Note to beINSport USA – get it together!
Serie A fans are up in arms about beINSport as the league seems to be relegated to “filler” status on its network. To be fair, most of the consternation comes from the fact that Fox Soccer have owned the rights to Serie A during the last 3-year distribution cycle and fans, quite frankly, got spoiled by its coverage. It was a natural fit for Fox who’s other big league rights were that of the English Premiership which presented little or no conflict with Serie A’s schedule. Let’s be honest, when Premiership kickoffs did conflict with those of Serie A, the Italians were treated with little respect. Any network that owns both La Liga and Serie A rights, will have some serious juggling to do and some fans will always be left unsatisfied. But having said that, beINSport can certainly do a lot better…
beINSport is in its infancy and is facing two problems at the moment: One is distribution and the second is programming which revolves around Real Madrid and Barcelona. Currently, the channel is available on only 3 providers: DirecTV, Dishnetwork and Comcast cable. While both channels (English and Spanish versions) are produced in 1080-HD, only the english version on DirecTV is being shown in HD. Comcast doesn’t even offer the english channel but rather the spanish channel with english commentary available via the SAP option. This means that Comcast subscribers can NOT see any French Ligue-1 matches because beINSport does not own the spanish language Ligue-1 rights (they belong to Univision). So none of the 3 current providers offers beINSport-espanyol in HD!! But let me be perfectly clear: the distribution (and non-distribution) of both beINSport channels is NOT the fault of beINSport. beINSport would love to be available on ALL possible providers and in HD for both channels. But keep in mind, it took Time Warner 10 years to add The NFL Network to its subscribers. What chance to you think and international sports channel has on Time Warner? I bring up the distribution in order to separate it from programming for which beINSport DOES have control over and could use some serious changes in order to provide the variety and balance all of its sports properties deserve.
This weekend’s programming offers the perfect example of why Serie A fans feel left out. Juventus vs Roma is a traditionally marqee matchup in Serie A. It kicks off at 2:45pm ET but will not be shown on either beINSport channel until 6pm ET. Why? Because Barcelona kick off at 4:00pm ET which means that the last 30 minutes or so of the Juventus/Roma match conflicts with the Barca match. You see, beINSport start all programming decisions with placing all Barcelona or Real Madrid matches on BOTH beINSport channels and then all other decisions are made based on what doesn’t conflict with those matches. Yes, Barcelona and Real Madrid are the bread and butter for any broadcaster. Their importance compared to any Serie A team at this moment in football time is inarguable. Its tough to disagree with beIN’s business approach except for how it is alienating a large contingent of Serie A fans. I would be wrong to even suggest beINSport treat Barcelona or Real Madrid on the same level as Serie A or Ligue-1 teams but what I feel confident in suggesting is a bit more separation between the two beINSport channels and a little more respect for marqee matchups from Italy and France. Again, this Saturday is a perfect example: why not show Juventus v Roma live on the english channel and follow it up with a 45-minute tape delay of Sevilla v Barcelona? The “Espanyol” channel can have the Sevilla v Barcelona match live!! Even the biggest Barcelona fans (and I’m one of them!) couldn’t complain on a 45-delay due to a big match in Italy. Besides, its available on the other channel. Not in HD, you say? Don’t blame beINSport for that as I outlined above.
Next Sunday, October 7th, see the El Clasico being played at the same time as the Milan derby in Italy. Should beINSport split the matches between the 2 channels? No. No league encounter is bigger than Bracelona vs Real Madrid in the world today. It’s just unfortunate that AC Milan and Inter meet on the same night. A delayed broadcast is justified. But it’s the “other” Barcelona and Real Madrid matches that should give way to encounters in Italy between the Milan teams, Juventus, Napoli and some Roma and Lazio matches depending on their respective forms during the season. And not to ignore France’s best, the same goes for PSG and Marseille matches as well. Sunday mornings are a good example of full usage of both beINSport channels when they show two separate Serie A matches at the 9am hour. This policy needs to be extended to when Bracelona or Real Madrid are playing smaller clubs (which is Spain is pretty much ALL matches aside from El Clasico). More channels would certainly help but lets be realistic…we’re lucky at this point to have the two channels knowing how hard it is to land space on provider’s services. But when beIN treats the 2 channels as mirrors rather than separate entities, somebody is going to lose. And so far its been Serie A fans.
Other issues? A couple come to mind….One, how about that streaming service that was promised even before the launch of the channels? The service could certainly deflect many of the complaints outlined above. Two, the incesant repeats of matches compared to matches that only air in the “90 in 30” version. I can see many matches not making it to air on delay when programming eventually gets filled with other sporting events such as handball, etc. But until that time, some more games and less repeats would be a welcome change.