McIntyre: How Champions League TV Rights Hurt Soccer’s Growth in U.S.
Soccer season is well underway in all of the world’s top leagues, including the MLS, but there are two leagues that many American soccer fans will be missing a lot of this year—the UEFA Champions League and Europa League.
Both leagues were previously licensed to Fox Sports, where every fan got hear the mispronunciation of about every player’s name by former USMT defender Alexi Lalas up until last season. This year, the television rights moved to Turner Broadcasting.
Turner Broadcastings channels are TNT, TBS, truTV, and Univision. But Turner has branded it’s UEFA content to the new Bleacher Report streaming service, “BR/Live”. The movement to BR/Live sees the majority of Champions and Europa League games on the streaming service, with the biggest games being broadcasted on TNT which is available with a cable service.
Though the UEFA and World Cup “Foxification” had many issues, Bleacher Report Live brings a much larger issue to watching the most competitive league in the world—a paid subscription. An individual match on BR/Live costs $2.99, or a monthly ‘Soccer Pass’ for $9.99, or $79.99 annually. Like ESPN+ and the movement of a large number of Major League soccer games to the subscription streaming service, it hinders the growth of soccer in America.
Though it can be said soccer is rapidly growing in the United States, and Major League Soccer is at its peak quality and entertainment, it cannot be denied that the best viewing for the Worlds sport is in Europe. The Champions League brings together the best clubs in Europe to battle through a group stage, a round of 16, quarter-finals, semi-finals, and eventually the Champions League final, which in 2017 racked in 3 million viewers from the United States.
Yes, the Champions League final will likely be broadcasted on TNT so all can watch without the BR/Live subscription, but fans of clubs in Europe that may not reach the knockout rounds, or soccer fans who want to see matches like Manchester City vs Olympique Lyonnais, which ended in an exciting 2-2 draw or TSG Hoffenheim fall to Shakhtar Donetsk 3-2 on a 92nd minute winner, will have to pay up.