With the exciting news that the English Football League (EFL) is launching an exclusive streaming platform for the 2017/18 season onwards, soccer fans around the world will finally be able to watch all of their home and away games via an Internet subscription service.
World Soccer Talk spoke to EFL Marketing Director Drew Barrand to get the inside information on all of the important questions that you have.
Q: What is iFollow?
A: Beginning with the 2017/18 season, soccer fans of English Football League clubs in the United States will be able to watch every single game of their favorite club online via the streaming platform named iFollow.
It’s a brand new service that will be available via the club websites for 61 of the 72 Football League sides.
If you’re familiar with the PlayerHD platform that official club websites offered in the past with audio commentaries, this is a completely new product that will replace PlayerHD and offer the streaming of home and away games.
Q: What is the EFL and which clubs are part of it?
A: The EFL is the new name for the English Football League. The clubs that play in the EFL are the 72 teams from England’s Championship, League One and League Two. At the end of every Premier League season, three clubs are relegated from the EPL to the Championship. Those three clubs then become members of the EFL.
Q: What’s so unique about iFollow?
A: For soccer fans who have been unable to watch any games of their favorite Football League club, this is a dream come true. In previous seasons, the best that supporters of Football League clubs could hope for was either a deep FA Cup or League Cup run where they team might be shown on television, a few games a season on TV if they played in the Championship, or the slim chance of seeing their team in the Premier League where every match was available.
Q: In what countries is iFollow available?
A: iFollow is available as a streaming platform in every country outside the United Kingdom. For those living in the UK, an iFollow audio commentary subscription is available (but without streaming video).
Q: How do I sign up?
A: By mid-June, the vast majority of Football League clubs will launch iFollow in time for the new season and will begin accepting subscriptions.
There won’t be a central iFollow site. You’ll need to go to your official EFL (English Football League) club website to sign up for iFollow.
Q: What will the streaming service be called on the club website?
A: iFollow will be branded with the club name. So, for example, if you support Wolverhampton Wanderers, the streaming platform will be named iFollow Wolves. Vice-versa, if you’re a Cardiff supporter, it’s iFollow Cardiff, and so on and so forth.
Q: Are all of the games offered? Are there any exceptions?
A: All of the home and away matches will be available from the clubs that are participating in iFollow. The only exception is if the game is shown on US television, then the game on iFollow will be blacked out.
Q: Which clubs have chosen to not offer iFollow to their supporters around the world?
A: Accrington Stanley, Aston Villa, Bristol City, Derby County, Leeds United, Queens Park Rangers and five other Football League clubs.
Note, however, that for the 11 clubs that haven’t signed up for iFollow, they can still live stream the same games as the other 61 EFL clubs. The only difference is the 11 clubs will do it through their own digital infrastructure and brand rather than iFollow.
All 72 EFL clubs have the ability to live stream games overseas regardless of whether they are in iFollow or not.
Q: What’s the price for iFollow?
A: iFollow is priced at £110 per season, which is the equivalent of $142 as of writing.
Q: What’s included in the iFollow subscription?
A: Subscribers will have exclusive access to all home and away league matches (except for the few that are featured on US TV). Matches will be available both live and on-demand.
That’s 46 matches per season, but the clubs can provide more if they choose to. For example, it’s up to the clubs themselves whether or not they would like to include preseason friendlies in the subscription.
Q: Will pricing be available per month or per match?
A: It’s possible that it may be added in the future, but when the service launches this summer, it’ll be priced on a per-season basis.
Q: When is iFollow scheduled to launch?
A: The plan is to launch iFollow by mid-June 2017.
Q: Will iFollow subscribers be able to access all of the EFL games being shown live, even for clubs they don’t support?
A: No. Subscribers will only be able to watch live and on-demand streams of the subscriptions that they subscribe to. So, for example, if you subscribe to iFollow Millwall, you’ll get to see all of the home and away matches of Millwall FC.
Q: Which TV network will be broadcasting the Championship games in the United States for the 2017/18 season onwards?
A: As of press time, a decision hasn’t been made. beIN SPORTS currently has the rights to the Championship and League One games in the United States, but that TV rights agreement is scheduled to end at the close of the 2016/17 season.
Q: In addition to watching games via the web, will there be any apps available so football supporters can watch games via smartphones, Roku, AppleTV, Amazon Fire and Chromecast?
A: The iFollow platform is optimized for web, mobile and tablet browsers. There are plans to release an app at a future date. But an app for the Roku, Apple TV and Amazon Fire won’t be ready in the foreseeable future.
With Chromecast, even if it’s not enabled on the iFollow web, mobile and tablet browser experience, Chromecast users can ‘cast’ the streams to their TV set using the built-in feature in Google Chrome.
Q: Will there be any free trials available so that supporters can test out the service for 24 hours before committing to subscribing?
A: Not at this time, but there may be a trial offered in the future.
Q: What type of production quality can subscribers expect from iFollow?
A: Every iFollow service will have a minimum of a single camera. Each club can choose to enhance the streaming production with more cameras and audio commentary, if they choose.
Q: For the clubs that are relegated from the Premier League at the end of each season, will those clubs be able to sign up to iFollow by the beginning of the next Championship season so supporters can watch those clubs?
A: All of the clubs relegated from the Premier League to the Championship will have the opportunity to sign up for the iFollow service to offer the streaming platform to their club supporters.
Q: How important is the US market to the EFL’s decision in creating the iFollow platform?
A: Findings suggest over 55% of the EFL’s fans are located in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand where the potential audience for the iFollow platform could reach into the hundreds of thousands.
According to EFL Marketing Director Drew Barrand, the United States is the leading market that features the most fans of EFL clubs worldwide outside the UK.
Q: Is there anything else important to know?
A: As part of the EFL launching the iFollow streaming service, all of the official club websites for the 72 EFL teams will be redesigned and relaunched this summer with an improved design and usability.
When iFollow launches in mid-June, the EFL will continue to make enhancements to the streaming service. The league is always looking to enhance it, said Barrand.