In the next five years, we are certain to see more volatility in the way soccer is broadcast and delivered to US audiences. As the broadcast and media industry in the United States continues to evolve in order to adjust to new realities in terms of audiences, it’s likely that change will be a common theme for the next several years as well as adding more confusing for consumers as they try to watch their favorite club, league or tournament. It will undoubtedly also get more expensive to be a soccer fan in the United States due to these changes.
This spring, ESPN Plus will launch with a $4.99/month price point. The service will include all MLS matches not on national television in the US. It is also likely to include USL, EFL Championship, League 1 and League 2 as well as the League Cup. While MLS broadcasts not offered nationally have always been on a pay platform, the other properties mentioned have been generally more accessible with a cable subscription or even simply by having a computer with internet access.
At the start of the new European season in August 2018, Turner Sports is expected to launch a new pay streaming service which will exclusively air close to 80% of matches from UEFA club competitions. When you factor in the costs of already existing services such as FOX Soccer Match Pass and the extra tier of cable that needs to be purchased to gain access to beIN SPORTS, the costs of being a soccer fan are growing rapidly. In addition, as of now, NBC Sports is expected to continue offering Premier League matches not broadcast on one of its networks via its pay NBC Sports Gold package.
As cable subscriptions drop and cord-cutting becomes more of the norm, especially since soccer fans in the US tend to fit the millennial demographic, more and more soccer matches are likely to be offered on internet-based, pay platforms.
Non-Liga MX and “Big Six” Premier League club football remains a niche in terms of the US sports market. But it’s a powerful niche with fans largely so passionate about the leagues and clubs they follow that they are willing to go to great lengths to watch matches and bumper programming legally even, as we have seen at an additional cost.
Looking over the horizon it is entirely possible the low ratings non-US Women’s and Men’s National Team soccer programming gets on FS1 and FS2 will lead to the network dropping Bundesliga coverage outright and eventually after 2022 placing more MLS games on its online platform exclusively. The sale of FOX’s regional sports channels to Disney also limits the need to have broadcasts of soccer programming. For the last several years, Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League reruns have often been used to fill dead air on these networks.