A new era in women’s soccer began on Saturday with NWSL’s new television deal with Lifetime as well as streaming on the go90 platform.
The decision to place one weekly game with a 4pm ET start time on Lifetime was a no-brainer. A&E, the parent company of Lifetime, has invested in NWSL. However, the NWSL placing its remaining inventory games on the go90 app, a somewhat obscure streaming platform for soccer fans (despite its soccer-sounding name), was far more controversial, and was met with severe criticism from those who follow the league. Accessibility is an issue for some fans after the ease in watching league games on YouTube the last few seasons but go90’s parent company — Verizon — is looking for content and was willing to pay the league a rights fee – something that NWSL could not turn down. Moreover, having a league partnership with the likes of Verizon can only help the women’s game in the United States.
Before we look back at the coverage on Lifetime and go90 this weekend, a word on the health of the league itself. It was thought that the short-term defections of Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd to Lyon and Manchester City respectively as well as the long-term departures of Heather O’Reilly and Crystal Dunn to Arsenal and Chelsea would hamper the league’s growth. But the addition of a new club in North Carolina, ironically where both O’Reilly and Dunn went to school and would have been big draws as well as these new broadcast deals, indicate the league is healthier than ever.
While any viewer must expect a drop-off between a nationally televised match and an Internet stream, the contrast between the Portland Thorns-Orlando Pride match on Lifetime and the matches streamed via the go90 app could not have been greater.
Lifetime’s production was professional with excellent commentary and use of personnel. The graphics used throughout the match were outstanding, too.
The pregame show hosted by Dalen Cuff was well done and incorporated World Cup winner Julie Foudy, a superstar of soccer broadcasting both on the women’s and men’s side for almost two decades. The game broadcast team of Jenn Hildreth and Aly Wagner was unsurprisingly good. The seasoned Hildreth has been calling women’s soccer games for the better part of a decade. And Wagner, when left to analyze matches and not be placed in difficult position of being on aimless shows as she was last year by FOX on Copa Tonight, excels in her role.