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International Break Is Over; Give Newcastle A Chance

In the NEW episode, number 239, Christopher Harris is joined by co-host Kartik Krishnaiyer to cover a range of topics including:

• The rollercoaster ride of supporting the USMNT
• ESPN versus CBS’s coverage of the US Men’s Team
• The differences in TV coverage of US Soccer
• Our thoughts on the Newcastle United takeover
• How DAZN’s coverage of the UEFA Women’s Champions League is going so far
• This weekend’s recommended games to watch: Brentford against Chelsea, and Juventus versus AS Roma
• How much are we willing to pay for ESPN Plus?
• How the World Cup TV programming will be impacted for the 2022 World Cup being played in the winter
• Soccer burnout and how it hurts the popularity of Major League Soccer
• And your questions and feedback in the Listener Mailbag section.

Listen to the show via the player above or via this link.

Launched in 2006, the World Soccer Talk Podcast is the longest running podcast on the planet. Every week, we share the latest news about watching soccer on television and streaming, in addition to discussing what we like and dislike, and featuring your questions and feedback in our Listener Mailbag segment.

HEAR MORE: Listen to our archive featuring hundreds of soccer interviews

Send in your questions, comments and feedback via e-mail, via Twitter (@worldsoccertalk) or Facebook. We’ll read them out on-air in the next episode.

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  1. Fechin

    October 19, 2021 at 3:26 pm

    So the rights are due on November 8th and we are getting two media companies split the package, that is a bad idea

  2. Roberto

    October 18, 2021 at 1:47 pm

    A permanent top six is the plan. It works most of the time as long as the big earners actually try to earn their money on the pitch. For Man. U. and Arsenal, the big money is a form of welfare for rich footballers. Not sure if taking money from billionaires is truly bad but it does cheat the teams supporters.

  3. disco george

    October 18, 2021 at 10:36 am

    A few things that struck me while listening to the pod:

    First, I just don’t really get that pressed about commentators. I like the quieter style personally — some of the best commentary I can remember was Jon Champion and Craig Burley on a random ESPN game right after Champion moved over full-time. I remember they would just go silent for long periods of time (in reality, it was probably like a minute lol) and let the match happen. Sometimes I feel like commentators are either shouting over the crowd noise or just trying too hard in general, but I just don’t get that irritated about individual commentators as some people do. Maybe because I’m seldom just sitting in front of the tv watching and I’m usually on my bike or working or doing something else at the same time, idk.

    Next, Seb Salazar said on Football Americas that the ESPN set in Columbus was right next to the American Outlaws section, which is why it was so loud. Not sure if that was intentional, or if it was just the luck of the stadium layout, but it seemed to backfire either way. He also mentioned that the atmosphere in Columbus was exceptionally well-organized and they kept things going without the lulls that he’d seen in other cities.

    Finally, a semi-rhetorical question: Is the Premier League becoming an unofficially closed league in a weird way? As more clubs slowly get acquired by massive investors, will the money essentially insulate them against relegation and leave just a very few to hash it out every season?

  4. Ra

    October 15, 2021 at 9:37 pm

    @Mercator In broad terms, I agree with you. However, I disagree in a major point. The last thing I would like to see in soccer are ‘dream-teams’, NBA style. Next thing you know, they will call the winners of the league world champions. I really enjoy diversity in soccer…such different styles, techniques and approaches. A very dominant league would actually reduce technical and tactical innovation and talent. (Klopp, Tucker, Guardiola all came from other leagues, as is the case with most players). The global talent pool would be reduced.

    But I really like your advice “And I’ll say again, if there is a problem, don’t watch.” That is exactly what I am and will do.

  5. Mercator

    October 15, 2021 at 9:17 pm

    And to be clear this is not really about the Saudis for me. Without getting overly political, I would not have a problem with a ban on Saudi investment in most UK or US industries. But this is not the case, these are not the current laws, and it’s absurd to expect a bunch of football fans to take the moral high road and reject money that would transform their club, when the British government and British society broadly have not done the same. You are asking too much of football fans by putting this on them. You are asking too much of local communities to make them choose between then local club and global political issues. This is the role of government and society at large. The leagues, clubs and fans should respect that and respect those applicable laws, but I think it’s absolutely ridiculous to be asking a group of suffering supporters to take a strong moral stance, against their own interests, when no one else in society, from business to government, is making those same sacrifices or taking the same moral line. I’m not going to hold a bunch of Newcastle fans to account when no one else in society taking Saudi money is held to account. It’s not fair to them, it’s not fair to the club, and it’s not fair to the sport to place political decisions like this on leagues, players or fans.

  6. Mercator

    October 15, 2021 at 9:06 pm

    @Greg – I just think that’s a bit naive. If the EPL were not grabbing all the high priced talent, the two Spanish giants would (and they are NOT externally funded), or PSG would, or a Seria A team might take the Saudi money instead and do the same. Absent outside investment, Man United would be spending multiples of most EPL clubs and would run away with the league unless Liverpool or Arsenal had a good year. Even as an Arsenal fan, I prefer the current competition more. Good article in the Athletic today about Pablo Escobar playing in his self-built prison with Maradona and other stars, because he had money. Silvio Berlusconi was the financing behind the rise of Seria A in the 80s and 90s. This is not new, this is how its always been. Football is a global market, in the long term Europe is simply unable to insulate itself from these market forces. This is the nature of football. And I actually don’t think diffusion is very good. I would find it quite convenient if there were one league I could watch for all the top talent, an NBA of football. I actually don’t want it spread out over the 5 top leagues, I don’t have time to follow the approx 100 clubs in these leagues! Everyone holds up Germany as an example, Germany is one of the biggest economies on earth and absolutely football mad, they can afford a great league without foreign investment. There are maybe 5-10 countries this applies to. Stretch out your logic and ask why should talent be spread over the top 5 leagues, instead of the top 50? The Saudi league should have an opportunity to sign the next Messi just like the EPL, right? Come on.

    Football is not that different. You want it to be different, but it’s not. It’s not anymore British than Harrods, it’s not any more British than Rolls-Royce, its not anymore British than Barclays. I get this is a football website, but there are employers that are the heart of many communities. If those businesses go under or move, and the whole village is out of work. These are just as important to communities as football. There are churches, sitting on land, that are just as important to british culture and history as football. Don’t get carried away, it’s a game where men kick a ball. It’s absurd to think that of all the industries in the UK, football is the one deserving protection from Saudi investment. The Saudi’s invest in the British defence industry. the Russians “invest” in British politics. You want a special protection for football but in reality there are several more sectors much more critical to Britain and it’s communities than the football clubs. You can disagree, but the British voters VOTE on these matters, the government sets policy, and the policy does not recognise football clubs as being unique businesses, rightly so. If you are going to turn a profit you really are not that special. If these are community clubs then run them as a non-profit – again, no actual interest from the public in doing that. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. If you want to see the Pogba’s and Lukaku’s of the world playing for the local club regularly, someone needs to put in the funds to make that happen. Britain, and British football fans, have made their bed with the EPL for the last 30 years, it’s clear where they stand, what their aim is, and what model they will apply. Boggles the mind we are still having discussions like this a decade after Putin’s side kick and the Emirati government purchased clubs and injected money to take them straight to the top.

    And I’ll say again, if there is a problem, don’t watch. Yet, we both know that will not be the case, the EPL will be more popular than ever after Newcastle drops 500 million in the next few years and is pushing for Champions League. There is a good realistic discussion to be had about the role of outside financing in football, but to pretend if the Saudi’s wen’t putting in money we would have this perfectly equal, entertaining and competitive 5 leagues which everyone would love is just a fantasy.

  7. greg

    October 15, 2021 at 8:04 pm

    @mercator – Again, a big disagreement…yes, I get the EPL is what it is because of the money a few clubs have invested to hoover up talent and skew the salary market. PSG, Real & Barca are also complicit in this. Barca to the detriment of its solvency and (thanks to La Liga’s expense cap) the ability to sign & register new players.

    But imagine a world where the EPL didn’t hoover up so disproportionate a slice of talent because there were limits on the type of owners (no state actors like PIF , the Abu Dhabi group or the PSG Qataris and the rumoured emergence of a China sovereign wealth fund push) and some sort of overall team wage cap. There’d still be tons of talent in the league, but talent would be spread out more evenly within EPL. And top talent would spread out more among the top 4-5 continental leagues. The football would still be as good, the competitive balance would be better, both within leagues and across leagues in UCL.

    Personally I don’t want an EPL that hoovers up all the top talent because it has the richest owners, especially sports-washing ownership groups. I’d still enjoy it, and I’d likely enjoy Bundesliga, La LIga, Ligue 1 and Serie A all the more. And you’d maybe get more teams winning titles in those other leagues and teams like Ajax, Dortmund and other non-billionaire teams might win UCL now and then instead of the same handful we get.

    PS – No, football is different. It means more than a department store or real estate holdings. Big, big disagreement on that point.

  8. dave

    October 15, 2021 at 6:27 pm

    Some of the discussion about pricing for a full OTT ESPN (all events, including ESPN/2, available to stream at a single price) illustrates the dilemma. While Disney do not publicly break out exact data for ESPN, there is enough to back-envelope:
    * ESPN revenues are ~$10 billion per year, made up of ~$8 billion in affiliate fees (~80 million customers at ~$100 per year) and ~$2 billion in advertising
    * ESPN expenses are ~$8 billion per year, mostly long-term rights deals
    To date, ESPN has pricing power to more than offset ~5% per year declines in the cable-bundle. The podcast hints ESPN may think this pricing power will fail when the cable bundle falls under 50 million customers.
    ESPN+ is a fantastic deal with relevance to fans of most sports. I posit a large percentage of people who would consider paying for stand-alone streaming ESPN are already customers of ESPN+ (~15 million as of Q3 2021). The challenge for ESPN OTT would be to replace ~$8 billion per year of affiliate fees:
    * 30 million customers at $250/year (some in this thread, likely far bigger sports fans than most currently-non-ESPN+ subscribers, balk at a price like this)
    * 15 million customers at $500/year (5-10x the current price of ESPN+)
    * 10 million customers at $800/year (just ESPN streaming would cost double Sling Orange)
    * 5 million customers at $1600/year (just ESPN streaming would cost more than Xfinity)
    I see nothing market clearing. ESPN is a cash cow in 2021 and it will likely be a cash cow in 2025, but it may face serious challenges by 2030. Leagues could face a downstream problem.

  9. Mercator

    October 15, 2021 at 5:30 pm

    Completely agreed RA, and actually I think the German model is really the dominant one. Not literally with fan ownership etc, but the Belgian league is much the same as Germany, no one would really bother to put big money into the league and everyone supports their city/village/fathers club. It not even really all about the football, you will see guys in the terraces who say they just come out for beer and sun. People were actually not pleased when the village club was promoted, because they enjoyed things as is and promotion required the club to improve the stands (costing money the club doesn’t really have) and would bring big city people the villagers don’t really want coming to town on the weekends. I think this is the vast majority of clubs and leagues around the world.

    The EPL is playing a global game though, and has been since the EPL was formed. I think there is merit in a model that can reach beyond those narrow geographic communities to create broader communities of support for clubs and the game generally. Frankly, as someone living in America, the great community and match day experience of a club in Frankfurt does nothing for me, although it would be my preference if available. But I travel quite a bit internationally and I will say football is really the one thing you know is pan-cultural, and lately the EPL is almost pan-cultural as well. I’ve found myself lamenting Arsenal’s situation with third world sweet vendors, I’ve won business deals from fellow Arsenal fans who I didn’t otherwise know, I have a good number of friends I’ve met just drinking and watching Arsenal matches in random places. The EPL is building footballing communities, global communities, and I think that is a huge pro which is accompanied by the necessary evil of billionaires who can fund global expansion and can afford global talent.

  10. Ra

    October 15, 2021 at 4:11 pm

    Derek Rae commented on the Newcastle deal and compared that to how things are done in Bundesliga. I found it really insightful; I am happy that not everyone is following the same model (which is unsustainable in the long run, IMO):
    “1/ Thread: On the back of yesterday‘s Newcastle news, it might be helpful to explain to fans of Premier League clubs why their counterparts in Germany don’t view the football world in the same way. Why being bankrolled is not the goal & why both leagues will remain different.
    2/ I was chatting to a Köln fan recently about this. For him, Köln is life – shared community, passion. He has a say in the club‘s direction along with other fans. In his words, if big wealth funds or equivalent, were to do as in England, he & others would go & watch Regionalliga
    3/ PL club fans inevitably talk about Bayern‘s title wins. But to a Köln fan, this is irrelevant. Every season has its story. It could be (as often in the last 20 plus years) be about relegation & avoiding it. It could be in the 2. Liga or about Europe as in 2017/2018.
    4/ To feel it, you really need to attend a game in Germany. Every Köln match is special & – in normal times – a 50,000 sell out. It’s an occasion with friends, even though you may not know them all personally. Köln has fans worldwide but the club exists for the city & community.
    5/ German clubs make sure there is a ticket for everyone. Prices are kept in check, public transport in the local area is part of it. It beats the PL (in normal times) in terms of attendances. Again, you have to go, to really get it.
    6/ Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke recently said German football will continue to go its own way – prices fans can afford, exciting, dynamic football for communities. The model is sustainable & popular. Fans don’t want their club to be the plaything of a sovereign wealth fund.
    7/ It would be hard to imagine Köln or Eintracht Frankfurt fans (both huge clubs who have had ups and downs) reacting to news of a takeover as Newcastle fans reacted. In fact, it would be a parallel universe. It wouldn’t and can’t happen.
    8/ If you love the PL, I understand. It has a glamourous air & is wonderful packaged & marketed. But that’s just one model. The Bundesliga has its own successful model & its beauty lies not just in who wins the Meisterschale. Visit some day & discover for yourself. “

  11. Mercator

    October 15, 2021 at 3:53 pm

    @Roberto – I’m talking about in-market MLS games. Everything is on ESPN+, but they black out your local team. Most people just don’t have an interest in a football club (or really sports teams generally) outside of their city (or hometown etc). I love MLS on ESPN+ don’t get me wrong, but watching out of market teams doesn’t build equity. MLS built a good businesses, but never actually built a football club in many of their markets.

    @Greg – I don’t think any pile of money should be accepted. There are very complex regulations about who can invest in the UK, what they can invest in, what the process is, etc. These are laws set by governments, elected by UK voters. I don’t really think a football club is that different from many other businesses – there are many businesses that are pillars of their community as well. The EPL and clubs should abide by all applicable laws when determining whether a prospective investor should be able to buy a club. You say the Saudi’s are bad – check the rap sheet for every other one of the owners. They don’t get rich by giving out sweets and feeding the poor. It’s distasteful of course and they are all probably moral midgets in some way, but that’s just not a decision leagues, clubs, players or fans should have to make. The government sets the laws regarding permissible investments, and as long as you comply with those laws I don’t see any reason a league should be judging the morality of prospective purchasers of a private business. And frankly, if an owner wants to strip down a club…well, they own the club. This is the model deliberately selected by the EPL, for competitive reasons, and its made the EPL the best league on earth. If you don’t like the model, you can mandate fan ownership as other leagues have done. There is no obligation to fund or subsidise the team as an owner.

    You can’t have your cake and eat it too. The EPL has the most money, the big stars, the best competition and thats in large part because they have 2 owners who have pumped billions into their clubs to challenge the established orthodoxy. The Bundesliga has little of this, its not as competitive at the top with Bayern, there isn’t as much money or as high priced talent… but you know some dictator won’t come in and buy the local club. Each one chose their model, there are pros and cons, you are free to vote with your eyeballs and wallet and the UK people are free to vote to ban the Saudis from buying UK businesses. Yet, it’s not done, because most people talk a big game on issues like this and then rush off to buy a Messi jersey after the club signs him with blood money.

  12. JP

    October 15, 2021 at 3:51 pm

    @Ra, thanks for the Sunday 9:30am tip. That one was completely off my radar somehow. Might have that PiP when I join 9am Serie in progress. Or main if none of those three hold my interest.

  13. Ra

    October 15, 2021 at 3:42 pm

    My MOTW is Bayern vs Leverkusen on Sun 9:30 am. 1st vs 2nd.

    The Brazil game yesterday was really good. Apparently, Tite impersonated Guardiola and finally let them play with freedom. Raphinha, Neymar, and Antony were great. It was 4-1, but it could easily be 8-1. It was a spectacle.

  14. Ra

    October 15, 2021 at 2:52 pm

    But who is this annoying verbose co-commentator? He should stick to 10% of what he is saying. I would then pay attention to him. Does Twellman have a missing brother?

  15. Ra

    October 15, 2021 at 2:43 pm

    Excellent audio mixing on the Köln game. You can hear the atmosphere and Derek Rae ia simply the best narrator in the world. Well done, ESPN!

  16. jason

    October 15, 2021 at 12:56 pm

    How CBS and ESPN cover the USMNT is irrelevant honestly. Fans go to youtube to wach 11 Yanks, Tactical Manager, FifaAmerica, etc now.

  17. JP

    October 15, 2021 at 11:30 am

    Regarding the ESPN v CBS debate on US Soccer coverage, I don’t get all the love for Champion and (especially) Twellman. Andres Cordero is one of the best IMO and Adu is fine. He doesn’t interject endlessly (like Twellman) to the point it seems like Cordero is doing solo commentary at times, so Adu has room to contribute more without taking away from the broadcast.

    As for the studi0/wrap around coverage and the supposed “Fox” like treatment CBS gives, it makes perfect sense for the English language rights holder of a USA match to focus primarily on USA. It’s not “cheerleading”, as they were very critical of USA after the Panama loss, but focusing on what most of their audience cares about.

    The critique of CBS calling the matches from studio instead of the stadium is also odd. With rights to the ROAD matches, you expect them to fly around (with Covid restrictions/quarantine rules) and even possibly set up a live set for pre/post game??
    ESPN wouldn’t be on site if the matches they had rights to were on the road either.

  18. greg

    October 15, 2021 at 10:59 am

    Yes, I’m saying ESPN+ as priced now is a *great* value. (especially in the bundle, though I find myself watching Hulu & Disney less & less…no kids & Hulu’s exclusives aren’t that great). And that’s without caring much about anything beyond the soccer offerings and now NHL.

    But access to full ESPN networks would definitely be worth another $2-$4 per month.

    And as we’ve said tons of times, you can’t just go based on your own preferences for leagues & sports. Imagine the entire viewer world, and consider what a direct-to-consumer ESPN stream could offer. And is $12-$15 not a great deal? Especially if it allowed you to let go of a cable/cable-like service? Regardless of how you subscribe to a tv service you’ll get things you don’t care about. But usually that means paying north of $50 for 100 channels of dross. Cut that bill out, pay $15 for ESPN, whatever for Peacock or Paramount. If you need to keep paying for Netflix or Hulu/Disney or Apple+ so the rest of the family has things to watch you still come out ahead.

    @Mercator – Respectfully disagree on the “any pile of money is good”. Again, the experiences of Ashely, Mel Morris at Derby, the previous owners of Blackpool & lots of others who’ve basically used the clubs as cash extraction show that the league needs to protect clubs from bad people. And yes, Saudis have investments elsewhere in the UK…but football clubs, as the Super League has shown, are different from real estate or department stores. They mean a lot to the communities they represent & are located in. The Saudi ruling family are a demonstrably bad group. They shouldn’t be allowed to own a football club. The EPL shouldn’t be in bed with them. What happened before with Man City doesn’t matter now, there was no real “sports-washing” discussion then. There is now, and the EPL, EFL & FA (and other domestic leagues in Europe) need to recalibrate their relationship of morality to money.

  19. JP

    October 15, 2021 at 9:46 am

    @Ra, we must’ve been typing at the same time! Since it’s already included in ESPN+, you should check out the NHL. Think you’d enjoy it.

    Last night watched 1st two periods of NY Islanders v Carolina, 3rd period of Toronto v Ottawa (timed up well with intermission in Carolina), overtime for Pittsburgh/Florida and NY Rangers/Dallas, then back to Carolina. Tried Tampa v Detroit but turned it off after Detroit increased the lead to 3 goals again in the 3rd. Turns out that was a mistake, Tampa eventually won 7-6 in OT!

    Lot of good games to choose from Saturday, give it a shot.

  20. JP

    October 15, 2021 at 9:27 am

    Interesting discussion about ESPN eventually going direct to consumer. Right now ESPN+ is a huge bargain in my opinion since there’s now out of market NHL and 75 exclusive national ESPN+ broadcasts.

    Get La Liga, Bundesliga, Eredivisie in addition to all that NHL for about half the cost (approx) the NHL out of market used to cost. Oh, and there’s also out of market MLS, lower profile college football, lesser watched college sports like volleyball. That’s before discussing the library of shows and specials. Yes, currently a great deal for $60 a year (renewed right before the most recent price increase).

    But honestly, if it weren’t for NHL, any further price increases would have me reevaluating if ESPN+ is needed. Evidence this year shows mostly watch Serie A (original reason I got ESPN+) and primarily use ESPN+ for Eredivise, Pro League, and the odd La Liga or Bundesliga match here and there. Would not subscribe if that’s most of the soccer I watch on ESPN+ and the cost approached $10 a month. With NHL, surely would.

    Selfishly, would not want them to fold all the ESPN content like NBA and big time college football into ESPN+ and necessarily increase the price. I no longer watch those, so the current mix of soccer and hockey is perfect.
    In any case, think less than $15 a month would be a fair market price if they did eventually include everything.

  21. Ra

    October 15, 2021 at 9:23 am

    So – no money is too dirty for the EPL. So, what is off-limits? I wonder if the next owner will be the Taliban. One should not have to sacrifice their integrity on the altar of football. My incipient interest in EPL is all but dead.

    So, I would rather pay $7 for ESPN+ without EPL than $10 with EPL. Actually, I would rather pay $5 for the Bundesliga alone. Or I would pay $10 for Bundesliga alone if I could switch between several languages and watch every single game, including 2.Bundesliga.

    If they keep adding content and increasing prices, they will end up reinventing cable. The whole benefit of ESPN+ is not to spend a lot of money on content you are not interested in (hello NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL). The more I think of it, the more I wish NBC retains EPL and the status quo is maintained. Fragmentation is a good thing in this case.

    All leagues should have their own alternative DTC streaming service, with premium content, availability in several languages, and natural sounds. I would satisfy my sporting needs with a couple of these. Something like F1TV – it is expensive, but I have been very happy with it.

  22. Turfit

    October 15, 2021 at 9:00 am

    The relationship of the Saudi public investment fund and the BeoutQ pirate network should be the main issue against the Newcastle buy-out.

  23. jason

    October 15, 2021 at 8:31 am

    They mention at around the 10 minute mark of the podcast about how the fans of club vs international. I mainly am in to club football myself. But international wise. I do follow my country big time which is the USMNT. Canada has interested me as well though and am happy to see them do well. As far as European internationals go, I am generally not interested but since I have ESPN+ I am more likely to watch the smaller countries play for a little bit at least. So I have watched Armenia, Faroe Islands, and Latvia more than England and Italy 🙂 Africa, Asia, South America no interest at all.

  24. Roberto

    October 15, 2021 at 8:19 am

    Opps, that was Mercator’s.

  25. Roberto

    October 15, 2021 at 8:17 am

    Greg your comments are usually very informative. The one above confuses me. If ESPN+ is real value and they show all MLS games, plus FS1 and ESPN show other games weekly, why would anybody have trouble viewing their games?
    The most heat against Newcastle’s buyout came from Tottenham and Arsenal. They are currently fringe big 6 teams and fear Newcastle will take one of their places. You are correct any rich jerk (my take) with piles of dirty money should be able to buy an EPL team.

  26. In Da Zone

    October 15, 2021 at 6:14 am


    DAZN is giving away the UWCL for free through May 2023 via the “DAZN UEFA Women’s Champions League” channel on YouTube.

    The BEST broadcasts DAZN UEFA Women’s Champions League channel of YouTube offers are NOT in English, as all English-language broadcasts, even those at Arsenal and Chelsea, are “world feed style” broadcasts.

    DAZN produces full broadcasts, with commentators, pundits and reporter ON SITE in Spanish for matches hosted by FC Barcelona and in Italian for matches hosted by Juventus. Why? DAZN operates linear TV channels in both Spain and Italy.

  27. Mercator

    October 15, 2021 at 3:50 am

    Agreed that ESPN has been very smart with their ESPN+ strategy. It’s great value now, the app is the best in the market. As is, I think my number is about $10-12, but with EPL I’d be fine with anything under $20. I get the bundle because the family likes Disney and Hulu, so actually I don’t pay attention to the ESPN+ cost, only the bundle (which again is great value comparing to Netflix for example at $15 with no sport). Really just hoping for an ESPN monopoly at this point. Sounds sad but Disney was going to buy the Fox RSNs and the government blocked it and Disney sold to Sinclair. It’s been a disaster for sports fans and the leagues, everyone would have been better off if ESPN just bought them.

    I think the Newcastle deal is great for the league. Not sure where people get such high horses from – Saudi isn’t sanctioned, it freely invests in the UK and US, in some of the biggest companies! Seems rich for people to be going at match day punters over these issues. I expect Newcastle will follow the City template exactly and I don’t think they get the same stick over $$$ as City or Chelsea because Newcastle are a much much bigger club than either of those two prior to the takeover. They have had the worst owner for the last 15 years and somehow still are regularly in the prem. Knowing their luck though, there will be a coup in Saudi by Christmas or something.

    Completely agree with Chris talking about equity in teams and how MLS seems to struggle with this and it reflects in the TV ratings. I think part of the problem is MLS games are not that accessible. It’s only on an obscure OTA channel in my market, the vast majority of younger people I know just have no idea how to watch or no antenna etc. It’s much easier to watch just about any other foreign league than your local MLS team in a lot of markets. I also think you get real equity at a younger age – you can even see it in football fans, a lot of us are fans of the club that was great when we were 10-12. When I was a kid I legit thought Roy Lassiter was the best player on earth. But MLS folded the Mutiny and I spent those formative years watching the invincible instead. Every 12 year old in New York can see Neymar and Mbappe on youtube, how many are able to watch either MLS club regularly?

  28. Fechin Attuah

    October 15, 2021 at 12:43 am

    @greg- all that would make ESPN losing cable subscribers and potentially more money would lead to even higher monthly fees. And it wouldn’t be smart for espn plus to raise up prices so early. It took Netflix a while to raise prices. Hbo max has always been 15 and even they lowered their prices for the ad subscription and it’s worth it. With these two services the higher the subscriber numbers the higher the prices will go. ESPN plus has less than 20 million. Hulu prices raised didn’t make any sense and they barely even produce originals. ESPN cable business model is the more they lose subscribers the higher the prices increase which is a dumb business model.

  29. Fechin Attuah

    October 15, 2021 at 12:25 am

    @greg- I think they are only raising up their up to make up the lost compensation subscriptions to the main ESPN cable channel, when you cancel cable means that ESPN and other channels lose money. ESPN had 100M subs and they were a billion dollar company and now they are left with 80 subs. It shouldn’t be 15 for just that one channel if they add it to ESPN then people will realize that this is just every company doing their own thing and they can raise up prices much higher and they won’t wonder why we canceled cable. All of the ESPN cable channels cost about 10-12 dollars. If espn plus was more than that then it wouldn’t make sense for “cord cutting” in the first place. The only channels that are useful are ESPN/ESPN 2. Even if espn was added to espn plus I wouldn’t be surprised if cable carriers get upset with this move and potentially drop the channels. The only way to watch espn is through espn plus if not for more money then cable ever was.

  30. greg

    October 14, 2021 at 9:31 pm

    @Fechin – I think the idea is for the $12-$20 you’d get full access to all of ESPN, not just ESPN+. Right now they can’t/won’t do it because it would eat into their leverage to charge $7.60 (on average) per cable subscriber. And you can’t get things not on + without a cable/cable-like sub.

    But let’s say they decided to go straight-to-consumer for the full ESPN package, but you wouldn’t need a cable/FUBO/Sling, etc subscription. You don’t think that would be worth $15 or more? The current $7 plus the average cost they get from cable/cable-like providers?

  31. Fechin Attuah

    October 14, 2021 at 7:47 pm

    ESPN+ shouldn’t be like 15-20 bucks, that’s more than the cable bundle price of all the ESPN channels. With the 7 buck price point I think the most it will be 10-12. Only if they ever add NFL and NBA games then I can see the price increase like 1 or even two bucks, but it shouldn’t increase with all the niche sports they have on the service. The weak link is Hulu though that service has to merge with Disney plus. Also what I notice is that the more cable subscribers they have and they increase the price for espn plus which is crazy. As a disney bundle subscriber I use ESPN plus more than Disney plus and Hulu. With these recent price increases I think the bundle is a good deal.

  32. greg

    October 14, 2021 at 7:03 pm

    Sorry for the repeat on the Newcastle part…didn’t see the other post up so thought it got lost…just ignore the 2nd one (or delete it)

  33. greg

    October 14, 2021 at 7:01 pm

    re: Newcastle, you can’t really argue that if the EPL had turned down this bid based on who the owners are then they’d have to have turned down Man City. Beyond the logical fallacy (not post-hoc, but something like it) it suggests that laws & rules never change. They do when conditions change, or people game the current system. But you can’t sanction someone for what they did if the thing they did was legal at the time (that is post-hoc legal jeopardy).

    In this case the “fit & proper persons” test was really only about financial ability to run the club (and I think a bit on criminal convictions), so nothing about the human rights profile of an ownership group. Perhaps that should be revisited if more nation-state sovereign wealth funds are going to buy significant stakes in football clubs.

  34. greg

    October 14, 2021 at 6:50 pm

    Yes, the international breaks have been messy this year, but it’s pretty much down to the compacting of the schedule thanks to COVID shutdowns. Like the discussion around the NBC studio shows or ratings, we shouldn’t over-react too much to what’s happening this year. It’s a weird year. And imagine how bad it could have been if the WC was summer 2022…at least this coming summer can be used for WC playoffs

    That doesn’t mean a better framework can’t be put together, of course.

    I’m still in favor of keeping World Cups and major confederation final rounds (Euros, Copa America, ACN, etc) to every 4 years. But I’m not a fan of Wegner’s October shut-down plan. You can make a case to do qualifying tournaments in the non-final rounds summers, maybe using the Nations League as group stages. And maybe keep one international break each in fall and spring, but two games only.

    But FIFA wants more & more matches to get more and more money, so I doubt there’ll be any rational plan that reduces the number of matches.

  35. dave

    October 14, 2021 at 5:59 pm

    Excellent content as usual. A few reactions and questions:
    1. I enjoy competitive national team games, though I can see the perspective of disliking interruptions to club seasons. The combination of a global pandemic, a December tournament, and the final 32-team World Cup feels “once in a lifetime” more so than a chronic problem that needs to be solved. I agree it has been messy this go round.
    2. Do you have more information on ATA and Women’s UCL and WSL? I previously looked at DAZN, but $20/month mostly for fights is not for me. Looks like ATA is $50 per year, but their site has no FAQ and scant details about what is included and how to access (iPad app? Roku?). I enjoy women’s soccer and would like to watch a few Europe games and support ATA, but if I pay $50 to ATA do I also need to pay $20/month to DAZN? Confused.
    3. Great question from the commenter about 2022 World Cup and US football. Fox may have even worse congestion than you describe. Thanksgiving Day NFL. Thanksgiving Saturday NCAA CFB rivalries with Big Noon. Big Ten Championship the following Saturday. NFL every Sunday. Hopefully leagues and broadcast partners collaborate on kickoff times (and if needed one-time rights swaps) to maximize visibility for all of these.

    • Christopher Harris

      October 26, 2021 at 8:12 am

      Hi Dave, I reached out to ATA Football to get answers to your questions (and the questions of other readers who have contacted me via social media and email). Here’s their response:

      ata football is supporting DAZN by offering distribution of 31 UWCL matches this season through the group stage, quarters, semis and the final to our paid subscribers and will be creating some fun fan experiences around the competition in the new year which will be unique to ata. Viewers can also access all UWCL matches for free on DAZN’s Youtube channel so there isn’t a need to subscribe to their streaming service to access UWCL. Paid ata football membership also means live access to 45 FA WSL premium matches, along with more than 30 live matches from D1 Arkema, Primera Iberdola, Frauen-Bundesliga and potentially select matches from Serie A in the coming weeks. Matches are available on ata football via desktop, mobile web, mobile app and connected TV devices including Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Roku is launching soon.

      In all, our paid subscribers can watch over 200 live women’s matches from the best leagues and clubs around the globe, in addition to virtual events (including one upcoming with Lucy Bronze and Anson Dorrance, for instance), training, partner content, podcasts and an on-demand library of past matches. As we continue to build our community, access and exposure remains central, hence, we’re excited to be able to offer events like the Jamaica/Costa Rica friendly last Sunday to our ata football community (that event specifically was free and only required registration).

  36. greg

    October 14, 2021 at 4:23 pm

    Good listen as always…I do suspect ESPN will eventually go the HBO route & offer streaming-direct, but yes, wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t happen until the numbers show that cable & cable-like subscribers go below some threshold. But of course then the price will jump well beyond $7 / month. My guess would be $12-16.
    re: Newcastle, though…you can’t say that if they rejected this they should have rejected prior takeovers, like Abu Dhabi/Man City. I forget the exactly logical fallacy (not post-hoc, something similar) but there’s a logic problem there.
    Laws and rules change all the time based on flaws in the system, overlooked or new conditions, and yes, you can’t convict someone of a crime or otherwise sanction someone based on laws that came into effect after they did whatever they did. So you’d have been correct to say right that the EPL can’t reject this deal based on grounds not in the “fit & proper person’s test”. And it’s a fair point that the clause perhaps needs some updating to include state-controlled funds and anyone with documented human-rights & other issues…like Kartik’s Kroenke example…he’s a shitty human for many reasons, including labor issues & what he did to the Rams (Sam Kroenke that is…not Kartik who I assume is a delightful human being).
    Both the EPL & EFL would be better off if people like Ashley, Mel Morris & a host of others (current Oldham owners, the Bury & Macclesfield groups, the people who nearly killed Blackpool, etc) had never been approved as buyers. And certainly not state actors, and certainly not state actors like PIF, the people who bought PSG and the Man City group. But as FIFA has long shown, and especially now under Infantino, revenue generation rules all, and ethical business practice means nothing.

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