Why Traditional Media is Actually Driving Illegal Soccer Viewing

Pop quiz! Which legal streaming platforms are showing the UEFA Champions League qualifying matches? And where can you watch the English Championship via legal streams? Yeah, we thought so. It’s not easy to know the answers to these questions, right, without digging into a lot of exhaustive online research?

For soccer fans, the world is an amazing place.  In June and July, as long as we had a device with WiFi or data, we could watch every game of the World Cup as well as pre-match and post-match coverage.  Think about it – whether you were on a business trip, commuting to work, at a library, or simply at home without a TV, you had access to the most popular sporting event in the world.  This was unheard of even eight years ago, much less ten or twenty when television was king. If legal feeds of soccer games are so accessible, then why do so many fans still spend time and effort illegally streaming soccer games?

In 2014, we expect everything to stream.  If we can watch Apple launch a new phone from the previous version, we want to be able to watch UEFA Champions League matches at work on that same device.  If I can watch any baseball game simply by opening an app, why can’t I do the same to watch Bayern Munich’s opening Bundesliga match?  Or, maybe I can but how do I know about it and can I find it quickly and easily?

Because the leagues and tournaments all negotiate with different media companies worldwide, it is nearly impossible to track down much less download every app to watch games on demand.  For $130 a year, I can watch any out-of-market MLB game on any device. But because MLB holds the rights to these games, they can offer one portal with varying price packages. Just in the U.S. alone, FOX Sports, regional FOX networks, NBC, beIN SPORTS, GolTV, One World Sports, Premium Sports and ESPN hold the English-language rights to different leagues and competitions — and those are just the TV networks. If you want to stream the games, legally, the options are more numerous and complicated to navigate. Plus the streaming options can be pricey. For example, FOX Soccer 2Go costs $170 annually, but that just gets you the UEFA Champions League, Europa League, CONCACAF Champions League, Scottish Premier League, FA Cup, and some additional smaller tournaments.

So what’s a soccer fan to do?  Increasingly, they find the illegal streams.  While numbers for this year’s World Cup were not available The Hollywood Reporter found that there were over 18,000 illegal broadcasts of matches during the 2010 World Cup, a number undoubtedly dwarfed this year.  With the use of VPN and other technology, a savvy soccer fan can easily find a subscription stream and watch for free while masking their IP address from government and media officials.  In fact, simply Googling a match name can reveal many websites that offer shaky but reliable enough free streams. And, from personal experience, it’s far easier to find an illegal stream than it is to hunt and peck in order to find who streams the same legal version of the online broadcast.

Are free sketchy streams of games illegal? Undoubtedly, but is it necessary?  The case for “yes” is a good one, as there is no reliable alternative for a fan looking for a soccer match.  To be blunt, traditional media companies have done incredibly poorly in informing consumers about what their online options are.  There are many websites that can tell you what traditional media company is showing what match, but there is almost nothing in the way of guidance on how to legally and efficiently watch, say, all of MLS, the Premier League, and the Champions League (all three different apps by the way).  Additionally, if you are not a cable subscriber, the cost of subscribing via these apps skyrockets (e.g., NBC’s EPL matches cannot be streamed free). Meanwhile, crowdsourced efforts, such as this one by Reddit, make it far easier to find out which illegal streaming options are available.

Looking at it from the broadcasters’ perspective, and this new normal makes sense.  As television and movies struggle to adjust their business models to an online world, sports viewing is actually the last bastion of the old model.  TV companies depend on ad revenue, and that model is well established and fairly lucrative on television.  However, the model is more amorphous in streaming – where the expectation to be bombarded with ads is removed – and the revenue streams of streaming do not have a solid model to rival “the boob tube”.  Live sporting events, however, need to be seen live to experience the moment and to be shared via social media.  That is why rights’ fees are skyrocketing for sports leagues. Unlike a show such as House of Cards on Netflix, if you do not watch a sports event the moment it is on, you miss the moment completely.

This rise in revenue from sports means there is less of an incentive for companies to develop a sports streaming model to make it easier for fans to watch legal streams.  This is especially the case if you are a cordcutter. For example, no Verizon service means no more free apps.  In the perfect world, these companies would band together and create one central website where any soccer fan could go, pay a fee, and have access to any number of major soccer league matches.  Or at least to find out what the available legal streaming options are.

Maybe you would pay more to stream via an app, or to include international tournaments, but there is a place and structure you can go to and know where you can watch soccer and find how much it costs? The answer is no.

But this is a pipe dream as long as live sporting events are so lucrative for advertisers and thus for broadcast companies.  Until leagues and their televisors can come together to figure out a solution, illegal streams will continue to be a major part of many soccer fans’ lives.  Extreme repression may get the dumbest of the dumb but as Napster and BitTorrent show, squashing one leads to a more creative successor.  Or maybe these major broadcast companies continue to decry pirating, work on their encryption technology, but ultimately write it off to the cost of doing business.  Regardless, an illegal streaming reality is what we have and will continue to have into the near future. The jeopardy is that the less that leagues and networks do, the more “normal” the act of watching illegal streams is to the younger generation.

27 thoughts on “Why Traditional Media is Actually Driving Illegal Soccer Viewing”

  1. Currently, you need a TV subscription to be able to steam online for most of them. You can’t pay a single online only monthly fee like Netflix or Hulu.

  2. It gets even more complicated when a single league has its league matches on one channel/platform and its cup matches on others. Add to that the fact that some companies that have the rights to a particular league or tournament sell some of their matches to other companies.

  3. As a Comcast customer, I cannot see GolTV, Fox Sports2 or Fox Soccer Plus at ANY price. As long as NBC is in the soccer business, I do not expect this to change either. If someone wants to come to my home and arrest me for streaming matches I literally cannot pay to see on TV, let them.

    1. This is part of the reason why I suggested to Robert that he write the article, which I thought he did a very good job on.

      Like you, I’m a Comcast subscriber who doesn’t have the option of getting FOX Soccer Plus (even if I wanted to). But one of the reasons why I wanted Robert to write it is because there are often are ways to watch games legally, but TV providers, sports networks and leagues don’t make it easy to find the information. For example, even if you don’t get FOX Sports 2 (I do, but only in SD), you should be able to watch FS2 live, for free, at http://www.foxsports.com/foxsportsgo/ For GolTV, you may be able to get it on the Spanish-language package. For FOX Soccer Plus, the best alternative is FOX Soccer 2GO, which is the same programming.

      1. Thanks for the heads up, but that link is NOT giving me access to FS2. Furthermore, GolTV is not available to me in Spanish either…and I simply do not find the Fox Soccer 2GO price to be reasonable. I know people on my “tier” of service on non-Comcast systems get both FS2 and FS+ and pay LESS per month than I do.

        If the landscape doesn’t change on my Comcast system, I am going to be switching to DirecTV this time next year when the Bundesliga arrives on the Fox channels.

        1. For the FOX Sports Go link, what happens when you log in? You should see the menu on the left, where you can pick between FS1 and FS2 programs that are live right now. I’m curious because I plan on writing a story about FOX Sports Go in the future, but want to get a better idea of what you’re seeing or not seeing.

          1. I’m confused. I’ve subscribe to FoxSports2Go off and one This time I caught a yearly deal that came out cheaper than if I did m2m, and I’m liking this time around much better. I don’t have cable, I missed a lot of matches I wanted to see because they came on mid morning during the work week. I don’t understand this Fox Go thing. If I can’t sneak and watch it live, at least I know it’ll be there waiting for me. can someone explain it to me.

            The things one has to do to watch football without cable. *sigh*

            1. For FOX Sports Go, you have to have a TV subscription from one of a select list of providers who offer the service (via authentication). For FOX Soccer 2Go, you can be a cordcutter and use that service.

          2. Basically, the FS2 on the menu is greyed out for me.

            However, I am pleased to learn that you have a Comcast system that DOES have FS2, maybe there is hope for me yet. I dislike Comcast, but hate that I will be a slave to the weather by switching to Dish.

            1. I get it, so maybe those Comcast Xfinity customers who don’t get FS2 on TV don’t get it online either?

  4. I would even take the option of being able to stream a radio broadcast of matches. Currently TalkSport offers Premier League matches, but anything else (barring matches including two P.L. teams) is blocked.

    1. I used TuneIn Radio for Champions League last year so I didn’t have to listen to you-know-who while I was watching on TV.

      It took a good deal of fishing around. I think I eventually wound up listening to BBC Australia or something like that.

      I plan to do the same this year. Fox can put the fool on, but they can’t make me listen.

  5. Yeah….this is an odd thing. A similar thing happened in the comic book industry (which is an odd place). For years publishers resisted digital comics because their only retail distribution channel was dedicated comic book stores. They didn’t want to do anything to undercut those comic shops. Sometimes you’d even see someone speaking out about how they didn’t like digital comics…..but the fact was that ALL the comics were out there in digital format without hours of hitting the shelves because pirates were buying them, scanning them and uploading them.

    So….digital comics WERE happening…..it’s just that none of the publishers were profiting from it at all.

    This is kinda what goes on with soccer. If they legal product is inconvenient, people will just use the illegal product.

  6. Not going to lie, when it comes to illegal streams I am a full blown moron. Last year I found one to watch Boca vs River and I’m pretty sure it just ended up hurting my computer in the long run. I have every soccer channel DTV can offer(Except Fox soccer plus) and I still want more but I am not sure the risk is worth the reward. But there is also a strong chance I can be doing something wrong.

    1. Yes, this is one of the real drawbacks of using an illegal stream because some attach viruses or unwanted programs to your computer. One has to be very careful and think twice about using an illegal stream you are not familiar with (even that is no guarantee).

  7. My first legal subscription was with Setanta Sports back in ’09. It held me down for FA cup games and some PL games during my college years at the library. Now I just use NBC live extra app since I have Directv subscription at home(Can’t even explain how awesome this app is if you’re on unlimited data), I won’t miss any EPL games. But I can’t pay 170$ a year for the crappy Fox Champions league coverage. To be honest, I Dvr’d all the champions league games for the last 4 seasons because LFC weren’t in it. But now I have to go back to illegal streaming for champions league games since I won’t be at home to catch them.

  8. I have free cable, but if I were forced to watch online, I don’t know what I would do. Most likely, I would give up watching altogether unless there were a pub within 2 to 9 blocks. There’s no service online that gives me: EPL, Bundesliga, and CL. Even now, the way to get all three of these on cable/satellite is just through DISH Network, with FoxSports, NBCSports, and a subscription to the German language package (another $20-$30). One cheap method of getting coverage: buy the cheapest DISH package and subscribe to the German package, watch Bundesliga on TV, then watch illegal streams of CL and Prem when convenient. Summary: it’s a mess.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *