Los Angeles Football Club announced a groundbreaking deal on Wednesday, as local broadcasts for the MLS expansion team’s games that are not on national television will be available in English only via YouTube TV, the pay subscription service of the video platform, in a multiyear deal.
LAFC will have a dedicated channel for local viewers, and all pregame, postgame and additional original content dedicated to the team will air on that channel for viewers in the Los Angeles region. YouTube TV currently costs $35 per month.
“This truly is a historic day for our club,” LAFC owner and president Tom Penn said in a release. “YouTube TV is an ambitious and innovative brand that we are proud to showcase on the front of our jersey and in our community. We are excited to provide our fans with a new and creative way to watch all of LAFC’s matches in one place during our inaugural season.”
The move is the first of its kind, although other MLS teams seem to be getting close to offering stream-only broadcasts instead of traditional TV. In one way, this is a radical departure from typical local broadcasting, as people are accustomed to flipping on their televisions and watching games over the air or on cable, depending on the location and the particular set-up in that city. On the other hand, many MLS teams currently have deals to air games on cable TV only, and if consumers are paying for that, they could just as well be expected to pay for a streaming service.
However, much like the Time Warner Cable sports channels basically held Lakers (and Galaxy) and Dodgers games hostage to rival cable companies unless they were added with increased fees, sometimes for years, LAFC is trying a similar gambit to convince consumers to either pay for YouTube TV on top of their current cable or streaming packages, or to drop the other services for YouTube TV as their cable/streaming service of choice. As an expansion team, it could very well be on the crest of a future trend, but it’s also incredibly risky for a start-up that needs exposure. As someone who has both used cable TV and cut the cord and gone for a streaming subscription on another service (and promptly left when the soccer channels I wanted were abruptly cut), I personally am flexible to use the service that best suits my overall needs. Will I subscribe to cable and YouTube TV simultaneously? Doubt it.
“We are at the forefront in engaging our fans on a digital, cable-free platform such as YouTube,” Penn said. “We are also committed to making our matches accessible to everyone throughout Los Angeles, and our upcoming broadcast announcements will provide comprehensive coverage of our club all over Southern California.”
Of course, YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley is a founding co-owner of LAFC, so we probably should have seen this coming.
Now, if you live outside of the geoblock area (which sometimes stretches as far south as San Diego for MLS games) you can subscribe to whatever MLS Live will be this season. MLS Live is the streaming service for out-of-market local broadcasts — in other words, only games that are not on the national networks or in your personal local market. That is also a paid subscription, but if you live out of market or are an MLS junkie, it’s good value for what it is.
Of course, if you want to watch LAFC games on an old-fashioned TV set-up, no matter what, you may get a lifeline:
LAFC has 16 games that will be broadcast nationally this season. The remainder will be aired locally in English on @YouTubeTV. Expect LAFC to sign an over-the-air Spanish language deal (as well as English/Spanish radio deals) before the start of the season.— Ian Thomas (@byIanThomas) January 31, 2018
So, historic day! It will inevitably make some people mad. Is using a particular streaming-only service the way of the future or a way for an expansion team to shoot itself in the foot by siloing off the games to an exclusive paid streaming service? Time will tell.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!