Ranking the Bullshit Soccer Streaming Services
This past weekend, we all welcomed the Premier League back into our lives after an off-season that seemed shorter than an average Yuya Kubo possession. And, for the first time, we’re going to be treated to a full season of top-quality matches hidden behind the paywall on NBC’s new “absolutely no one fucking asked for this” streaming service: Peacock.
It’s also the latest front in the ongoing war to pry monthly subscription fees from soccer fans for the privilege of watching their favorite teams.
To help you better understand these services, I’ve done the legwork to rank them so you can decide which ones are worth your money and which ones you should skip and, instead,look for a bootleg stream for matches on Reddit:
1. ESPN+ – ESPN+ is the Cadillac of Apps when it comes to soccer streaming. The irony here is that ESPN, as an entity, fucking sucks, especially for soccer fans. The network, which employs Stephen A. Smith (the answer to the question of “What if you could turn a Muppet into an actual person?”) and the "Stephen A. Smith of Soccer" Taylor Twellmen, is openly hostile to the sport on its best days and cancelled its only soccer studio show (the cleverly named "ESPN FC") to add an 8th hour to "First Take." Fortunately, the ESPN+ app allows you to enjoy live sports without ever being sucked into an inane talking-head debate about how significant it is that some NBA star unfollowed his teammates on Instagram or if Dak Prescott’s soup commercials are contributing to Cowboys losses.
Your $5.99 per month gets you access to all out-of-market MLS matches, USL, the FA cup, England’s Championship, Bundesliga, and Serie A. Hell, you can even scout the FCC “Stars of Tomorrow” in the Eredivisie! Bored / Drunk at 3 in the morning? Check out the Australian A -League. In need of more JOSU in your life? The Kerala Blasters are on ESPN+ too with the Indian Super League In fact, I’m 99% certain that there is some soccer match streaming on ESPN+ at all hours of the day between August and May. If I find myself on furlough or out of work in the next 6 months, I'll be sure to report back on this theory at a later date.
The non-soccer offerings for ESPN+ can almost make the purchase worthwhile on their own, assuming you like college sports or are an absolute degenerate gambler in need of action on a mid-week tilt between Florida Atlantic and Georgia Southern. The real genius of ESPN+, though, is that you can also bundle it with Hulu and Disney+ (there's a point to be made here, incidentally, about MouseCorp employing the verbiage of Newspeak with all of their streaming networks, but I'm not smart enough to make it. Regardless, I'm definitely signing up for Disney Doubleplus if it gets me the new Obi Wan show sooner), making it an easier sell as a household purchase AND allowing you to be a full contributor in the Baby Yoda meme community. ⭐⭐⭐⭐ (out of 4)
2. CBS All Access – From the outset, we need to establish that after ESPN+, all of these other streaming services suck. So, much like ranking the menu items at an Arby’s, we’re really talking degrees of shittiness here.
CBS All Access is a kick-in-the dick purchase because they own the Champions League broadcast rights alone. Meaning, if you (like most people who follow European soccer) picked a Superclub to follow (because why be miserable when you have a choice) and want to watch their Champion’s League matches, it’s an added purchase on top of whatever you pay some other streaming service to watch league matches. It’s the perfect storm of modern media bullshit and why, against all fucking odds, people are fondly remembering the days of being a cable subscriber. Having said that, CBS All Access is at least nice enough to give you ALL of the Champions League matches on their streaming platform, which means your $6 per month is all you need to pay to watch the totality of the tournament (this will become important later). CBS All Access is also the home of the NWSL. Unfortunately, in the time it took you to read that last sentence, 6 more of the league's top stars just departed for Europe, so YMMV as to how much enjoyment that offering will bring.
The rest of the CBS All Access lineup kinda blows, mostly because the average age of a CBS viewer is “pre-embalmed” and most CBS programming involves people staring intently at crime scenes and an aggressive use of overly dramatic orchestral music. Until the acquisition of the UCL, their business model seemed primarily to be fucking over Star Trek fans, who have seen not one but 3 separate shows (including the fanwankery “Picard,” a nostalgia-fest show written and directed by someone who apparently had absolutely no nostalgia for Jean Luc Picard) sent behind a paywall because “Fuck you, nerds. You’ll pay.” Otherwise, there isn't much on offer at CBS that would make you excited to spend your non-soccer viewing time. ⭐⭐ (out of four)
EDITED TO ADD: Apparently, just today, the suits in charge at CBS decided that their streaming platform is going to be renamed "Paramount+," possibly in an effort to confuse people as to what service they're signing up for when they're really just looking for new episodes of "The Mandelorian." This all feels like an inevitable precursor to them declaring the triumphant return of UPN, the greatest "Can Pro Wrestling and Sci-Fi carry an entire TV Network" experiment in recorded history.
3. Peacock (NBC) – Undoubtedly the brainchild of a room full of dickheads with Wharton degrees, Peacock is making an early-run at the title for “Worst streaming platform of all time.” You can start with the name “Peacock,” which makes Rebecca Lowe visibly uncomfortable every time she’s forced to say it by her NBC Overlords. Nobody under 70 actually remembers a time when NBC’s logo was an actual Peacock (as opposed to the odd arrangement of apostrophes it looks like today), yet this was the name they landed on (hopefully after being scammed for 7-figures by a branding firm that took 30 seconds to come up with a name and then billed for another 9 months of “research”). It's possibly the dumbest name in television history for a channel / streaming platform, and that's saying something when you remember that "Cloo TV" existed (also an NBC/Universal owned property).
The insidious thing about Peacock is that it’s a paywall within a paywall. Only select EPL matches are put on Peacock – for the remainder, you still need a fucking cable subscription to get NBCSN. It wouldn’t be quite so bad if your $5 per month got you access to every EPL match streaming but that would be too fucking easy, wouldn’t it? Instead, watching the EPL, even on the cheap, sets you back the $50-$60 it costs for a streaming TV package + that last “Fuck you $5” to get Peacock. Even typing this out makes me irrationally angry. It would be like if HBO had announced "Fans love 'Game of Thrones!' To make the viewing experience better, we're going to have the even-numbered episodes on our pay TV channel and have the odd-numbered episodes to stream on HBONow for a separate fee!" Actually, in hindsight, I'm shocked that the dipshits who ran that show didn't come up with this plan.
Beyond soccer, Peacock is a waste of your fucking data. Their website, the place they’re allegedly trying to sell you on this festering pile of shit, proudly boasts you’ll get access to great shows like "The King of Queens," "Two and a Half Men," and "Everybody Loves Raymond." The only thing missing here is a shitty laugh track being played through your computer speakers at high-volume when you click the “sign up” button. You’ll also get access to shows like “Below Deck” (referred to simply as “The Boat Show” in my household, where it runs on a seemingly constant loop every night) and multiple iterations of “The Real Housewives of [Insert Place Here].” This may be of interest to you if you’re a truly awful person and enjoy watching rich people with a combined IQ of 7 shouting at one another in picturesque locations or gaudy houses. ⭐½ (out of 4)
4. FloFC / FloSports – Finally, we come to our old friend, FloSports. Named after the euphemism used by 1950s grandmothers to teach kids about menstruation, Flo is the undefeated and undisputed champion of shitty paywalling. FloFC, their soccer streaming service, was / is such a disaster that they were dumped by DC United and FC Cincinnati in less than a year. Going back and reading the presser issued by FCC that announced the now-defunct deal is a comedy goldmine. I’m sure we all remember fondly the “in-depth features and interviews with team personnel to show fans what daily life looks like…” that FloFC assured us they would be producing last season. Or who could forget the “original FC Cincinnati programming and exclusive content highlighted by behind-the-scenes access” we got from the geniuses at Flo. Good times. Noodle Salad.
Thanks to the scumbags that run our local branch of the FIFA syndicate, FloFC is an unavoidable purchase to watch select national team soccer matches in the United States. For the upcoming CONCACAF Nations League, FloFC holds the English rights to all non-USMNT matches, meaning if you want to watch the Mexican national team play, you’ll need to subscribe to this parasite of a service. Worst of all, while the rest of the ghouls in this space have settled on $4.99-$5.99 as the optimum price point of “Fuck it, I’ll just pay…” FloFC is still out there trying to hustle you for $29.99 a goddamn month. That’s THIRTY FUCKING DOLLARS to watch soccer superpowers like Barbados and Grenada. The only rational explanation for this is that they need to somehow recoup the contents of the suitcases full of money they dropped off at the house of whatever crook replaced Jack Warner as the head of the crime family in charge of CONCACAF.
Fuck FloSports forever. NEGATIVE-⭐⭐⭐⭐ (out of 4)
• Yes, I’m aware there was an FC Cincinnati match this weekend. What else is there to say about this team? Watching them play soccer ranks up there with “getting sucked into a politics debate on one of your racist uncle’s Facebook posts” in terms of truly joyless and pointless activities you can engage in. With every passing match, I get closer to the unavoidable conclusion of “nuke the entire roster and start over.” The team always looks like it’s playing a man down and the only thing required to beat them is to high press and wait for someone to boot the ball up-field and concede possession. And sure, it’s swell that we scored a goal, but when Nashville is out there dropping 4s on people, there needs to be some soul-searching at Orange & Blue HQ about what the fuck we’re doing right now.
• It turns out the “Nonstop Flight” documentary was actually pretty good and a decent watch. I still stand by my point from last week that we need to start focusing on the present and the future from now on. There’s only so long that you can pat yourself on the back for just getting into the room before it starts getting pathetic. We’ve reached that point right now. If the goal was simply to make it to MLS, the team should've done what the documentary did: conveniently end after the Portland match last season.
• Right up until Randy "Can't Remember Which Leg I'm Faking an Injury On" Bullock Bengal’d his chip-shot field goal yesterday, this column was going to be about how FC Cincinnati fucked up a 2 year head-start on the Bengals. That column may still come, because Joe Burrow is the truth and there’s nothing this town loves more than riding the bandwagon for a winning team. FC Cincinnati was the media and casual sports fans’ darling when they were winning and fun to watch. They’ve gotten (largely) a free pass because every other team locally has sucked at about the same level over the past 2 years. Don’t count on that staying the same now that Burrow is here for the Bengals.
• They made a movie about Adrien Regattin. It’s called “Homeward Bound.”
That’s all for this week. Until next time, see you motherfuckers in the Thunderdome.