With the majority of people binge-watching rather than following shows as they air weekly, live sports represents cable's last stronghold. Sure each major sport offers its own streaming option, but they're often crippled with blackouts and the need for pay-TV authentication.
But when it comes to live streaming options for sports (besides pro wrestling), soccer is clearly ahead of the curve. A couple of years ago, soccer fans in the U.S. could barely follow their favorite leagues even if they had cable. But now with services like fuboTV, YipTV, MobiTV, and numerous others, there are more legal ways to watch soccer online than any other sport.
For more tips on how to live life without cable be sure to check out the Motherboard Guide to Cord Cutting.
So why is it that a sport that's not even in the top five most popular sports in the U.S. offers so many streaming options? According to ESPNFC soccer writer/analyst Mike Goodman, you have to "look at how TV coverage of soccer in the U.S. differs from the coverage of other major sports… there are still a relative paucity of games actually broadcast on TV." Even with the world's most watched league, the English Premier League, Goodman noted "maybe half of the games in a given weekend are aired." Other leagues such as Champions League or Bundesliga only have about a third or less of their games on air. And as Goodman pointed out, "this is a lot more soccer than it used to be."
As cord cutting grows, and cable keeps soccer low on their priority list, people are turning to smaller streaming services to get their soccer fix. "Sports live streaming is one of the entertainment categories that has yet to see the level of digital disruption fans need – the mere volume of live sport piracy is a testament to that," Alberto Horihuela, Co-founder and CMO of fuboTV told Motherboard. "We're offering a service to address a clear need: a reliable and affordable way for fans to watch the teams they love, live from anywhere they are."
FuboTV, which now boasts over 50,000 subscribers, has deals with multiple networks, allowing them to air matches from various leagues like La Liga, Serie A, Liga MX, and MLS. "TV rights are somewhat fragmented across a variety of networks, which makes it challenging for consumers to access all games," Horihuela explained. "Our goal has been to work with networks to house that."
One of the most important networks fuboTV secured is beIN Sports, which holds U.S. rights to Ligue 1, Serie A, and FIFA World Cup qualifiers in America, among others. However, fuboTV isn't the only streaming service to ink a deal with beIN Sports. The network is live on six streaming services (it was seven, but they recently parted ways with Klowd TV) and is "pursuing roughly 10 new opportunities," Roy Meyeringh , VP of Business Development and Affiliate Sales for beIN Sports told Motherboard.
Why is it that beIN continues to make deal-after-deal with these streaming services while networks like NBC have held out? Meyeringh noted that beIN has been "on the forefront of alternative distribution" which includes focus on "serving the cord nevers and cord shavers via first in class OTT operator." And they plan on continuing to provide content "through whatever platform necessary to engage the market."
NBC and FOX aren't exactly known for sharing beIN Sports' innovative attitude. And they have exclusive deals with some of the most popular soccer leagues. Will we ever see these leagues on a smaller service like fuboTV?
"Undoubtedly there is tremendous user interest in having access to EPL and Champions League programming and we'd like to address that," said Horihuela. It might sound like wishful thinking, but FOX Sports 1 did recently launch on Sling TV, and NBCSN is now available nationally on PlayStation Vue, which shows they're slowly coming around.
"I think you're looking at a dynamic where all the stakeholders are invested in trying to grow the pie," Goodman summed it up. "And that leads to them figuring out alternate ways to broadcast games, and alternate ways to monetize those broadcasts."
All good news for soccer fans and cord cutters alike.