UEFA Champions League and Europa League matches will be on different American television channels beginning next fall, and with that chance will come new ways of legally streaming the content.
Turner Broadcasting Corporation is taking over from Fox Sports as the exclusive rights holder for the two European competitions in the USA, after successfully bidding for the rights last year. In addition to broadcasting matches on live television, they also announced recently that they will be launching a new stand-alone streaming service, “Bleacher Report Live,” which in their words, “will serve as the central hub for both the discovery and consumption of live sports content.” The new service will begin streaming early next month.
According to World Soccer Talk, B/R Live will exclusively stream every match of the Europa League and about half of the Champions League matches. The finals of both competitions will not be streamed but will be televised on a Turner-owned television station.
In addition to Champions League and Europa League matches, B/R Live will also stream a variety of Turner-owned sports franchises, including NBA League Pass games, NCAA collegiate championships across various sports, PGA Championship tournaments, the National Lacrosse League, and even the World Arm Wrestling League. Obviously, the NBA games and the UEFA football leagues are the primary draws for the service.
The Turner announcement did not release information regarding payment structure or cost, but did state that the service was going to kick off with a free trial period for users. The implication is that, much like Fox’s standalone Fox Soccer Match Pass (formerly known as Fox Soccer2Go), it will likely have either a yearly or monthly fee.
We really shouldn’t be surprised by this move. UEFA matches are becoming more and more popular in the United States, and the streaming of Champions League and Europa matches are a cash cow. FOX allowed live streaming of matches through Fox Sports Go via a cable subscription, and various online services like Fubo or YouTube TV allowed you to DVR matches and watch them at your convenience. It’s not clear yet at this stage whether Turner will implement something similar, or if they’ll offer match replays.
Covering soccer is new ground for Turner, but they have a history of excellent coverage of other sporting events, most notably the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, which is shown on various Turner-owned television networks, and with every game streamed live. Turner has already announced that former NBA star and Tottenham Hotspur fan Steve Nash will serve as one of their in-studio analysts for European football.
Obviously we’ll need to wait for more details about pricing. I’m not opposed to a stand-alone service for streaming football matches. In fact, I’m on record as having preferred that option — live sports are pretty much the only thing that has kept me from cutting the cord entirely. Turner would establish a lot of goodwill with soccer fans, however, if they were either offer a low-cost, competitive subscription price, or allow a package that would be for all UEFA soccer matches only.
Either way, with Tottenham assuredly participating in either the Champions League and/or the Europa League next season, be ready for changes to how you consume your European football content, and also be prepared to possibly pay a little more than you do now.