In April of 2006, I wrote the first of many posts about the availability of televised soccer in the United States:
The time is long past when American soccer fans could complain that there was nothing for them to watch on television. Just as an example, here's what I have available to me between now and the end of next weekend (only including live or same-day-delay):
One UEFA Champions League semi-final match
One UEFA Cup semi-final match
Seven Copa Libertadores matches
One CONCACAF Copa de Campeones final match
One league match from Argentina
Two league matches from Brazil
Two league matches from Colombia
Five English Premier League matches and an FA Cup semi-final match
One German Bundesliga match
Two Italian Serie A matches
Seven Mexican League matches and one second-division Mexican match
Two Spanish La Liga matches
Two MLS matches
This doesn't count pay-per-view matches, or matches on channels I don't get.
So these days, American soccer fans have plenty to watch. Except ... today was a crucial match between AC Milan and Barcelona, and guess what? The only channels it was on are unavailable through our Comcast.
Ah, but it's 2006. Enter the Internet. Which explains why I spent the last couple of hours watching television on my computer monitor. I watched the first half of the match on a Korean station, then at half time I switched to a Chinese station that was rumored to have a better picture. Outside of the players' names (and the team names), I didn't understand a word the announcers said (although a couple of half-time commercials had English in them), but I saw the entire match.
In 1976 I wouldn't have known the match was taking place. In 2006, I can watch it from stations halfway around the world.
Things have moved rapidly over the past seven years. Now, ABC/ESPN and Univision have the World Cup, Women’s World Cup, and the recently concluded Confederations Cup. ESPN has rights to the European championships, the Women’s Euro championship, and the Euro U-21 championship. Fox has the right to the Champions League, Europa League, and Super Cup. They also have the Copa Libertadores. Univision has Copa América. beIn has CONMEBOL World Cup qualifiers. Fox and Univision have the CONCACAF Gold Cup and Champions League. ESPN, NBC, and Univision have MLS. ESPN and beIN have rights to various World Cup qualifiers for the USA. NBC has USA friendlies. Univision has Men’s Team matches, as well. Univision, ESPN and Telemundo have Mexican national team matches. beIN has Spain’s national team matches. Univision has the German and French national team matches. Mexican league matches are spread amongst Univision, Telemundo, Azteca América, Fox, ESPN, and GOL TV. beIN has the English Championship league and the English League Cup. Fox has the FA Cup. beIN has the Spanish league, ESPN has various Spanish cup matches. GOL TV has league matches from Argentina, Brazil, Germany, and the Netherlands. ESPN has Brazil, Germany, the Netherlands, and Portugal. Fox has Scotland, Japan, and the U.S. National Women’s Soccer League.
And, most notably, NBC paid $250 million for three years of the English Premier League. They promise to show every single Premier League match, utilizing NBC, the NBC Sports Network, CNBC, Telemundo, and a few I’m sure I’ve forgotten. (And if you aren’t near a television, they have a mobile app for you.)
Sports fans in the U.S. have probably seen the advertising onslaught NBC has concocted to draw attention to their Premier League coverage, which starts later today. It’s a long time since 2006.