The year is 2010. You wake up to the sound of your alarm blaring on a Saturday morning. Your favorite team kicks off in less than 10 minutes, allowing you plenty of time to check the starting eleven, pull on your club’s jersey, scarf down a bowl of cereal, and scamper to the TV before engulfing yourself in the next two hours of bliss (or despair). Did you set your fantasy lineup? Ah, doesn’t matter. You probably weren’t going to win anyways.
2010 was a memorable year for many American soccer fans. The United States Men’s National Team had just put on a worthy display in the 2010 World Cup, which included draws against Slovenia and England, and of course, the win over Algeria. Tim Howard gratefully claimed it, his distribution was brilliant, things were on there for the USA, cross, Clint Dempsey was denied again, and Landon Donovan had scored, oh could you believe it? We certainly could.
Despite the U.S. getting painfully knocked out by Ghana in their next match, the team’s performance (and Ian Darke’s unbridled enthusiasm) made the loss seem like a distant memory. The U.S. had quickly become soccer-crazed.
The USA-Ghana match drew nearly 19 million U.S. viewers which was shortly surpassed almost two weeks later by the World Cup Final between Netherlands and Spain, raking in nearly 24 million U.S. viewers. USA’s daunting 2014 World Cup clash against Portugal brought in nearly 25 million U.S. viewers while the subsequent Final between Germany and Argentina recorded nearly 26 million U.S. viewers. Apart from the World Cup coverage, fans needed their daily soccer fix. In stepped Fox Sports and ESPN.
Whether you were a fan of soccer before the World Cup hype of 2010 and 2014 or happened to hop aboard the wagon soon thereafter, you knew you were in safe hands with the content, accessibility, and flexibility that Fox Sports and ESPN had to offer. Fox Sports catered directly to fans who were looking to dive right into Premier League action. They had their normal televised schedule of the early morning, late morning, and afternoon matches. If there was a time conflict with another match, they often made it available to watch on a partner channel or their website. Better yet, they showed countless numbers of match replays later that day/night for those who were unable to watch their team earlier in the day. If you were frantically scrolling through the channels and couldn’t find your match, you had to look no further than ESPN, who also managed to put on a number of Premier League and Cup games which was always a treat.
Those delightful days soon came to an abrupt end in 2013 when NBC spent a whopping $250 million to secure the Premier League TV rights, leaving Fox Sports and ESPN sadly out to dry. In the beginning, the acquisition was not a bad one at all. For the next two or three years, NBC provided plenty of matches and consistent content. However, that all sadly came to a close once they introduced their subscription service NBC Sports Gold in 2017. Their new service advertised a $49.99 buy-in for access to almost 100 games. However, their service was quite flawed. There was no option to simply purchase a plan to watch your own team’s games. All the exclusive matches sounded great on paper, but for $49.99 a season, it didn’t quite appeal to fans who might not want to watch teams they didn’t know and frankly didn’t care about. Things went from bad to worse this past July, when NBC introduced another subscription service, Peacock. While advertised at $4.99 per month (with ads) and an upgraded plan (with no ads) for $9.99 per month, Peacock has been nothing but a pain since its arrival. While many matches were once available for online streaming through NBC’s website via cable authentication similar to ESPN and Fox, if the game is on Peacock, you have to buy-in to Peacock.
Now you might be saying to yourself, “$4.99 a month? That’s not too bad,” and you’d certainly be right. However, it’s the untimely principle of charging people to watch these games that were otherwise widely available in the past as well as charging more on top of those who are already paying for NBC Sports in their provided TV sport packages. During time slots when you would normally watch a match, they were instead replaced with car auctions, monster truck rallies, and America Ninja Warrior re-runs from 2012. Not to mention, there have been several complaints of Peacock’s freezing/laggy streams, the inability to fast-forward/rewind, incapability to work with several smart devices/TVs, and more. It’s also important to note the constant delay between live action and the stream. One simple glance at Twitter or your phone notifications during the match may potentially spoil a goal that occurred five minutes prior. In this day-and-age where many viewers like to interact with fans and live-Tweet during matches, it’s essentially rendered useless due to NBC’s stream delay.
Since Peacock’s inception this past summer, Everton’s matches have been streamed exclusively on Peacock in 11 out of their last 26 league matches (with their most recent 2-1 win over Wolves being one of them). Also included in those 11 games were Everton’s 1-0 opening season win over Spurs, their 5-2 thriller against West Brom, 1-0 win against Chelsea, and 2-0 win against Leicester; some quality matches that were unfortunately not seen by many. A total of 9 out of the Toffees’ 19 league games this season alone have been scheduled for Peacock.
Soccer fans have been noticing and voicing their displeasure on Twitter. Check out some of the replies to the news of Liverpool-Man United, Arsenal-Spurs, Man United-Arsenal, and Liverpool-Arsenal all being placed on Peacock. This next one is the kicker; 8 out of 10 games in one weekend all on Peacock.
The key problem with NBC’s streaming services is that they are consistently the worst of all the live sports options in terms of delay between live action and the stream. In the broadband era, for a company owned by telecom giants Xfinity, this is unpardonable.
Especially in a sports culture nowadays where second screens prevail and most fans are also on social media while watching the game, what may not seem such a grievous problem is quite frustrating to the end user, fans like you and me. Add to that the clunky user interface both on television and online, and the ire towards Peacock grows quite quickly.
The sport that was once loved and admired in the United States has quickly become diminished by NBC Sports. The network has completely alienated loyal fans and otherwise stunted the growth of the sport in America. A few months ago, there was a similar plan in England to make fans pay to watch matches. Due to an overwhelming amount of backlash, the initiative was quickly scrapped. So why is the same not occurring here? Not all hope is lost however, as NBC’s current Premier League TV rights deal expires at the end of the 2021-22 season.
However, things are now even more up in the air as just the other day it was announced that NBC Sports is ceasing operations and their content will now move over to USA Network. 8 of Everton’s 19 games were on NBC Sports Network, so if any of those clashes are also allotted to Peacock, that makes it even more fixtures that are being streamed on a substandard platform.
So we can only wait and see what’s to come these next few months. Yet it’s safe to say that you can expect to see more (if not all) matches move over to Peacock soon.