NBC Sports may have been unprepared for the backlash against Premier League Pass as soccer fans voiced their frustration at NBC’s paid subscription service that will create a walled garden around 34% of the games in the 2017/18 season.
From September 2016 to March 2017, NBCSN alone has lost 730,000 TV subscribers. And the trend across the industry continues to show people cutting the cord and flocking to paid streaming services such as Sling TV, fubo, DIRECTV NOW and others.
Most sports fans realize that there are seismic shifts happening within the television industry, so it was only a matter of time before NBC Sports decided to join the crowd and offer a streaming service to provide a direct link to watching the Premier League and other programming.
What NBC Sports failed to deliver was a complete streaming package that offered soccer fans every single game of a 380-game Premier League season.
While the flood of people flocking to legal streaming services is happening, NBC Sports launched Premier League Pass as a hybrid — forcing sports fans to keep their cable or satellite television package and requiring they also sign up for a $50 per season service to watch the 130 games that won’t be available on television.
By offering a hybrid solution, they upset both camps — the TV subscribers who wanted to continue having access to every single game via TV and online like they’ve been doing for the past four years, and the cord cutters who were anxiously awaiting a service that would offer every single game without requiring a TV subscription.
For a sports network that has gotten almost everything right with their coverage of the Premier League, it’s hard to believe they got this one so wrong.
For many, price isn’t the issue. It’s the principle of the matter. We soccer fans have been spoiled with access to every single Premier League match for the past four seasons. The coverage has raised the bar across the entire soccer landscape in the United States, forcing FOX Sports and ESPN to raise their game. As soccer fans, many of us would gladly pay for a streaming service that delivered this directly to our homes.
As World Soccer Talk writer Ed Perovic put it best, “NBC could have avoided a lot of backlash if they offered a ‘true’ Premier League package that included ALL 380 matches in a streaming package. So all the matches shown on NBC, NBCSN, CNBC as well as the ‘overflow’ matches available in a single package which they could even justify a higher price of say, $99/season. Add special programming and on-demand for all matches and you have a grand service that would make even MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL look like small leagues. It would appease the cord-cutters and still give cable/satellite viewers options of viewing big matches the ‘old-fashioned way.’
“I think they missed an opportunity here to not only service the dedicated soccer community but to also advance the sport in the US from a TV viewing perspective.”
NBC Sports needs to go back and push harder with their distributors and over-the-air broadcast partners to negotiate a solution that would ensure that all 380 games are available via Premier League Pass. Currently, Premier League Pass is an in-between service that offers 130 games that doesn’t deliver value to anyone.
If Premier League Pass offers 380 games per season, it would be a slam dunk for the sport in the United States.