UPDATE: beIN SPORTS has decided to move the Chile-Argentina game (and all other games originally scheduled for pay-per-view) to beIN SPORTS and beIN SPORTS en Espanol. More details here.
In what can only be seen as a step backwards in the evolution of soccer broadcasting in the United States, beIN SPORTS will be offering some of the top CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifying matchups live only on a pay-per-view basis.
The new approach starts with the 5th Round of qualifiers, which kick off this Thursday, March 24 with the top match between Chile and Argentina.
The news gets much worse for Round 6 when 3 of the 5 scheduled matches will no longer be available live on either of the beIN SPORTS TV networks but rather on pay-per-view only.
This is in sharp contrast to beIN SPORTS’s earlier coverage, which featured all the matches from CONMEBOL live on its networks (with occasional streaming coverage in cases of kickoff time overlap). It also seems to fly in the face of their own press release of October 5, 2015 where they stated, “All matches will be available across beIN SPORTS’ multiple platforms including TV channels beIN SPORTS and beIN SPORTS en Español and live streaming on beIN SPORTS CONNECT.” Technically, the pay-per-view matches will be available on the network on a 48-hour delay basis, but its hard to see how fans will not see this as a poor decision by the network.
So what has led to this change in policy? After 3.5 years in the US market, beIN SPORTS is still struggling to get TV providers to add their channels to their lineups. This is especially true of the English language network, which is currently found in approximately 25 million homes (compared to ESPN at 90 million and FOX Sports 1 at 84 million). One may assume that beIN SPORTS have calculated that they will generate more revenue by offering certain matches on pay-per-view than they would generate via advertising during the matches. But is this revenue really worth leaving the fans feeling slighted by the network?
A network that’s only in its fourth year of existence in the US should surely still be in the phase of building fan loyalty. I can understand the frustration of dealing with TV providers not willing to give your network a fair chance, but that certainly won’t be the view of fans who will wonder next week why the marquee match of the rounds will not be available live to them without dipping even deeper into their pockets.
The most worrying aspect of this approach by beIN SPORTS is the precedent it may set. Specifically, are we a season or two away from seeing the bi-annual el Clasico from Spain going the pay-per-view route? How about USA’s away World Cup Qualifiers?? As a soccer fan, it’s hard to sit back and watch our sport revert back to the dark ages we lived in some 20 years ago. But perhaps we would be wrong to simply call out beIN SPORTS here for being greedy or un-caring about their fans. If the network was on more providers, I have a feeling the pay-per-view option would be off the table.
We as fans need to call on the providers who continue to refuse to add beIN SPORTS to their lineup. Pressure from customers – as frustrating as it can be to make these calls – do work in the long run. It’s extremely necessary now as these latest moves by beIN SPORTS indicate that their patience with the US market may be shorter than we thought.
Matches on PPV for the next 2 rounds of CONMEBOL qualifying:
Round 5 –
Chile vs Argentina
Round 6 –
Uruguay vs Peru
Venezuela vs Chile
Paraguay vs Brazil
Edward Perovic is the publisher of soccertvblog.com – a source for schedules and US TV information for major European Leagues and International competitions.
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