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.

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