As a Real Madrid supporter, the 2012-13 season was disappointing for various reasons. The team relinquished its title to Barcelona, was knocked out for the third straight time in the Champions League semi-finals, and was torn apart by in-fighting within the dressing room. These events were tough for any Madridista, but the worst part for me was that other than the Champions League, I was unable to watch any part of my team’s season on television. The reason: beIN SPORT’s alienating of the Canadian soccer viewer.
beIN SPORT is approaching its second year broadcasting in North America, but the problem continues to be that Canadian viewers are left in the dark. Throughout the last year, the response from beIN SPORT has been generic. beIN SPORT has repeatedly responded by saying that it is in negotiations with the Canadian providers and that people should continue to pressure the networks into getting beIN SPORT added to Canadian television. That has been the same canned response for the last year.
Enough is enough. I am tired of being deprived of watching Real Madrid on TV. beIN has been so vague and unresponsive that I really wonder if the network has any respect for Canadian fans. The same generic response has worn thin and it is poor form from a network that is attempting to establish itself in a market where soccer is considered a niche sport. I no longer want to rely on poor streams and highlight shows to get my weekly dosage of Real Madrid.
There have been rumblings that part of the delay is due to Canada’s strict broadcast laws regarding potential new networks. While that is true, there were also reports that Al-Jazeera, the owners of beIN SPORT, could have sub-licensed its rights to an already established network to broadcast the games in Canada. The former rights holder for La Liga, Gol TV Canada, had expressed interest in such an arrangement. Sadly, that never came to fruition.
beIN SPORT owes Canadians an apology for its lack of communication and poor customer service. If the network is serious about valuing Canadian viewers, it needs to communicate what it is that is delaying the network’s availability to Canadian viewers and giving us regular updates on its negotiations. I continue to tweet the network’s Twitter feed as well as the personalities in the hope that someone will give me a better a response.
I understand that Al Jazeera bought the rights and that viewing rights for soccer change hands on a regular basis as existing networks disappear and new ones emerge. The lack of forward planning by Al Jazeera in getting beIN SPORT into Canada is simply not acceptable. If you purchase the rights, you should have had a plan to roll out the network in the country. The lack of foresight has hurt Canadian fans as well as cost beIN SPORT additional revenue that could have been generated by Canadian subscribers. Additionally, the lack of offering a beIN SPORT stream to offer a safe way of watching the games online has also been a massive oversight for the network. I know if beIN SPORT offered the ability to subscribe to an online stream, I’d be one of the first ones there. Even with these delays, the presence of an online stream would have at least offered us a way to watch Real Madrid, PSG, Barcelona, and Juventus to name a few.
I’ve already lost one season of not being able to follow Real Madrid and am not prepared to go another season without watching my beloved team. I think beIN SPORT has the potential to be a successful niche network in Canada, but the owners really need to improve its image to the people it has alienated over the last year, Canadian soccer fans. I hope that the network offers some sort of olive branch because I want to see Los Blancos recapture La Liga again.