NBCSports just told me I gotta pay an extra $50 to watch Arsenal

NBC Sports announced that starting next season they are forcing football fans in the USA to pay an extra $50 if they want to watch all of their team’s matches.

What NBC is doing is exactly what anyone with any foresight expected them to do. Once they won the TV rights for the Premier League in the USA and built up some quality content, which wasn’t difficult since the previous presenters were Fox Sports and literally a fifteen minute shot of a shoe is more informative and interesting than anything Fox Sports has presented in the last 10 years, they are now going to cash in on that product by offering an NFL-like “Season Pass” via their NBC Sports Gold service.

The season pass is relatively cheap, just $50 and if it covered every game would be worth it. I’d probably pay $250 a year for every EPL match. But what they are doing instead is playing 250 matches on their cable and broadcast services, shutting off their free streaming service, and moving those 130 matches to this new pay service.

They have worded their package in such a way that it makes it sound like this is a benefit and for some of the clubs who probably wouldn’t make it on TV every weekend, I guess it is. Though, let’s be fair here, did any Sunderland fan actually want to watch every Sunderland match?

If you have cable and you buy this service, you will now be able to watch every one of the Premier League’s 380 matches. But for the average viewer of the Premier League, someone who follows one of the big clubs, NBC is forcing you to buy this service if you want to watch every game. They are putting at least three matches from every club exclusively on this new service. If you don’t pay the $50, you won’t be allowed to watch those matches. That’s how I read their announcement.

The overflow matches included in the NBC Sports Gold package were previously part of the linear Extra Time packages available through some video providers as well as on NBC Sports.com and the NBC Sports app.

Included with these 130 games are replays, which is good, and a bunch of content that I don’t care about. Those guys dressed like prefects from Harry Potter, set in an Applebees phone booth, who make honking noises while joking about Arsene Wenger’s zipper are not really a draw. Neither are those goofy “behind the badge” reality shows where some ageing dugong holds up three empty envelopes and gives motivational speeches to 18 year old millionaires.

I probably shouldn’t complain too hard. Despite the fact that they sometimes have human carbuncle (and chief Sports Writer for the Sun, which is redundant) Neil Ashton on, NBC has done a fantastic job presenting Premier League matches and are a welcome relief from the astonishingly bad Fox Soccer. I sat through, what, 10 years of Fox Soccer? It feels like 10 years anyway.

The last time I tuned into a Fox Soccer half-time show for a Champions League match I swear I saw Eric Wynalda and Warren Barton. Which is like listening to two glasses of water have a conversation about physics. Most recently Fox Soccer has a show where Alexi Lalas is allowed to talk and they have him sitting next to Fernando Fiore (El Presidente) who is doing his very best to clown up the show. That program also has former Arsenal striker Ian Wright (every time they mention his name it’s “Arsenal legend Ian Wright” like he changed his name to “Arsenal Legend Ian Wright”) on it and incredibly, he’s the voice of reason. While Lalas is gagging on his tongue and El Presidente is putting on his clown shoes, Ian Wright is making sensible commentary on the match we just watched. Needless to say, any level of professionalism is a huge step up. NBC Sports did that.

I also shouldn’t complain because unlike in England, I get to watch nearly every single Arsenal match. I believe England still has blackouts on broadcasts of their 3pm kickoffs. No matches are legally allowed to be broadcast at 3pm in the UK. None. Some viewers manage to get around this blackout with dodgy streams and through grey market broadcasts from other countries but the point is that they don’t have 100% access to all matches the way that we do here in the USA.

Another thing I shouldn’t complain about is the fact that Arsenal finished fifth last season and will probably have a lot of their matches relegated to this new service this year. Top four teams, the big teams, will all get top billing at the start of the season and unless Arsenal do something incredible, like make a title run, the majority of the broadcast air time will go to Spurs, Chelsea, Man U, Liverpool, and Man City. So, I think of this new $50 service as a “fifth place tax” that  I will have to pay if I want to continue to watch every Arsenal match.

Some places are billing this change as a chance to “cut cords” with your cable company. Unless you’re a casual fan of the League, don’t follow a specific club, or don’t really care to watch every match, this is an additional $50 fee on top of my already ridiculous cable bill — a bill I only have because I want to watch football.

Hey, look, I’m old enough to remember when we had to get up off the couch and change channels by twisting a knob and then had to get the channel clear by twiddling some antennae on top of the TV. So, being able to watch a soccer match live from halfway across the globe on my phone is a miracle. I guess what I’m complaining about is the fact that I had it basically perfect, NBC Sports did a perfect job of presenting the English Premier League. And now I have to pay an extra $50.

This change really shouldn’t be a surprise. With the amount of money it costs NBC to buy these games and with the huge popularity of the sport in the USA, it was only a matter of time before they realized they could cash in. My only request is that we find a way to parlay this into a service that shows every single match so that I can finally get rid of my cable service. Though, I seriously doubt they care about offering me that.

Qq

26 Comments on NBCSports just told me I gotta pay an extra $50 to watch Arsenal

  1. NBC is owned by Comcast I believe, so therein lies the reason why they designed this new service so that you can’t fully cut the cord.

  2. If all of us gave every sports network $50 a year, we could be free of Alexi Lalas forever. Consider it! No other pundit combines stupidity and arrogance to such a high level.

    • $50 to never hear from Lalas ever again ?
      Money well spent.

      Claudio Bravo has just beat Portugal on penalties in the semis of Confederations Cup.
      Chile should’ve won in extra time after denied a clear pen and hitting the post and the bar on one play.

      So extra $50 to watch Arsenal win the title next season? No problem. I’m already paying stupid money for my direct tv package which shows mostly reruns of same movies and shows across the 300 plus channels I get.

      Discovery and sports channels are about the only thing worth paying for.

  3. I already pay a premium to Time Warner just to get NBC Sports, It’s included on a special tier that I pay 8 dollars a month for and I pay another 8 bucks for La Liga and NBA TV because it’s on another tier. I’m getting rid of La Liga and NBA this year. I’m pretty pissed about this not just because of the extra money but how inconvenient they have made it compared to the current system of extra channels.
    Has anyone tried Youtube TV, Sling or one of the cord cutting alternatives to receive NBCSports? Whats the streaming quality like and are there any blackouts for football?
    If they do not blackout the games on these services, I might just cancel my cable subscription and go all Internet streams for football this season.

    • I cut the cord about 2 years ago. I have Playstation Vue at $35 month and that gives me access to NBCSN and the affiliates. An additional $50 per season is unwelcome but not the end of the world.

    • I think I’m one of the few who makes out in this deal. I don’t have cable and subscribe to Sling for $25/month. This gives me NBC and NBCSN. Games that weren’t on NBC/SN could be watched online at NBC Live Extra for free. Unfortunately you needed a cable subscription to get it. Live Extra was not accessible with a Sling account. Now it appears all those games are headed to the a la carte NBC Gold service for $50/season. This deal sucks if you have cable because you’re paying for something you got for free before. But good for cord-cutters who can now watch all matches between Gold and a streaming service like Sling/Youtube TV/DirecTV Now.

  4. Only $50 a year to watch the delights of Watford v. Stoke, Burnley v. West Brom, and Swansea v. Crystal Palace? How can you afford not to?

  5. On the bright side, one could argue that this only encourages fans to locate their local Arsenal America pub and congregate with fellow Gooners on certain match days. Or, y’know, start your own branch.

    • Can they legally share/stream these games? I kind of doubt it. I believe they will have to pay for a broadcast license which will get quite $$$.

      • My local shows every First Team match, televised, streamed, or what-have-you, even pre-season and Emirates Cup. Have for years. Still need to get them to put up the youth and Women’s teams, though. 🙂 Haven’t the faintest about the legal side, but I can’t see any difference between a pub turning on the telly and the same pub streaming content. I’m guessing the Sports Bars all pay some sort of modified cable bill.

  6. I’d happily pay it to continue getting your thoughts on Arsenal (most of which I disagree with) for free.
    P.S (I’m broke but I hear sentiment is just as valuable a currency in the USA as the dollar and I really really appreciate the blog 🙂
    P.P.S I get all my Info on the USA from FOX news sooooo……..it’s them or you

  7. If i were a Sunderland fan though, i could have watched every game on via the Extra Time channels included in the cable package under the prior regime . Im going to miss turning to those channels to watch goal highlights during halftime.

    Also, the Europa league probabaly helps Arsenal stay on NBC/NBCSN because they will be the biggest Sunday draw after the Champs league teams play on Saturday.

  8. So much for my plan to “cut the cord” with my cable provider and sign up for PlayStation Vue when my cable subscription expires at the end of next season. I studied antitrust in school and all this talk about competition is irrelevant on a micro scale. Whoever owns the “last mile” into your home has a monopoly, i.e., the relevant market is your home, not your neighborhood or city.

  9. In my neck of the woods in the southern Caribbean, NBC prem games are blacked out (I have about 300 US cable channels on an all-you-can-eat package), so I get, on a local sports channel, a kind of British stream targeted at an overseas audience, on which awful commentators like Andy Townsend and Phil Neville pop up. Incredible how much worse than Gary Phil is, both as a player and a pundit. And he’s all but wearing United red, something the excellent Gary avoids doing.

    Whoever I get (a) seems biased against Arsenal (b) too forgiving of nasty, red car would against us (“oooh, he was probably being a bit naughty there”), while seemingly wanting capital punishment for an Arsenal player’s slight infraction. It’s rather poor fare, and I spend more time than is healthy swearing at my TV. Even Martin Tyler spent most of the FA Cup final moaning that Chelsea were tired. The good is play by play from Jon Champion, old-school and one of my favourites.

    I get plenty ESPN post-game, and their football punditry is pretty dire. Thank goodness for YouTube, where you can watch some decent replays and post-game analysis not targeted towards your market.

  10. Is this in addition to the more expensive cable package I get from Optonline, only so I can watch the games?

  11. There are actually people that listen to pregame, halftime, and postgame commentary? As for in match commentary, sometimes I listen but more often I don’t. If I could pay ANOTHER $50 on top of the $50 access fee to just hear crowd noise, I’d gladly fork over the whole $100 and consider it a bargain.

  12. Kinda condescending don’t you think?

    There are planty of former top tier players employed as pundits or commentators who offer unique insights into the game by virtue of working under some of the best managers, like Gary Neville or Lee Dixon to name a few.

    Unfortunately Eric Wynalda or Alexis Lalas offer none.

  13. TV exists to gather the most eyeballs possible. Nothing more.
    So if you have two commentators, one erudite but a bit boring and one a bit unoriginal but inflammatory, then you’re going to be watching a lot of Steven A Smith.

    If you want insight and thoughtful analysis then you generally need to seek out niche products, like 7am. There are some good tactical youtube channels as well, but I haven’t found any that focus on Arsenal.

  14. I am not paying a cent more if we sell Alexis to City. If we show some cojones and make him see out his contract, I’ll be happy to pay that extra $4/month.

  15. I cut the cord and stream everything online – illegally. I have no shame. Yes, it’s theft. I rationalize it to myself. Sometimes I have to watch the day after, but it’s all there.

  16. I pay the equivalent of $50 to a satellite provider in South Africa that broadcasts pretty much 90 percent or more of the premier league games in a season plus most other major local and international sports plus movies and other entrainment content, which can be watched on multiple devices. And nobody I know thinks we’re getting a good deal over here.

    But how else are you going to do this legally? Last season every single Arsenal game was available live. So I’m complaining on one hand, but then not really on the other.

    • And by every Arsenal game I mean League Cup, FA Cup, Champions League and Premier League.

      And by entrainment I mean entertainment 🙂

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