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ESPN+ is another smack in the face for soccer fans

ESPN recently revealed what will be included as part of their April 12 launch of ESPN+ and there is cause to be concern

Among the highlights: the price of $49.99 per year, out-of-market MLS broadcasts, UEFA Nations League, the Championship, the EFL Cup and a World Cup show called The Last Train to Russia that will be exclusive to the OTT (over-the-top) service.

As great as this product seems, it reminds me of another $50 service launched in 2017.

Every Premier League match was available for free using your cable provider authentication in the NBC Sports App as of 2016. This included the incredibly entertaining Goal Rush broadcast. A year later, NBCSN decided to make this service worth $50 per season on top of your regular cable subscription.

With NBC Sports Gold, NBCSN pushed their broadcasts further into the Internet abyss, making less popular Premier League clubs even harder to find than before. This was long before the US Men’s National Team failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

Instead of making NBC Sports Gold’s Premier League Pass a service that included all games, it ended up being an in-between solution that no one asked for or wanted. NBCSN forced its subscribers to keep their cable/satellite subscription AND pay for the new subscription to have the option to watch all 380 matches. It was a loss for both cord-cutters and cable-subscribers.

ESPN+ will not feature many major live sports broadcasts; it will only feature 1 MLB and 1 NHL game per week. And there’s no mention of ESPN’s Monday Night Football or its two weekly NBA games. In short, this service will not help you cut the cord, but rather seeks to complement the expensive cable/satellite subscription you already have.

ESPN’s new offering has the same caveats

One of the biggest developments regarding ESPN+ is that the popular daily soccer news show ESPN FC has been removed from television and will only be available via ESPN+ from April 12 moving forward.

Further proof of the US’s lack of interest in soccer can be found in bars across the country. For example, last year I went to a bar in downtown Boston (a sports town in every sense). All the TV monitors in the bar were tuned to an obscure college football game. Except for two. When I asked the bartender to tune to NBCSN to watch the Premier League match, he commiserated with a buddy, laughed at me and said, “We are not a soccer bar.”

So there I was, stuck watching Battle of the Network Stars on the two TVs closest to me.

This bar thought so little of soccer that they preferred to subject themselves to C-list celebrities playing tug-of-war rather than watching Manchester United play.

That’s how ESPN+ feels to me. Just Bleacher Report Live, it’s a service that has combined a niche sport such as lacrosse with soccer, hoping that the hardcore soccer fans will pay for it. It’s not the price of the service that’s the issue. It’s the mere condescending attitude by ESPN, Turner Sports and NBC to put soccer games on a paid-subscription platform, reminding me of the days when most soccer games were only available via pay-per-view. Have things gotten any better since those days?

Want even more proof? Last week, FOX Sports relegated the broadcast of the UEFA Champions League match between Liverpool and Manchester City to FS2. This channel is available to an estimated 58 million households compared to FS1’s 83 million homes. It’s as if FOX Sports doesn’t care about their soccer viewers.

Now by ESPN following NBC’s example, interest in soccer will undoubtedly be further diminished. For soccer fans, the impact of the USMNT’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup will be felt for even longer than it should be.

It will be interesting to follow the ratings in the United States as the World Cup plays out. But as the big broadcasting companies continue to make it significantly more difficult to access the beautiful game, how can you miss something you never had?

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48 Comments

48 Comments

  1. Annoyed MFer

    June 13, 2019 at 5:53 pm

    How the hell can you say this??? ESPN+ is the best value in soccer, hands down. $5/mo. (or for even less, $50/year). There is an ungodly amount of soccer on here. You don’t have to have any TV subscription either. MLS, Eredivisie, Copa America, English Championship, FA Cup, UEFA Nations League, UEFA Qualifiers, select Liga MX, some of the Danish and Swedish Leagues and I’m definitely forgetting some. Plus if you like boxing, MMA, baseball or small-market college football, this is also a good place.

    People will literally bitch about anything if they have to pay a penny. I’m shocked. I thought for once soccer fans agreed on something. Shame on me for being so foolish. This is a ridiculous article.

  2. fsquid

    May 1, 2018 at 3:07 pm

    I was pissed off when I couldnt’ watch the Rugby sevens this past weekend. Been free on WatchESPN for 2 years with a cable subscription.

  3. SFSpur

    May 1, 2018 at 3:00 am

    BS taking ESPN FC and making it paid content. It’s a news show, it generates interest in the game and the game broadcasts. I looked forward to the show every evening (recorded it during the day). I resent and will not pay $50 a year to watch a news broadcast when I’m already subscribed to and paying for ESPN cable. BS move, will kill ESPN FC, and neuter their best promotional broadcast for European football. Used to seeing ESPN FC up on TVs in restaurants and bars with regularity at 3pm PST every day, basically a half hour commercial for upcoming games. Now invisible. Really enjoyed the show, but I will not be nickel and dimed for every show possible when I’m already paying for ESPNs broadcasts. Typical bait and switch, provide access to content for a year or two in a comprehensive “package” and then start pulling it to pieces and making customers gradually pay much more for those pieces. And then have the temerity to try to spin this into PR talking points about “improved product” and “ESPNs excitement” and such. Sure they’re excited, excited about skinning their customers for more lucre. Disgusting. ESPN you’ve lost my eyeballs, they’ll be over at BEin Sports. You’re now a necessary evil for CL that, by the way, I’m already paying for.

  4. NL

    April 20, 2018 at 2:09 am

    It was a rude shock to me to have ESPN FC just disappear from TV one day without warning. It was actually the TV show I looked forward to the most every day. But am I going to pay $50 a year beyond my already large monthly cable bill to see it? Heck, no! Same for NBC’s stupid gold pass which requires people to pay yet another $50 a year to watch the mostly lesser Premier League matches. Not going to do it. If it’s not covered by my cable, I’ll just do without it. I’ll miss you Dan, Shaka, Craig, Ali, Stevie, and Gabe, it was nice knowing you!

  5. Brendan

    April 14, 2018 at 9:26 am

    I signed up for now for now .watched the Aston Villa v Leeds game yesterday & both ESPNFC programmes that we’re on . So no problem so far . Will give it a try until the 11th of May and then decide if I want to keep it .

  6. NaBUru38

    April 13, 2018 at 4:57 pm

    ESPN+ should be available to ESPN / ESPN2 subscribers at no extra cost.

  7. Anthony

    April 13, 2018 at 8:31 am

    I signed up. $5 a month through iTunes, less than Netflix or Hulu.

  8. Miguel de la Piedra

    April 13, 2018 at 2:47 am

    I’ve had it with ESPN — screw them! I’ve been watching soccer since before ESPN was even a backwater cable channel covering little more than Australian Rules Football. They have a long history of treating soccer like crap. I thought that with ESPN FC there was finally a turnaround, but it looks like it’s nothing more than another slap in the face of soccer fans. I am not going to pay them a cent to watch anything on my computer or on TV. It’s like the ghost of infamous soccer hater Frank Deford has come back from the grave to continue his negative influence on soccer in the US in print and on TV,

  9. dave seaman

    April 12, 2018 at 3:19 pm

    from ben and brian comments they sure look and smell like disney shills!

    i watched espn3 maybe 5 times over the last year. i’m already paying for ESPN so why is disney getting so greedy. this subscription should be my ‘in’ to espn3 or espn+.

    but it does appear disney tries to react quickly. their crap coverage of the Australian GP was rectified in bahrain w/ a clearly reduced amount of commercials.

    as long as disney stays away from the likes of holden/strong of Fox I’ll continue to support them. how Fox used these fools for CL astounds me every day. grew up watching WC in spanish, not understanding a work and not knowing any players. now i know the game/players it is galling to mute a b/cast because the announcers don’t have a clue.

  10. wolvesup

    April 12, 2018 at 1:02 pm

    first month free streaming on ESPN+. That gets you through the EFL season…I plan to cancel after the free one.

    • Christopher Harris

      April 12, 2018 at 1:10 pm

      If you’re a Wolves fan, you should be OK. But for fans of the other clubs, the Championship Playoff Final isn’t until May 26 so there’s still a lot of soccer to be played (which won’t be included in the initial 30-day free trial of ESPN+). The 30-day trial can only be started from April 12-18. After that it’s a 7-day free trial.

  11. Alex

    April 12, 2018 at 12:35 pm

    Not a problem for me I am not breaking any sweat over these greedy networks..
    I never paid for nbc gold and I will never pay for espn +
    plenty of live streaming on line to watch any game.
    Bada bing bada boom

  12. Adam

    April 12, 2018 at 12:31 am

    I think the real issue is that after April 12, there will be no daily soccer show that is part of an affordable cable/dish package. Rights holders should want to grow their sports properties. I get paying for games. That said, why do these networks continue to put the shows that could encourage me to watch what’s behind a paywall, behind a paywall? Maybe I’ll just upgrade my package to get BeIn, although I think their highlight show will just encourage me to watch more BeIn. NBCSN is really missing the boat here I think. They drew over a million vierwers and set a record Saturday for the Manchester Derby with almost no build up. What would have happened if they’d actually had narrative building all week on their sports network?

  13. Click Difford

    April 11, 2018 at 3:16 pm

    Looks like I’ll have to rely on the Spanish networks like Univision, Telemundo & ESPN Deportes for my soccer.

  14. Jim

    April 11, 2018 at 2:43 pm

    I can;t believe people still write articles whining about how new services don’t make cutting the cord easier. lmao. Perhaps that is not the point?

  15. Brian

    April 11, 2018 at 9:38 am

    I honestly think it’s a great value for $5. Pivoting towards streaming is where this industry is going, so I don’t understand the complaining. Networks pay for rights, so it’s not like they can just give us all free games forever. I will happily trade the price of one coffee or beer for MLS, the Championship, ESPNFC, Nations League, probably UEFA and AFC qualifiers down the road, not to mention the other content. And this is coming from someone who usually hates on ESPN.

  16. Ben

    April 10, 2018 at 9:34 pm

    Its $5 dollars a month or $50 for the year… I’m in!

  17. Bill

    April 10, 2018 at 6:24 pm

    My son is 23, graduating from UMASS in a few weeks. He goes to the dining hall to eat breakfast on the weekends and all the tv’s are on the MSNBC for the premier league. I dont know who the guy doing the story is but is silly to say “oh I just walked into a bar and they werent showing soccer… lol dumb.
    We live in a great time. I’m 56 yrs old. I grew up with 4 TV channels and 1 newspaper. Now we have 100s of options? ways? to watch whatever you like … I have sling and the NBCSN match pass. I can watch and connect with my son (soccer geek) very well. My son is a life long Liverpool guy and I walked into my apt in durham NC after work and watched the last half of todays champions league matches. He watched it on his laptop at college via sling… Its a great media world we live in,

  18. Fletcher

    April 10, 2018 at 5:18 pm

    Being an Aston Villa supporter…having ESPN3 to watch our televised matches while in the Championship has been wonderful…now they want us to pay for it? We get 5-10 matches maximum shown on here…I’m not going to pay $10 a match to watch Villa vs. Leeds on a Friday. Complete joke. Hopefully Villa get promoted, but even so, another $50 charge will be waiting for me with NBC Gold. Back in the old days (2015) it was free to watch your club online….sorry we all aren’t United/Chelsea/Liverpool supporters ?

    • Tim H

      April 10, 2018 at 5:26 pm

      It’s bad enough this is happening. But I can’t figure out how they’re getting away with doing it while the season is still happening. The playoffs are the most important part of the season. I paid for espn this year to specifically get that, and now it’s not on there?? Wtf. If you want to fleece fans, at least do it at the start of a new season.

  19. Henry Reichman

    April 10, 2018 at 3:59 pm

    So, what’s the deal with the Nations League? I thought that ESPN was going to cover it as they did the Euros, where they put most games on the main channel. I didn’t know it would be mostly streaming…

  20. MAHLUF

    April 10, 2018 at 3:38 pm

    Why do soccer fans in this country consider themselves to be “holier than thou’ and think they should get special treatment?

    The soccer audience in this country isn’t that big. PERIOD. It is actually minuscule compared to other sports viewing figures.

    It’s also a sport that is hard to sell to advertisers as it has no natural commercial breaks during the run of play.

    Once you accept these two BIG points, you can start to understand why you are seeing these changes to how the sport is being broadcast.

    It’s truly hilarious to watch so many people get bent out of shape because they think these TV executives are making decisions to intentionally hurt the feelings of soccer fans in this country. Get a grip. It’s a business and the people in charge are going to make their decisions based on business. Not your hurt feelings.

  21. Azer

    April 10, 2018 at 3:14 pm

    What is going to happen to the World Cup/ Euro qualifiers & the German Cup? It all used to be free of charge on ESPN3 as long as you have internet access.
    ESPN FC is a great show but it’s on the air when millions of people are working or sitting in traffic and it’s only 30 minutes, why? It’s not available on Saturdays and Sundays it’s around midnight.
    ESPN FC has good analyses of games but their highlights are very short. Lets bring back a show like Fox Soccer Report, remember Jeremy St. Louis, Terry Leigh with Bobby McMahon in the studio. Great memories.

  22. Anthony

    April 10, 2018 at 2:19 pm

    Actually, after looking at this press release, I’m pretty certain that ESPN+ is the only one of these services I will buy:

    https://espnmediazone.com/us/press-releases/2018/04/espn-to-launch-april-12-bringing-sports-fans-more-live-sports-exclusive-originals-and-on-demand-library-all-for-4-99-per-month/

    Properties I am interested in include MLB, MLS, grand slam tennis, and various college leagues. If they add English Championship, League Cup and I guess FA Cup, to me this is a much better buy than NBC Sports Gold or Bleacher Report.

  23. Mark S

    April 10, 2018 at 2:11 pm

    AJ-When did you start watching soccer/football in the US? I remember my first experience/exposure to watching soccer in the US was watching France 98 on ABC. I was hooked, and I couldn’t get enough. Unfortunately, my options to follow the game were limited. We didn’t have cable TV, and even if we did there usually wasn’t any soccer to be found on TV. I remember becoming an Arsenal fan while watching them play in the UEFA Cup in 2000. It was 10pm at night, and their match was being shown on delay on Fox Sports World. I would check the TV guide religiously each week to see when they might be on. I’m pretty sure my parents still have a VHS tape of Arsenal-Lazio in the Champions League at their house. Those were the dark ages….this is just business.

    Do I agree with what the broadcast companies are doing? No, I do not…however I get that at the end of the day they’re running a business, and if I want to part with $100 a year for both the Prem and The Championship I’m going to do it. The future of the game is still bright in the US, it’s just going to cost you a little more to view it.

    • L. Josserand

      April 10, 2018 at 11:20 pm

      I had exactly the same entry point into a love of soccer! I also watched the World Cup 1998 matches, held in France, and won by France with their 3-0 upset of Brazil in the final, and with Zinedine Zidane scoring the first 2 goals for France in the final with a pair of powerful headers on 1st half set-pieces.
      I’ve read that afterwards the national legislature in Brazil held hearings on why the favorites, Brazil, had lost in the final. One legislator demanded to know who was marking Zidane on those 2 goals 😉
      Like France, England also won their one and only World Cup when they hosted the competition for World Cup 1966 (before my time).

  24. Anthony

    April 10, 2018 at 2:00 pm

    A few things

    1) You can’t go to a random bar to watch soccer – you need to know which ones to go to. Obviously, college football is more popular than soccer in the US in general – that will always be the case.

    2) ESPNFC moving to ESPN+ is bad – i listen to the ESPN FC podcast and enjoy it, but I fear they will put less money into it going forward.

    3) That said, I may end up buying ESPN+ – in addition to some of the soccer properties, there are a few other sports I am interested in.

    3) ESPN and Fox need to realize what they have going with MLS – Atlanta FC, Zlatan, etc. Clearly, local fans like the product. They could do more to promote the product with consistent viewing periods, etc.

    4) Unfortunately, with no real world cup for 8 years (Qatar doesn’t count), the US casual soccer fan may be lost for a decade. However Premier League, Barcelona, Real Madrid will always have an audience for young people and more attentive fans in the US.

    • L. Josserand

      April 10, 2018 at 11:01 pm

      I would suggest that going to a “random bar” in any big US city is a not exactly a wise choice for most people. It’s never been easier to check things out in advance, or to see what others who have recently been to the bar in question think about it, etc. So unless you value spontaneous forays into the unknown above all else, and have an unlimited tolerance for just about anything, this random bar idea is probably not for you, and is almost guaranteed NOT to result in seeing the soccer match of your choice on a bar TV.

  25. David

    April 10, 2018 at 1:02 pm

    I disagree how your experience in one bar in Boston equates to the lack of interest in soccer in this country. There are a ton of sports bars in Boston that are showing soccer matches. You should have gone to the place such as the Banshee. That’s one of many bars in Boston which caters to soccer fans. Bars across the country show live soccer matches so your generalization that people in this country aren’t interested in soccer over one bar not showing a game live is false.

  26. Daniel

    April 10, 2018 at 12:46 pm

    Its all just sad.

  27. Rick

    April 10, 2018 at 12:13 pm

    Terrible decision. There are no daily soccer highlight shows on TV like the old 1 hour daily Fox Soccer Report. At least soccer fans got to see the daily highlights. ESPN FC at least showed the main highlights.
    Networks are all about greed and the average fan is paying more and more.
    The only solution is a 24 hour soccer channel that shows daily games, highlights. Chances of that happening are slim.
    Soccer continues to grow in the US but sports media continues to ignore.

    • Christopher Harris

      April 10, 2018 at 12:56 pm

      beIN SPORTS has their nightly Xtra show which has highlights, fyi.

      • Rick

        April 10, 2018 at 1:27 pm

        BeIn Sports is usually offered as a premium channel on most packages. ESPN comes with the standard basic package.
        This decision by ESPN is bad news for all soccer fans.
        ESPN should understand that soccer is the world’s most popular sport and give it the respect it deserves.

      • Tayo

        April 10, 2018 at 2:04 pm

        To be honest, ESPNFC is miles better than Xtra. The pundits in the studio and the guests like Gab Marcotti, Sid Lowe etc help make the show fun to watch.

      • Paul

        January 26, 2019 at 7:37 am

        Getting bein is another $10 a month on Spectrum. This is ridiculous that base cable is $118/month then add bein and others and now espn + extra $5/month for poor quality stream service. At least offer it on one of there 8 overflow channels nobody watches or instead of running rebroadcasts of 14 hours old tennis. Espn sucks

    • David

      April 10, 2018 at 1:04 pm

      Completely agree. I watch ESPN FC every day. Pretty stupid ESPN is pulling that from TV. Guess I’ll be watching the Extra on BeIn Sports from now on.

  28. Alex

    April 10, 2018 at 10:37 am

    It’s definitely a bummer for someone like me who just started getting into watching soccer in the past year. While I enjoy watching the games, I’m just not enough of a hardcore fan to commit extra money on top of what I’m already paying for my DirecTV subscription. And while I can understand why they would want to put actual matches on a subscription service, why on earth would you take the HIGHLIGHT SHOW off the air and make people pay for it? It’s one thing to make me pay for the games, but there’s no way I’m paying for highlights and commentary. Very disappointing.

    • SilverRey

      April 10, 2018 at 3:00 pm

      This is probably the biggest loss. We need more soccer programs on the ESPN & 2, not less. The only way to grow the casual fan base is by exposure. It’s like trying to grow the fanbase with targeted ads – you’re aiming at the wrong group.

      My fear is that streaming is going to become an issue. I’ve had problems using ESPN’s streaming services since day 1. Whether it’s waiting for minutes on end for the stream to actually come up, or inabilities to get sign in to work properly, there have been problems. I’m hoping that ESPN+ will fix this, but I didn’t have problems with MLSLive.

    • Brian

      April 14, 2018 at 12:59 am

      I’m in the same boat. I’ve been getting into the game, watching various matches across NBC, FOX, and ESPN. I was disappointed to open up my app to find the Championship League matches are relegated (no pun intended) to the new service. At this point, I watch soccer casually but I find it’s at a knife’s edge how easy/difficult I can follow the sport to really get into it (meanwhile, I’ve been able to get back into basketball after a decade away pretty easily over the past two years because the games are available).

  29. Adam Guillette

    April 10, 2018 at 10:20 am

    This service replaces MLS Live but costs less money than MLS Live. Plus it includes USL games, the Nations League, the Championship, and the EFL Cup. All in all, this is a better deal. (Particularly for those of us who already paid for MLS Live in previous seasons)

    • Mccort912

      April 10, 2018 at 11:36 am

      That is true but most people did not subscribe to MLS live and all this other stuff was included in their pay tv subscription or in many cases just a ISP subscription, as the overflow UEFA matches were on ESPN3.

  30. Richard Drayton

    April 10, 2018 at 10:17 am

    Nobody in their right mind would subscribe to ESPN + for $20 much less $50. Like NBC Gold which over the last six months has had one game (Tottenham vs Stoke to move up over Liverpool after their earlier tie with Everton) that I wanted to see. The UEFA has made a big mistake that is going to cost them money. NBC does a decent job Saturday and Sunday morning with the Premier League, but the only way to really watch great soccer all over the world live is with futbo streaming tv for $40. Premier League, Spanish, Italian, German, UEFA, FA Cup, and friendlies are all available, but they do not have ABC which is no loss or ESPN which without UEFA is not relevant. Too bad, but I guess I will miss the UEFA games when ESPN takes over.

    • T Thompson

      April 10, 2018 at 11:40 am

      Who are you to decide that people aren’t in their right mind to pay for a service, if I want to pay $100 a month to listen to Craig Burley that’s my business, I could say you’re just broke or a cheapskate. Also UEFA has 0 to do with the decision, just like the premier league has 0 to do with NBC gold and and UEFA also has 0 to do with Bleacher Report live, learn how rights work.

      • Paul

        January 26, 2019 at 7:30 am

        I have an issue with espn + only being streamed. The broadband service in NY isn’t sufficient enough to always see the games in HD. Furthermore I just find it frustrating the nickel and diming by all the networks there is so much sponsorship and advertising during games and now we to pay more.
        It’s jyst pushing people away, in some instances out of principle as much as fiscally.

    • Jason Gatties

      April 12, 2018 at 6:28 am

      I subscribed. Some of us love other sports as well, l8ve rugby. Their Rugby coverage has expanded and ESPN+ will be well worth it, especially when you include MLS.

  31. Paul Scanling

    April 10, 2018 at 10:10 am

    This will be disastrous. Nobody in their right mind pays for this service unless they want to watch every MLS game. What other sports are available exclusively on this service?

    I get why Fox puts games on FS2. They are trying to promote subscriptions to packages including that channel and raise tv ratings for that channel. It makes sense to them. I get both in my Sling package, so I’m fine with it.

    I don’t think this will diminish interest in soccer. It makes MLS less accessible. That won’t have much effect on overall interest in the sport.

    My question is: what about World Cup qualifiers, Euro qualifiers, friendlies, etc that ESPN has the rights to broadcast? Will we be able to watch our choice of matches in the next qualifying rounds?

    Also, I have Sling. What effect will this have on my access to ESPN programming that I pay for?

    • Jim

      April 11, 2018 at 2:37 pm

      At $30 cheaper than MLS Live, this would make MLS more accessible, no?

    • Jason Gatties

      April 12, 2018 at 6:26 am

      ESPN+ will have plenty of live, exclusive rugby, including the inaugural Major League Rugby season, which launches in a few days.

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