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The Cult Of Watching Soccer

In the NEW episode, number 236, host Christopher Harris plus co-hosts Kartik Krishnaiyer and Kyle Fansler cover a range of topics including:

• Our thoughts on the expanded Leagues Cup
• NBC bounces back with stronger-than-ever Premier League coverage
• Serie B finds a home in the U.S.
• Why this Premier League TV deal will be the most important one yet
• The importance of timing of when to acquire soccer rights
• Is a World Cup every 2 years a foregone conclusion?
• Will Messi fit with PSG?
• Can ESPN make LaLiga a success this season?
• And your feedback in the Listener Mailbag segment.

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 Attuah

    September 29, 2021 at 3:55 pm

    UEfA champions league has been surprising lately it doesn’t happen but when it does we enjoy, that’s about so great about football. The super league was a bad idea

  2. disco george

    September 29, 2021 at 10:16 am

    I tend to agree with Greg when it comes to the differences with NBC’s coverage during the compressed seasons — getting that normal summer break this year seemed to do everyone a lot of good. Tim Howard got to work with some different people for a while, they all got some time away, and they’re back on a ‘normal’ schedule this again. All the midweek games and very little time between seasons in 2020 were pretty clearly taking a toll — it’s hard to be creative and try to push things forward when you’re fried like that. Everyone on that set was probably ready to throttle each other by the time last season ended, lol.

  3. Ra

    September 29, 2021 at 9:48 am

    @locofooty. Truth is that WST is England-US-centric. They tend to be clueless about soccer elsewhere. This is a pity since the best soccer comes from elsewhere. If it wasn’t for all the foreign players, EPL would be comparable to 2nd division in the continental EU.

  4. locofooty

    September 29, 2021 at 9:23 am

    Kartic saying Italy and Spain are not football mad basing it on TV rights contract lmao. A nation that has won 4 WC’s, historic teams, had the best league in the 90’s. Laughable assumption.

  5. Michael F

    September 27, 2021 at 5:31 pm

    Of course, i will add that aside from getting more money in a deal… EPL will be interested in a media partner that will be in a great position to grow and promote the league further in the States, via their TV/Stream package.

  6. Michael F

    September 27, 2021 at 5:27 pm

    @Ra. Good response overall. Although i don’t buy that EPL is opening up bidding for US tv rights because they were blindsided by news of NBCSN demise. That would be extremely petty. EPL knows how much NBC has grown and promoted their league in the states over the years.

    The reason they are opening this up to bidding is to simply cash in, as it is always about money… and especially after a Covid Pandemic that hit the league in its pockets, like every other business.

  7. Ra

    September 27, 2021 at 5:16 pm

    @Michael F. EPL might also have been upset about NBCSN shut down because they were blindsided by NBC. This may also explain why they opened the bids and are considering different partners.
    It is easier for a streaming player to monetize these rights. If NBC keeps EPL, how many incremental dollars can they charge providers (who already believe they are paying too much) for it? $1/mo maximum. For streaming, is quite simple. For example, I subscribed to Apple+ for 1mo to watch Ted Lasso S1. I am now waiting for Foundations S1 to be fully released to get another month and catch up with both. So, Apple got from me $10 in 2 years. If they acquired EPL, I would easily pay them $5 for 9mo every year or would go with an annual subscription if it cost $50. So they would get $90 incremental from me in 2 years. $450 in the 5 years period.
    To me, that is the fundamental problem with cable and why NBC’s strategy doesn’t make sense. The biggest beneficiary from the current system is ESPN (NBC will never command >$5 for a channel other than NBC channel) and even they are investing massively (I completely agree that they overpaid for LaLiga, which is mediocre at best) in streaming.
    It is already interesting that NFL wants Apple as a partner:
    “NFL reportedly wants Apple to be the next home for Sunday Ticket”
    “DirecTV has long been losing money on the package. It needs 5 million Sunday Ticket subscribers to cover the current fees, though CNBC reported the figure has been closer to 2 million on average. Combined with a sense that the NFL is diluting Sunday Ticket’s value by shifting more games to other days, that doesn’t exactly make reupping the deal an attractive proposition for DirecTV and parent company AT&T.
    As such, potential suitors with deeper pockets appear to be stepping up. Apple, Disney/ESPN and Amazon, which will start streaming Thursday Night Football games on Prime Video next season, are among those who have reportedly shown interest.
    It’ll likely be several months before the Sunday Ticket bidding process is over, but Apple looks like the frontrunner. The Athletic reports that Apple is considering offering games on a more ad-hoc basis. It could let fans buy their own team’s out-of-market games or even shell out for standalone games.”

  8. Michael F

    September 27, 2021 at 4:43 pm

    @Ra. Answering your question; That sounds very reasonable to me. I have no idea why don’t offer that for peacock premium subs or at the ad free premium plus rate.

    I gotta believe internally the visionaries at Comcast could be at odds as to where their overall plan is in the interim with regards Peacock vs the concern over lost cable like viewership subscriptions. Of course, any Comcast cable customer is not at all impacted by this because they get Peacock premium for free, to my knowledge. I wonder what that percentage is?

    I believe this non commitment that Comcast/NBC seems to be doing with Peacock with regards airing live EPL matches might not be happening if the EPL rights wasn’t nearing its end and not knowing if they can renew those rights. If EPL was so upset (as reported here) about NBCSN channel being demised, that tells me that Comcast/NBC is going to be sensitive about losing cable like viewership as long as they have a contract with EPL and as they try to renew their deal with EPL.

    Please note: I am not at all sympathizing nor justifying their actions, just trying to make some sense out of it. I do believe this EPL contract is not making them any excessive amount of money, as it’s no secret these TV rights deals seem to cost much more than it’s worth for providers. Sports league content costs is going through the roof. Just look at what ESPN paid for LaLiga. No way do they get that money back and make a profit. Especially now when the league is in a downward financial spiral with many superstars gone elsewhere. Of course, over the length of that 8 year deal, it may improve for LaLiga. But ESPN definitely over paid for what it’s worth currently for US viewers.

    If there was another euro league I would choose to follow, it would be Bundesliga. Their match day atmosphere is similar to that of the EPL. The feel of that league is good as well. Only it would be nice for some other club to seriously challenge Bayern Munich. Part of what I like about the EPL is that it is arguably the most competitive league and no match is an easy one for the top 4. It may be true in other euro leagues as I can’t speak to that since I don’t closely follow them beyond the top clubs.

  9. Ra

    September 27, 2021 at 4:42 pm

    @Hans The other thing that might be at play here is the cancellation of NBCSN. Comcast might have assumed they would be able to compensate the loss of this revenue stream by additional USA network fees. And if this is the case, this stalemate does not bode well for future agreements with other providers as well.

  10. Hans

    September 27, 2021 at 4:33 pm

    Just like you I am waiting till Jan 1st or whenever they announce where the games will be aired once NBCSN will shut down. In the meantime LOTS to watch Serie A Forza Napoli, Dortmund in the Bundesliga and any games on NBCSN I watch on my trusted P2P source. Did that with City vs Chelsea, Arsenal vs Spurs and now Brighton vs Palace. I am not hurting but the Comscum strategy needs to improve.
    This spat with YouTube TV and Google can end only bad for them, we are talking Google here that can support YouTube TV no matter what. The earning calls for Comscum are not that promising especially since their subscribers have gone down and they are now more relying on their ISP service. Good times are ahead.

  11. Ra

    September 27, 2021 at 3:31 pm

    @Michael F. Honest opinion- don’t you think that it would be a fair price if Peacock offered all EPL live + no Ads in Peacock’s most expensive tier ($10)? It seems reasonable to me, considering what NBCUNIVERSAL channels go for. Improve also the library on Peacock’s app and many here would be happy to pay for it. NBC is leaving a lot of money on the table and executives will get sacked if they fail with their streaming strategy. They need to show that they are in control of their destiny and that is why the dispute with Google may hurt them, even if it is materially inconsequential.
    For me, I decided to wait until some reasonable offer comes along to watch EPL. I believe that NBC may give up on these rights once NBCSN shuts down. It would not be wise of them to move these games to USA network only to remove them all 5mo later. I am also having a lot of fun with Bundesliga right now, so I am not in a hurry.
    One a different note, it is interesting that Netflix’s CEO is considering buying F1 rights. It would make sense considering how much they’ve been promoting it with ‘Drive to Survive’.

  12. Michael F

    September 27, 2021 at 2:51 pm

    Sorry, correction. There is actually no charge to pausing the You Tube TV account for weeks on end. I was thinking of another subscription by mistake.

  13. Michael F

    September 27, 2021 at 2:48 pm

    @greg. I agree. I don’t this dispute will last too long. Maybe a few weeks at most. Btw… I have been impressed with how Google is quick to provide a discount in these cases (who else would do that?) and also you can pause your u tube tv account where you only pay $10 a month during that time and not lose any of your DVR recorded library, which can be quite significant if you are like me that uses the DVR features extensively. I don’t plan on pausing my account during this dispute, I just mention it as an good option they provide. I plan to just launch some free trials elsewhere if I lose NBCSN on u tube tv for a time. I’ve got to get my Premier League. No disrespect to other euro soccer leagues, but watching just any other soccer league match doesn’t do it for me. I follow the EPL teams extensively. That’s all a part of the appeal of following a league… not just watch the matches, but the storylines etc.

  14. greg

    September 27, 2021 at 1:29 pm

    I doubt the NBC/YouTubeTV impasse affects NBC/Comcast all that much. YouTube needs NBC & Comcast offerings more than the other way around. If Sunday Night Football & NASCAR leave YouTube, they lose subscriptions.

    I’m torn between the bundle model & a la carte. But unless the carriage-fees models change, cable or cable-like services (Fubo, Sling, YouTube, etc) likely won’t go a la carte because content providers like the revenue certainty & the companies providing the channels need strong brands to sell subscriptions. The constant adding & changing of channels likely to happen w/ a la carte could be a mess for everyone.

  15. Ra

    September 27, 2021 at 1:24 pm

    Here is the statement from YouTube, which has a more reasonable tone and is not begging their customers to try to solve an issue that they should figure out.
    “If NBCU offers us equitable terms, we’ll renew our agreement with them. However, if we are unable to reach a deal by Thursday, the NBCU lineup of channels will no longer be available on YouTube TV and we will decrease our monthly price by $10, from $64.99 to $54.99 (while this content remains off our platform). You can sign up for NBC’s own direct-to-consumer streaming service, Peacock, which they offer for $4.99/month to continue watching NBCU content, such as Sunday Night Football.”
    If these channels together cost <$5, I assume they were not able to beef up their Peacock premium out of sheer stupidity. Give me full EPL and live MSNBC and you get another subscriber.
    "If you are a YouTube TV subscriber, you may lose NBC, Bravo, CNBC, E!, Golf Channel, MSNBC, Oxygen, SYFY, Telemundo, The Olympic Channel, Universal Kids, Universo, and USA Network.

    YouTube TV may also drop your NBC Sports Regional Networks including; NBC Sports Bay Area, NBC Sports Boston, NBC Sports California, NBC Sports Chicago, NBC Sports Philadelphia, SNY, and NBC Sports Washington."

  16. Michael F

    September 27, 2021 at 12:17 pm

    @JP. Regarding your last paragraph, i completely agree. I have saying for a long while now that anyone who is not a sports fan of local pro or college teams or of Big 4 etc, have no reason to hang onto cable tv like subscriptions. Alas, unfortunately i am one of those i just mentioned. But i am caring less about it as time goes on, as American sports just bombards us with ad breaks that extend any game aired way too long.

  17. JP

    September 27, 2021 at 12:08 pm

    @Ra, exactly! It’s not fair and makes it more expensive for everyone at the same time. There is no way the likes of ESPN would cost more than the $700-$1,000 a year cable or cable like subscriptions cost a year if only sports fans had to pay for it on it’s own outside of a bundle.
    well. Just like there’s no way it would cost that much a year for the people who just want their cable news and reality shows.

    I don’t think there’s is much overlap anymore. Sports fans are mostly tied to cable for the big 4 American sports and/or their local RSN’s. The people who only want scripted entertainment have many other options over cable. So it’s likely just the older demographic (who are resistent/unaware of the options) and sports fans (of the big 4) who are left.

  18. Michael F

    September 27, 2021 at 11:51 am

    @locofooty. Of course this stinks, but one good Internet source on disputes like this said the following in quotes, stating this dispute is not expected to las very long. So if it happens, I will start successive free trials of other live tv stream services that carry NBCSN until any blackout with u tube tv is over.

    “So if I had to predict now, I will say that there will be a blackout beginning Thursday. I don’t suspect it will last several weeks or months because YouTube TV would likely lose a significant number of subscribers despite the price cut. Plus, NBC needs the YouTube TV audience, which is around 3.5 million to 4 million subscribers, for ratings and advertising. Eventually, they will find common ground.”

  19. Ra

    September 27, 2021 at 11:48 am

    @JP The whole argument of ‘if people were to pay for only what they wanted would cost us much more doesn’t make sense’. It would be more equitable. If it is the case that sports would be much more expensive if only the ones watching were to pay for it, why do people think it is fair to have others subsidy their sports content?

  20. Ra

    September 27, 2021 at 11:02 am

    Google should stand their ground. Comcast stock prices will take a hit if they lose all YouTube TV subscribers at once. I can’t see any impact on Google stocks if they fail to reach an agreement.

  21. JP

    September 27, 2021 at 11:00 am

    @Ra, but if they went a la carte then the cost to you would end up being even higher for the channels you want because it’s not being subsidized by all the other subscribers who may not watch that channel…and, all those precious less popular channels would likely no longer exist and the world would be deprived of all that wonderful programming!

    I believe none of that (except for less popular channels not surviving), but that’s the rallying cry from cable when confronted with a la carte. The bundle of 200+ channels is for your own good, you just don’t know it LOL

  22. locofooty

    September 27, 2021 at 9:24 am

    YoutubeTV will lower the subscription price by $10 if the channels are dropped forever lol

  23. Ra

    September 27, 2021 at 6:46 am

    Having a good laugh here. The whole cable model is plain stupid. Content providers and carriers continue a petty war to see who will pay for channels that are irrelevant. I would have cable if they offered me the option of paying for every channel à la carte (2-5 seem reasonable to me). But they don’t want to offer that because the know that very few channels are viable if people had to decide to pay for them.
    And then they want to ask the customer to beg their provider to keep it and end up paying more. Apparently $65 is ot enough for the crap potpourri. The whole business model is broken.

    “NBCUniversal is seeking fair rates from Google for YouTube TV’s continued carriage of the only portfolio offering entertainment, Hispanic, news and sports networks. Unfortunately, Google is refusing to make a deal at these fair rates and is willing to withhold entertainment, news and sports programming from their paying customers. NBCUniversal feels a responsibility to inform our fans that they are at risk of losing their favorite shows if Google continues with their demands.”

  24. Fechin Attuah

    September 27, 2021 at 12:46 am

    YouTube tv might have to drop NBC channels on Thursday, I think because nbc wants to increase prices and also bundle peacock for content that’s both on YouTube tv and peacock. I think a deal would not happen that would make more people subscribing to peacock.

  25. Michael F

    September 24, 2021 at 3:22 pm

    I enjoyed this podcast and thought Kartik’s point about the Premier League being similar to SEC football conference in America as being so much better marketed than all the other euro domestic leagues., even years ago when arguably it was not in many minds ‘the best league’ in the world. This is not to start any debate about what league is the best, but anyone can see that the marketing brand of the EPL is superior in so many ways. This brand and marketing brings such a strong appeal to the league. Just watch EPL’s own the 24/7 TV channel on Peacock and you will have to admit how good they market their league with such excellent film of their history and matches and cover it with top analysts and personalities via their shoulder programming.

  26. greg

    September 24, 2021 at 2:30 pm

    Listening to the pod and I think you’re way overthinking the so-called resurgence of NBC coverage. It dipped solely due to COVID-related issues – match scheduling to more windows, distancing and other in-studio precautions. The studio shows on NBCSN are back to what they were before COVID. Of course Peacock studio shows are more in-depth because of less commercial time, but you can’t compare now to pre-Peacock, pre-COVID. It’s two vastly different contexts. The analysts and Rebecca are back to their best selves…could be because they’re supposedly more focused because of rights, or it could be because they, like anyone else, had stresses of working in the COVID environment. But you really cannot compare the COVID-affected seasons to other seasons.

    If the game has been raised in any way it’s thanks to Danny Higginbotham – like top players on the pitch I think he’s made the team better. Howard has gotten better, but I don’t think he was that bad to begin with…just needed time to find his way, and like any good professional hopefully sought out feedback and improved.

    Disagree on the Men in Blazers takes…they’re fun to watch. If you don’t like them, don’t watch, and their presence on the match studio coverage is minimal.

  27. Turfit

    September 24, 2021 at 1:31 pm

    I think the biggest problem with the world cup every two years is that nobody knows how it will work. Where is the detail plan on how every team can qualify for the tournament, how will they fit all the matches in? There are too many questions not answered for most people to feel good about this kind of decision.
    I really like the ideal of only 2 international breaks and if I’m reading it correctly each break will be a month long. March and October will be the international breaks, I think this works well with most leagues around the world except for mls.

  28. Cpcva

    September 24, 2021 at 7:16 am

    I believe FIFA arranged things with the world cup in the 1930’s so they didn’t conflict with the Olympics. That now gets thrown under the bus.

  29. jason

    September 23, 2021 at 8:58 pm

    @Ra So I leanred from this podcast that the Russian league has games on Youtube. This includes English commentary, Russian, and………………..commentary FREE!!

    But yeah ESPN+ should gift us with Bundesliga 2 matches with no announcers. I think commentary free sports is more popular than the TV execs think.

  30. dave

    September 23, 2021 at 7:38 pm

    Terrific episode, interesting topics! Some reactions:
    1. Kyle, great to hear your perspectives as a soccer fan who also follows a few major US sports. I look forward to the YT project
    2. Agree Rebecca Lowe is top notch. In addition to EPL, she excels in the Tirico role, having breadth and gravitas to host big events like Olympics. Wiki says Rebecca’s NBC contract ends in 2022 and I never considered her leaving NBC. Interesting, especially if NBC lose EPL
    3. I stumbled on Leagues Cup yesterday and enjoyed the second half of Leon-Seattle. Hope to hear more, especially Kartik’s thoughts that this could be a premier tournament. I enjoy games featuring Liga MX vs. MLS
    4. You mention player strain as a negative for the Wenger World Cup proposal. I thought I read international breaks would be consolidated to keep an 80/20 split of club to nation while reducing long-haul travel. I take it you disagree with the FIFA/Wenger spin?

  31. Ra

    September 23, 2021 at 6:16 pm

    I would like to see all games to have the option to use natural stadium sound only. I invested money in a home theater with a football button just to enhance the crowd noise. For 2nd division Bundesliga games, this should be a no brainer.

  32. jason

    September 23, 2021 at 12:39 pm

    The World Cup every-two-years idea is the worst idea in football since the Super League. Hope that if FIFA demands to go with it that nations will boycot the first 2 year interval holding of the farce of a competion. Maybe 2028? Just say that they will compete in the 4 year cycle World Cups only, 2030, 2034, etc. Hope the USSF will do this too.

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