If you’re used to watching Premier League matches on-demand via the NBC Sports App, that option will no longer be available beginning with the 2019/20 season according to a NBC Sports spokesperson.
World Soccer Talk has learned that full match replays will only be available online to NBC Sports Gold subscribers, thus forcing NBCSN subscribers to pay an additional $64.99 per season for the right to access games on-demand digitally that were available last season at no extra cost. This is coupled with the change that full-match replays will only be available after 9PM ET on matchdays to NBC Sports Gold Premier League Pass subscribers.
The latest development follows last week’s announcement that NBC Sports has added more restrictions to the way that soccer fans legally stream games from the Premier League in the United States.
The newly-created Premier League MatchDay Pass tier only makes games available live and not on-demand. And the aforementioned Premier League Pass tier forces soccer fans to wait anywhere from 6.5 to 11.5 hours after games end to watch them online, thus making the replays practically useless by that time of the day.
In essence, NBC Sports has created a Frankenstein monster of a streaming service, cobbling together more content from its partnership with Sky Sports as well as significantly restricting what soccer fans can and cannot watch, and at what time of the day.
The retooled NBC Sports Gold could have been so much more.
For TV subscribers to NBCSN, the changes will mean that consumers will need to DVR more games for viewing later if they can’t watch them live. For cord cutters opting not to get NBC Sports Gold, the changes may mean consumers will watch less Premier League matches than they did in the past, which isn’t a good look for NBC Sports or the Premier League.
How can NBC fix NBC Sports Gold?
Analysis by Christopher Harris, Soccer media analyst
Before we analyze how NBC Sports could turn NBC Sports Gold into the Netflix for Premier League viewers in the United States, we first have to briefly discuss how we got here.
Since 2013 when NBC Sports launched their coverage of the Premier League, the broadcaster received critical praise from both the media and fans for the way they made all 380 Premier League games through the NBC Sports Live Extra app, which was available at no extra cost for NBCSN subscribers.
After changing the name of the service to the NBC Sports App in 2016, it wasn’t until 2017 that NBC launched the Premier League Pass service via NBC Sports Gold. But by not making all of the games available to soccer fans, the launch of NBC Sports Gold was a giant step backwards for NBC. The service provided less access to Premier League matches than the old NBC Sports Live Extra. And NBC Sports were charging customers more.
But the issue at the heart of NBC Sports Gold has never been about price. It’s been accessibility.
The two biggest issues with NBC Sports Gold are (1) it asks current cable/satellite subscribers to pay more for content they were getting for free before, and (2) it doesn’t offer cord cutters a service that includes all of the games live and on-demand. By doing so, it infuriates both target audiences with a product that satisfies very few people.
Price isn’t the issue. In fact, a lot of soccer fans in the United States would be willing to pay more money to access all of the Premier League games live and on-demand. For example, soccer fans in Canada will be paying fifteen U.S. dollars a month to access every Premier League game via DAZN’s streaming service, which would be a dream-come-true for cord cutters in the United States if a similar product was available here.
The crux of the issue for NBC Sports is that they don’t want to offer a product that is going to undermine the number one reason they’re in business — television.
But the fact of the matter is that consumers in the United States are cancelling their cable and satellite TV subscriptions in record numbers.
NBC is stubbornly trying to force consumers to stick with their TV subscriptions while trying to generate supplemental revenue from the NBC Sports Gold product.
A more enterprising company would offer NBC Sports Gold as a standalone product that includes every Premier League game live and on-demand. And to then continue broadcasting matches on television to the consumers who prefer to watch their games that way.
At the end of the day, NBC Sports needs to try to recoup the almost $1 billion it spent on renewing the Premier League rights for the six years from 2016 through 2022. Personally, I have no issue with NBC Sports charging a subscription fee to access legal streams of the Premier League. My biggest bone of contention is that it doesn’t offer everything live and on-demand.
By launching the heavily-restricted version of Premier League Pass for the 2019/20 season, the service is more likely to encourage soccer fans to watch games illegally because consumers feel it’s reciprocity for cheating them out of something that used to be free.
Vice-versa, if NBC Sports retooled NBC Sports Gold to offer access to all Premier League games live and on-demand, it’s more likely that consumers would pay for a reliable and robust product that offers incredible quality and convenience for the money.
With NBC Sports Gold currently offered the way it is, NBC Sports finds itself caught between a rock and a hard place where they’re trying to appease their overlords (NBC Sports is owned by Comcast) while attempting to be seen as a digital destination for sports (NBC Sports has never publicized how many subscribers their Premier League Pass service has, so we can only assume it’s not a remarkable number).
No doubt, the latest changes to NBC Sports Gold will anger the diehard soccer fans more than ever before. The big question is what the reaction will be among the mainstream who watch the Premier League.