…we remain committed to providing all USL matches online for free. – Jay Preble, USL Communications Director
Over the last two seasons, fans of the USL have been treated to live broadcasts of matches and recorded video features at no cost via YouTube. Recent developments, including the imminent launch of YouTube Red and the simulcast of the 2015 USL Championship on YouTube and ESPN3, have started to raise questions about the platform the USL will employ to deliver content to fans across the globe. Equally as important is the question of whether or not fans will have to pay for that content.
YouTube Red is a new subscription service being offered by the popular online video provider. For a nominal monthly fee, subscribers get access to ad-free videos and a new slate of original programming. The free YouTube site is not disappearing, but some of its content is. A concept tagged as “content parity” instructs that all videos with advertisements on the free sight must also be available without ads on YouTube Red. Content parity has apparently already forced ESPN to shut down its YouTube channels and pull all of its content from the site.
Jay Preble, USL Communications Director, does not view the introduction of the subscription service as problematic for any plans that USL might have for the soccer league’s online video content. Preble correctly points out that decision to subscribe to YouTube Red resides with the individual consumer.
The difference between ESPN and the USL with regard to YouTube content in many cases reduces to a matter of who holds the rights to the content. USL owns the rights to all of its own content. With some exceptions, ESPN only owns the rights to broadcast content that belongs to other entities. Placing that content on a site that requires a subscription becomes problematic for ESPN, especially when there are existing agreements with other subscription-based services.
Just because the introduction of YouTube Red comes without hassle for the USL, it does not mean that the league is determined to stick with that platform for delivering content.
“We aren’t at the point of announcing our plans for next year yet, but you can be sure that we remain committed to providing all USL matches online for free,” said Preble.
Preble indicated that an integration with ESPN3 is one of the options being explored for the upcoming season. This is not a surprise, given the quality of the production for the 2015 USL Championship and the gravitas of being associated with the sports media behemoth.
The USL has a history of using a variety of broadcast partners in an attempt to best serve its fan base. Prior to hosting content on YouTube, live streams of matches were available on UNATION. Once upon a time, matches were shown on the now defunct Fox Soccer Channel. Fans will have to stay tuned to find out where to tune in for USL matches in 2016.