If you live in the United States and watch Premier League games on ESPN3.com, this has probably happened to you before. But this happened to me for the first time this season. I got caught in the trap of not being able to watch a game live on ESPN3.com, but the broadcast was only shown live and wasn’t available on ESPN2, nor on delay or on demand.
As luck would have it, it ended up being Swansea City’s most complete performance of the season after beating Fulham 3-0 at Craven Cottage. It was the first Swansea match of the season that I missed. But the point of this article is that it could have been any two teams — perhaps featuring your favorite club. In this day and age, it’s ridiculous that select games are only available to watch live on ESPN3.com, especially in an age where we’re constantly time shifting and recording programs to watch at different times.
Sadly for me, there was no way I could watch this one live. The game was sandwiched between a four hour stint at the local AYSO soccer field, watching my two daughters play in separate games to kick off their season. I wouldn’t miss it for the world, but it meant that I had to sacrifice not seeing Swansea play.
The policy of having select ESPN3.com games only available for live streaming is awful. Having select games not available on demand is a limit of the sublicense agreement that is between FOX Soccer and ESPN3. But who does that policy benefit? How does it serve customers? And is it being done to encourage soccer fans who miss the game to just go to FOXSoccer.com to watch the highlights instead?
In my opinion, the policy benefits only those who are able to watch the game live and FOX themselves. Anyone who misses the live broadcast of the game is left in no mans land. Going back to the example of the Fulham-Swansea game that had ended before I got home, the choices I faced were: 1) I could wait five hours to watch the highlights of the game on FOXSoccer.com, or 2) I could watch the highlights immediately on 101 Great Goals. Being a passionate Swansea City fan who was eager to find out the score and see the highlights, I chose the latter.
Does the policy serve the customers? Absolutely not. Is it being done to encourage fans to watch highlights on FOXSoccer.com instead? Perhaps but that option is woefully inadequate. Expecting fans to wait hours to see footage is backwards.
A better solution would be to give ESPN the permission to allow games that they sublicense from FOX to be shown live and on demand via ESPN3.com. Hopefully the policy will change in future seasons.