COMMENTARY | Soccer fans living in the United States haven't had it all that bad over the past several years.
We have, depending on the amount of money those of us in this community have been willing to spend per month, had the ability to access no fewer than three soccer-specific television channels, and watching live top-flight matches that are taking place just about anywhere on earth is as easy as is clicking a link that's found on a proper website (ad-blocker recommended). Things are set to get even better for US fans of the world's most-watched league come August 17 thanks to a deal that first went public last October.
The American soccer revolution isn't coming sometime the road. It's here.
FOX was always a loyal soldier when it came to broadcasting the EPL, but the truth is that it often felt as if the company was doing just enough in order to placate fans. Sure, you'd have the opportunity to catch every Premier League game eventually and not live, but only if you coughed up the money for FOX Soccer Plus, a channel that, in some regions, still isn't available in HD. Customers were able to watch every non-ESPN Premier League game live via FOX Soccer 2 Go, a subscription-based application that was, for lack of a better description, consistently laggy.
NBC is taking everything good that FOX provided for fans and going that one extra step. Rather than making customers pay for a NBC Sports Network Plus, the company will roll out Premier League Extra Time, a group of EPL match-day stations that will be available to millions of viewers across the US. The days of searching for potentially dodgy Premier League streams becomes a thing of the past this coming Saturday thanks to NBC Sports Live Extra.
As usual in life, it's not sunshine and roses for all soccer fans. Premier League Extra Time is only available in "select markets" heading into the first weekend of the 2013-14 season. The same can be said about the NBC Sports Live Extra service. Our utopia isn't yet completed, but the signs of a true US soccer heaven being on the horizon are visible and are real.
Outside of actual Premier League games is other programming that will enable the most diehard of fans to watch over 12 hours of soccer content each and every Saturday of the European calendar. NBC Sports begins the morning with the Premier League Preview Show at 6 a.m. ET. EPL content will then air up until 12:30 p.m. ET, when the final live match of the day will begin on either NBC or NBCSN. From there, those with access to these channels can flip over to beIN Sport, Univision Deportes or GolTV for more live soccer action. Don't forget about live Major League Soccer games that will air on NBC/NBCSN and ESPN up through December. Those who can't get enough soccer can end their Saturdays and Sundays with NBC's late-night "Match of the Day" review shows.
Want more soccer on weekdays? ESPN, beIN Sport and the soon-to-come FOX Sports 1 will air daily soccer highlight/news shows. Midweek Champions League, Europa League, Championship matches and also cup tournaments will be featured on multiple stations.
There remain serious questions about the future of soccer on US TV before the first Premier League contest of the upcoming season kicks off. Will MLS be the odd-man out, an organization searching for a television home in this country next summer if NBC decides that the US domestic league that continues to draw in lousy ratings isn't worth it anymore? What will the backlash be if NBC fails to meet what are admittedly very high expectations about the company's Premier League programming? How will ESPN, which recently invested in both the Mexican national team and Liga MX, react to not having the TV rights for a major European league?
What we know for sure in the middle of August 2013 is that several companies who aren't running soccer charities are spending loads of money banking on the fact that more American viewers will want to follow the sport than at any other time in history. Such a notion would have been a fairytale dream only a decade ago. Considering that the trend has only been onward and upward for US soccer fans, I can't help but wonder:
How great will things be one decade from today?
Zac has been covering the USMNT, Holland, Tottenham Hotspur, New York Red Bulls, Major League Soccer and other soccer leagues for Yahoo! Sports since 2010.
- Sports & Recreation
- Premier League
- NBC Sports
- Major League Soccer