Fans of Italian soccer, if you don’t know about Helbiz Live, you’re missing out.
In the soccer streaming wars, established players dominate the scene. Depending on your preferences, many of us subscribe to a combination of ESPN+, Peacock and Paramount+, among others. Yet, there is a universe of league-based streaming services that are more niche. For example, iFollow exists specifically for fans of lower-league English soccer.
But when it comes to Italian soccer, a name that many of us may be unfamiliar with is Helbiz Live.
Helbiz is an Italian company established in New York in 2015. Readers who live in large cities may have seen their scooters or bikes parked next to sidewalks among the other scooter rental companies. The brand has expanded its footprint. Rather than street bikes and scooters, Helbiz went after a niche audience spending money on loyalty. In this case, it was Italian soccer fans. The service began to offer Serie B (second division) streaming this season for a monthly or yearly subscription price. The CBS deal with Serie A does not cover the lower tiers.
Lower divisions in Italy
Serie B is a valuable investment. I have long been a defender of Italian soccer. Even then, Serie B can sometimes channel the worst stereotypes. Diving and hand gestures are rampant. Like other second divisions, it is overly physical. However, the level of talent in the league is top-notch, leading to a higher quality of play than you may expect from Serie B.
Then, there are the clubs competing. Start with a club like Venezia. One of America’s favorite soccer clubs had a nice run in Serie A. Now, it is battling to survive in the second division. Whether it’s the beautiful waterside stadium, fashionable kits or extreme American influence, Venezia matches are not to miss.
The club is struggling this season. As of early February, Venezia is just a few points above the relegation zone. If they fall out of Serie B this season, you won’t be able to legally stream their matches. Therefore, you will want to watch them this season, just in case.
Serie B also has a number of familiar clubs. Genoa, Bari, Cagliari, Parma and SPAL among others. The last two have an American influence. There are also a number of interesting managers roaming the sidelines. That includes the recently returned Claudio Ranieri at Cagliari, Daniele de Rossi at SPAL and Filippo Inzaghi at Regina. The table is tight throughout and there are a number of recognizable players.
Subscribing to Helbiz Live for Serie B
Now that I convinced you the league is worth your attention, what about the streaming service? Right now, the monthly subscription cost is about $6 per month. Granted this is a little high for receiving one league, even if it is not as high as MLS Season Pass. However, you do have access to every match, including replays.
The stream is from the league but the quality is top-notch. I have watched matches on a computer, phone, tablet and streamed to a TV. Each time, the picture and audio was clear. If you miss a live match, the replay is available without a score spoiler. There are also add-ons like weekend round-ups, interviews, and match summaries. You can identify a favorite team and easily access their schedule and matches. Also, some subscription options come with credits for Helbiz rentals.
There are some key downsides. Helbiz as a company has gone through some growing pains. Consequently, it is not as established a sports provider as ESPN. There are essentially four commercials that run throughout the matches, so you may get tired of beautiful people riding scooters or kids in awe over former Serie B players. There is not a league table built into the app. So, you may need to look elsewhere to see what position each club enters the match. Also, the content is in Italian, and you need to make sure you’re subscribing via the English site which may not be the first one that comes up upon search. If you don’t speak the language or need to hear what’s going on, you may have a tough time following the matches.
I purchased a full-season subscription in September to watch my favorite club, and I have not regretted it. The streaming service is good and presents the league well, with both passion in the stands and quality on the pitch. However, I hope to not have to purchase it again next season as my favorite club hopefully continues to fight for promotion.
At least I know Helbiz Live will allow me to legally enjoy the atmosphere and experience if they stay in Serie B.
PHOTO: IMAGO / LaPresse
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