending what part of the world they lived in).

The Premier League would argue that Roku would cannibalize TV rights money, but I disagree. If you provided quality HD content that was available via broadband thanks to a Roku box, I believe this would reduce the amount of pirated Internet streams of Premier League games. Why? Who wants to watch choppy games on the Internet in different languages when you can watch any game you want on your television set with the best quality picture at a reasonable price?

Just as Fox Soccer Channel delivers Premier League games online via its FoxSoccer.tv service, it could do the same thing – but better – with Roku. A Fox Soccer Channel could be preconfigured on Roku to only show games to people who have paid the FoxSoccer.tv subscription rate. And for those Roku customers who haven’t signed up to FoxSoccer.tv, they could watch a promo reel which would describe the benefits of watching games on Roku in the comfort of your living room.

The shame of all this is that it feels futile. I honestly don’t believe that the Premier League nor Fox Soccer Channel will adopt Roku any time in the near future. Technology is just not in their DNA. And both companies seem to move so frustratingly slow when it comes to adopting new techology.

So if the Premier League and Fox Soccer Channel don’t plan on it doing, it makes me wonder whether EPL Talk should launch on Roku instead. Seriously. Sure, I wouldn’t be able to provide streaming matches, but I could provide the daily audio podcast as well as video content such as interviews, documentaries, as well as plenty of other video content that EPL Talk has created in the past, and more video content in the future.

The Roku content from EPL Talk would supplement what you already read online, on Twitter and listen via iTunes. Some of it would be the same, but the video content would be created in HD and available through Roku. At the same time, the Roku box would have all of the other content and features such as being able to stream Netflix movies to your TV set (or via Amazon Video, if you prefer) as well as Major League Baseball games and much more.

So what do you think? Would you buy a Roku box if EPL Talk was available on it (in addition to the other channels that already exist such as Netflix, Amazon Video, MLB, Pandora, Facebook, Flickr and others)? And, if so, what video content would you be interested in watching? If you’re on the fence, learn more about Roku, then come back and post your feedback in the comments section below.

I value what you, as a vital part of the EPL Talk community thinks, so thanks in advance for sharing your opinions below.

38 thoughts on “Why Fox Soccer and Premier League Need To Be On Roku”

  1. This article makes some great points; I got my father a Roku for christmas, primarily for the netflix option, but the inclusion of mlb.tv and other services (which we didn’t even know about at the time) makes it an incredibly versatile and useful device. I would certainly subscribe to an EPL Talk channel.

    1. There’s something else to watch?

      Seriously, though, there’s some extra stuff (you tubey type sites, pandora, links to some photo sharing sites such as facebook’s albums) that augments the main courses, but at this point it’s likely not something you’d buy the box for.

      Most people get the roku because they already have Netflix, and streaming movies to a PC or the roku requires no additonal sub fee. Ditto for MLB.tv if you’re a subscriber to the premium version of that service.

  2. Gaffer,
    I’m a web only soccer viewer. I have a laptop with an HDMI output that I plug into a Hi Def TV. For someone like me – who doesn’t mind setting up dual output on the laptop and connecting a couple of cables – does ROKU offer anything? IMHO you’re quite right on two points; EPL transmission is in the dark ages – so so streaming usually in 4:3 (or stretched) format – and the UEFA model is the way to go – I can every Champions League & Europa Cup game this season through UEFA.com for $40
    Nice article!

    1. How do you manage to watch soccer only over the web? I’ve tried Justin.tv, but it just doesn’t cut it. I don’t know any sites that have (or sell) access to quality feeds for EPL or La Liga or Serie A games. How good is the UEFA feed–is it HD?

      1. I’ve been a subscriber to Setanta-i for several years; the service is not, or should I say was not, HD but the quality improved over the years and I was able to enjoy live/recorded games on a large screen TV. I’ve just subscribed to foxsoccer.tv, hoping that some of their EPL games will be live, and I’m happily surprized by the quality. Although not HD, it is true 16:9 and very decent. ESPN360.com also carries soccer; not HD but again very decent. They offer a 16:9 ratio but it is simply a stretched version of 4:3. They are rebranding on April 1 to become ESPN3; I am hoping they introduce true widescreen then. Overall I would say that there is room for improvement; hopefully with so many soccer games from Europe originating in HD these providers will upgrade their service

  3. Don’t give up all hope on FSC going to Roku/Xbox360. I emailed them about this a couple months ago. Here’s there response:

    “Unfortunately, we have not plans this season to support the Xbox360 platform, but we are considering to add this feature for next year.”

    For those who don’t know the Xbox360 functions the same as a Roku. So maybe FSC will come to Xbox but it will probably still be delayed for next day viewing only.

  4. I love my Roku!

    You can get so many television shows (through Netflix), documentaries from around the world through Netflix and through a channel called DreamTV), really cool indie channels that I wouldn’t have known about such as Revision3 (shows on anime, gadgets, comic books, hacking, etc), Mediafly which gives you podcasts from all sorts of news sources, the aforementioned Pandora, and those are just a few of the free channels.

    Plus you can buy movies through Amazon to use on Roku.

    I hardly watch “real” tv anymore and when I do it’s mostly sports.

  5. Roku is a niche gimmick. There are plenty of other ways to stream media and online “apps” onto a TV, such as Apple TV, the Samsung thing, Xbox etc. Or you can hook up your computer and not have to choose from the three or four pre-approved websites.

    I don’t think FOX or the EPL could be bothered with setting up a new streaming service just for a potential few tens of thousand subscribers. MLB is a special case because the fact that they have nearly 100 games a week and very few games with (exclusively) national distribution (just the three Saturday FOX games, the one on Sunday on ESPN and maybe the Thursday MLB network one) meant that they could start streaming out of market live online years ago. It’s a developed enough platform that they’re pushing it out into various devices: iPad app store, Roku, possibly more.

    EPL broadcasts are entirely national; there are no out-of-market games broadcast locally. Sites like foxsoccer.tv have delayed streaming, but for now there will be little interest in developing channels for tiny audiences on things like Roku.

    1. Pretty much this. If you have an oldish computer or a laptop you can have near the television, you can have anything that is offered on the web played onto your HDTV, as long as you have an RGB connector. All you need is to make sure you can hook up a digital audio line to your receiver ($10ish for cable, $30 for quality USB sound card) and a UXGA cable ($15ish). And for that, you can not only play anything from the net, you can use your computer on your television to do whatever, surf the web, play games, etc…

      1. Well, the roku box comes in different flavors, from $79 for SD and $99 for HD, and the box is compact (just a few inches across). It’s pretty convenient.

        Ostensibly it’s not horribly complicated to enable something like the roku (or internet-enabled tv’s) to access streaming that already exists. I suspect that’s why roku was able to add the mlb.tv channel so quickly. I’ve wondered if MLSlive would be added, since it is run by mlb.tv, but perhaps there truly are so few potential customers here that even modest efforts wouldn’t be worth it.

        The biggest difference between MLB and EPL/Fox here (in the US) providing such services is not the nationally distributed games (which you can see on MLB.tv a few hours after the game is over), but the difference in market size.

  6. Perhaps Major League Soccer could wind up on these platforms though. They use the same technology vendor as MLB (MLS Matchcentre streaming looks like MLB.tv three years ago or so). The obvious drawback being that MLS plays about 8 games a week, and after you take out the ESPN2 game of the week, the FSC doubleheader, and Spanish only game on Telefutura, that only leaves about 4 live matches a week, sometimes less (which is what you get with the Direct Kick package).

    1. I’d be interested (since I already have a roku for movies). You’d be able to watch any of the games as replays (sort of like the UEFA package, except obviously the level of play would be er, different).

  7. Fox is very aware of these set top boxes be it the Roku or Boxee because they constantly complain about Boxee showing content from Hulu without there permision even though Hulu is FREE. The big TV networks don’t want you streaming TV shows to your TV via the internet because they think they will loose the TV ad revenue.

    In the UK Sky can be viewed on your Xbox360 but you have to either have or subscribe to a full Sky package.

  8. I didn’t really know what Roku is, but after reading this article, i understand why. It sounds pretty worthless. Like other people said, you can do the same if not better things than Roku by hooking your laptop to your TV w/ an HDMI cable to show your computer screen on your TV, by streaming content from your computer to your TV through your PS3, X-Sux360 or other media server, or by playing native content through the PS3 and X-box (both offer online purchase and streaming of movies and shows directly through the system).

    So, why would anyone use this Roku?

    1. Sorry that I’m repeating this from above, but here are some reasons:

      -Roku is cheap ($79/$99)
      -Small (5″x5″x1.75″)
      -I don’t know about your laptop, but it’s far easier to connect to the tv (all I have on mine is a VGA out…what do I need to connect that to my tv?)
      -I also like to browse the web on my laptop when watching sporting events.
      -I do not have an xbox, apple tv, or other set top box.
      -Roku appeals to people who already are Netflix subscribers, since it can be used to stream their content

      No doubt in a couple years it will be completely superceded by something else. Perhaps most tv’s or blu-ray players will have its functionality built-in. But for a few years, it is quite a nice, inexpensive, purpose-built “stopgap” that works very well.

  9. This is exactly what I have been asking for. I have ROKU and thinks will be a big advantage to pipe FSCHD and FS+ to ROKU.
    I always think this is the best environment for it. This should even make their channels more accessible and will reach a broader audience

    SO you know, ROKU IS just a internet content receiver for the TV. So if you have one its easy to view content on your BIG HGTV

  10. FYI, y’all, I know exactly what I’m doing technically, but I consider having to hook my laptop up to my TV a major pain in the ass. If I could get all the live HD sports I crave on my Xbox 360, than I would kick DirecTV out of my room with no cab fare home.

    1. It is something to consider whenever you decide to replace your laptop. You can just park your old laptop next to the tv, so hooking up the cables won’t be a problem. This option isn’t for everyone! If you can’t run cables under a floor or through a ceiling, you’ll have cables all over the place. The benefit of Roku or a streaming Blu-Ray is the lack for the need of connecting a device that is 10 to 40 feet from the television, to the television. The disadvantage, of course, is that you are completely limited by Roku or Blu-Ray as to what you can stream, where as the laptop, you can watch whatever.

  11. Not sure why you’re singling out Roku as a digital distribution channel (probably because you use one), but as others have pointed out there are dozens of ways to bring web-available content to the TV. It is fairly popular, but so are Apple TV, Boxee, Xbox, PlayStation, Wii… and just a plain old computer-to-TV hookup. The salient point, though, is that FSC should look into digital match distribution, and I believe to some extent they are getting into this business by absorbing Setanta and their setanta-i.com channel – which is being rechristened FoxSoccer.tv.

    If FSC brought all of their matches online for a fair price, I could be that much closer to cutting the cable cord. Stupid MLB, for all their cutting edge technology, will still not accept any amount of money in exchange for letting me watch my local team in-market. Luckily Premier League matches don’t present that issue!

    1. Setanta-i still exists in Canada, Ireland and Australia for streaming games that they have broadband rights to and in the US for streaming PPV events from Premium Sports. Foxsoccer.tv is something separate – they’ve only reclaimed the rights that Setanta US used to have and are offering a somewhat similar service starting next month.

  12. I would prefer to use my Xbox 360 if the capability became available, however I would consider purchasing a Roku box if I was certain that the content would include options that extend beyond what I currently have available. I’ve had a setanta-i membership from the beginning and while I enjoyed being able to watch matches while travelling, it was a pain sometimes to be confined to the computer. I’m sure I could circumvent this by hooking up my laptop to my TV, but as Stephen mentioned, it’s a pain and I usually don’t bother. All in all, I’d be interested in pursuing a Roku box if it could fill the void that Setanta-I filled (until its demise).

    On another note, does anyone have info on the UEFA live package that’s on FoxSoccer.tv? Are the games actually live or available on a delay? The reason that I ask is that I’m not always around a tv for champions league matches and if the matches were available on FoxSoccer.tv in real time, I’d be inclined to check it out.

  13. Whether it’s Apple tv or Roku – it’s clear that set up devices that stream specialized content are the potential future, or at least the bridge between what we have now and seamless integration of web – based content and television (Martin, plugging a HDMI cable from your computer to your TV isn’t it.) At the end of the day, it will come down to how much of a role cable’s influence will play. As the artificial speed bumps that stand in the way of US internet download speeds start to fall away, something has to give.

    1. American broadband is a pretty big speed bump. Fiber optic won’t be available to those outside of the 50 biggest cities for a long time, so there’s just cable with the potential to increase speeds. But from everything I’ve seen its getting worse. Bandwidth caps are being imposed, and monthly prices are being raised and speeds lowered (as tiered bandwidth plans are tweaked).

      And given that these are the cable companies, unless required by law, they’ve got no interest in providing a red carpet right up to your doorstep for online services to take away the money you were paying them for all these lousy channels just to get the few with soccer goodness.

  14. The advantage of using a STB is that you have a consistent UI and authentication process between the box and the box service provider. Then the content providers feel secure that their content won’t be stolen or otherwise used against their wishes. For instance – the way the iPhone restricted the Google Voice app because it was end-running AT&T’s cell network. The challenge for STBs is to provide a wide enough set of applications that would interest a lot of users. The Roku thing looks great – if you’re a Netflix or baseball fan. But other than that all you get are basically a bunch of video clips from god knows who. The idea is great but I wanna see the content I like – like The Daily Show or Lost or The Office or whatever. Not some c-list celeb using blip.tv as their entrance into the biz.

    Either way, as someone pointed out, the giant elephant in the room are cable companies. They control the broadband pipe, and they can offer a lot of the same stuff through their own cable STBs – as Comcast seems well on its way to do. What they do with NBC’s content might be a good idea of where the industry is going. In the end, I see things like Roku as the next Slingbox – a great idea for it’s time and very popular for a short burst of time until other big giants caught up.

    1. As far as the Daily Show/Lost/The Office goes I purchased “playon media software” for $20 bucks and it streams all of Hulu directly to my Xbox. It is open software, so they have a website where people make new streaming software, including one for southparkstudios.com and Justin.tv (although I have yet to get that to work for a live game).

      I just point this out because I think it shows that the content available to these devices is rapidly expanding and if there is something that is missing, it will probably be added at some point.

      1. only thing I worry about with that is that open software and DRM don’t mix. DRM is all about control where OSS is all about free access. So when something like that comes about it’s bound to be broken with a new x-box or hulu update of some kind. Look at the jailbreaking with the iPhone or PSP – the back and forth is relentless and only a true techie would put up with re-jailbreaking after a new update.

    1. “the network will broadcast news and feature programing alongside classic matches”…

      News – already have it.
      Feature Programming – Is that live EPL games or just shows?
      Classic matches – as opposed to classic match ups? IE old stuff.

      Have no idea what to expect from that.

      1. sounds like the channel will basically play 24 hours of Classic matches, Premier League Review, Premier League Magazine, and Premier League Preview. IOW what people complain about Fox Soccer Plus just showing a bunch of old games.

  15. The main reason I bought a Roku?

    Because I didn’t like running my PC for hours on end while I watched a movie. For $99 I have saved an untold amount of wear and tear on my system not to mention being much greener….the first month I had my Roku my electric bill dropped $28. A few more months and the thing has paid for itself.

    Also, it is way more user friendly, it works just like any other set top box via remote and is couch potato approved.

  16. I see that this article was posted a while back. Nowadays, Foxsoccer.tv is a subscription, web-based product. So what’s the difference between FStv and Netflix? In theory, what’s the difference between being allowed to watch on my laptop and being able to scream content via Roku? Roku would be a nice convenience for me.

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