Over the past couple seasons, we have seen several teams and leagues move their matches away from linear television to streaming services that require a subscription. In an effort to reach fans who are cutting the cord by the millions each year, leagues and teams have made the decision to partner with streaming services to broadcast their matches instead of placing them on local television.
Most recently, FloSports, a company that broadcasts mainly niche sports like wrestling, professional bullriding, and competitive dance, became the exclusive media partner for D.C. United, and they will show the team’s league matches that are not nationally televised. FloSports also secured the broadcast rights to all CONCACAF Nations League matches not featuring the United States Men’s National Team.
Other MLS teams that have deals to eschew local television partners in favor of subscription streaming services include Los Angeles Football Club (YouTube TV) and the Chicago Fire (ESPN+). Even with leagues, MLS utilizes ESPN+ for all out-of-market matches, Serie A recently moved their league mostly to ESPN+, and the Premier League employs NBC Sports Gold for many of their matches. Still, each of those leagues have matches on television weekly.
Teams who forego linear TV for subscription streaming services to show all their matches say that streaming is the growing demand, with millions of people cutting the cord and leaving cable each year. On the other hand, diehard fans of the team say that at this point, requiring fans to subscribe to a service just to watch their team play is something that they may do, but it will limit their reach to casual fans who may be trying to get into the team. If it’s not on regular TV, casual fans will forget about it, and the excitement a team may generate with their play will not be seen by new fans.
Wanna see Tim Weah play for Celtic FC? For almost every match, you’ll have to have access to ESPN+. For fans of D.C. United, they will have to pay an extra $6-$30 each month just to watch their team play each week. Sure, $6 (the rate for supporters group members and season ticket holders) may be a happy hour drink at the bar, but when you factor in the money paid for other streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, HBO, ESPN+ or even a service like FuboTV or Sling TV, all those little charges add up. And for a streaming service that only features their team, the value may not be there for fans to justify adding that expense to the many they already have.
So, where are you with subscription streaming services? Is it a necessary evil? Is is the wave of the future? Or is it something that needs to be paired with regular TV to broaden the reach of a team or league? Hit the comments and start the debate!