Home Business of Soccer The beIN debate II: Why blame the broadcaster and not the leagues?

The beIN debate II: Why blame the broadcaster and not the leagues?

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bein-sport-logoChances are, if you’re angry that you can’t watch La Liga, the French League, Serie A or the English Championship in Canada, you are in a bad relationship.

You just might not know it yet.

A couple of weeks back, I wrote an article outlining the Canadian broadcast regulations, showing the kind of hoops that beIN Sports would need to jump through to make itself available in this country. It was, as ratings go on this site, a smash hit: No doubt, the fact that beIN has swallowed up the Canadian broadcast rights to Serie A, La Liga, Ligue 1 and the English Championship — but isn’t itself available in Canada — has touched many nerves.

Last time, I wrote politely about the rules in Canada. (CLICK HERE) This article will not be as polite. In fact, I am going to give you, the readers, some very tough love.

I do this, because, like you, I care. I care too much.

So, let’s get this straight. If you’re frustrated with the beIN situation, fine. But, if you are angry with beIN, if you think the broadcaster is 100 per cent at fault here, then you need to give your head a shake.

This is the thing. Your leagues — Serie A, La Liga and, yes, even the English Championship — they’re the hot girl who treated you like crap in high school but you kept trying to talk to her anyway. You’d fall over yourself to watch those games, even though those leagues sold their Canadian rights to a broadcaster that didn’t have a Canadian licence.

You can say they didn’t know or understand how broadcasting works in Canada, that our pie was too small for them to pay attention. You can say that selling the North American rights as a package deal made good business sense; sell two territories’ worth of licensing in one fell swoop. I get that. But I also think that the best way to deal with someone who thinks you’re too small-potatoes to care about is to ignore that person in return.

So, stop falling over yourself. Stop following those leagues.

Why do we not hold the leagues in Europe to the same scrutiny we do the leagues in North America? When the National Hockey League left ESPN behind to go to Versus. (later known as OLN), there was plenty of criticism of the league — how could it move games from a major network to one that wasn’t available in a lot of American homes? In Canada, there were howls when Canadian NHL teams moved some of their games off free TV to pay-per-view or onto a house network (Leafs TV). There were complaints when Toronto FC moved many of its matches away from lower-tier broadcasters to GolTV. When it comes to North America, we understand that the teams and leagues should take the heat; in the end, its up to them to sign deals with broadcasters.

I think part of that comes from the fact that North American media tends to do a much better job than European media when it comes to covering the whole of sport. And by that, I mean the economies around the game. European media tends to stick its head in the sand when it comes to the boardrooms of the clubs that it covers. Journalists there demand that clubs that are losing hundreds of millions still go out and buy players — there’s a fanboy disconnect in European media that’s become pervasive. Spanish journalists will stalk players at airports and see which potential transfer targets bought new houses, but, as a rule, don’t chase the team presidents with the same vigour. It’s not valid to paint everyone with the same brush; there are good writers and broadcasters who rise to the top. But, the truth is that most of the European media has turned their sports pages into gossip columns; they’ve helped to inflate the notion of celebrity players and untouchable clubs.

Meanwhile, we in North America talk about finances a lot; we scrutinize NHL teams like the Phoenix Coyotes and New Jersey Devils; we talk about blips in TV numbers and understand that pro sport is a business. So, when it comes to European soccer clubs, they have an aura of godliness to them, because they are often not held accountable for what they are doing for the health of the game as a whole. The fanboys don’t want to lose access, they don’t want to get on the bad side of a manager or club president, and then they act shocked when a team is in the red so badly that its fixing matches or being relegated down three divisions.

Cultural Perceptions
So, we have a soccer culture, influenced by European media, where those oh-so-angelic clubs and leagues aren’t being taken to task over the Canadian broadcast mess. The evil broadcaster is the one holding the cards. True, beIN has not helped itself by deciding against publicly commenting about the mess; so this is the perception that grows: That the station had the hubris to think that it could either buy the rights and show games in Canada, without understanding the CRTC process; or that it would use the rights to these leagues as leverage to try and bend the CRTC rules.

So, beIN has taken its share of arrows.

FACT: Those leagues consciously sold away the Canadian rights to a network that isn’t available in Canada. If those league didn’t do their homework, fans here should hold them responsible for doing so.

If you really want this to change, if you’re really serious about getting that hot girl (or hot guy) to notice you, STOP blaming beIN. Start assigning that anger and blame to the leagues themselves.

As much as it might pain you, don’t buy a Barca shirt this year. Ignore the streams of Real Madrid. Tell your local cafe you aren’t turning up to see AC Milan games on RAI. Those leagues decided you weren’t important; so, take a year off. Watch other leagues. Watch local soccer. Support your MLS or NASL sides. Go watch a CIS game. Go watch teams and leagues where they’ll say “thank you” when you buy a ticket or show your support in other ways.

But, if you keep fawning over Barca and Real Madrid and AC Milan and Roma, as sexy as they are, well, you’re proving to them that messing over the Canadian market hasn’t cost them a thing. You’re proving to them that you’re a sucker.

Instead of sending e-mails to beIN, send emails to the press agents and contacts for the various leagues and teams. And, yes, that includes the English Championship. Tell them that you’re done until the Canadian mess is sorted out.

If you don’t — and let’s be frank about this — you deserve what you get. You deserve having to go to Russian websites and going through about five illegal streams before finding one that works, being tormented by pop-up ads about Eastern European brides, just to have the screen go black right before a goal is scored.

You can be a sheep — you have the power to choose. Or, you could do something that really shows your angry; you could try and show the respective teams and leagues how much you care. And, to do that, you boycott them. No Barca games this year. No Madrid matches. No Watford or Ipswich Town. They were too good for you, so why would you wear their colours?

Sometimes, when you care about something so much, you have to let go. With no movement in sight when it comes to beIN making games available in Canada, you can at least do your part to educate the leagues about how their matches aren’t being made available in a small but wealthy (on a global scale) market. And if they continue to not really care, shouldn’t it be time to up the ante?

Remember that it’s when you stop fawning over the hot girl (or guy) who treats you like crap, that your eyes are opened to the great people around you. There are plenty of teams that are waiting for you to put on a scarf.

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4 Comments

  1. Richard Watt

    September 10, 2013 at 10:55 pm

    I understand your argument, but for many of us, it doesn’t work like that. Your argument is that we should behave like North American fans rather than European ones, and I’m afraid that won’t work for people like me.

    You see, I don’t follow a league – the concept of following a league causes me to shake my head in befuddlement, even after seven years in Canada. I follow a team; two, now I live in BC (that’s a whole other area I’m not getting into right now). If my team is in a league which is televised here, great. If my team’s games are not televised live, too bad. If my team’s games are televised, but not in this country – well, what do you think will happen?

    If my team is playing and there’s a game from an entirely different league being televised, I’m following my team, thanks. If my team is not playing and there’s a game on – yeah, I might watch it, if I’m not doing anything else. But even if it’s a game from the same league as my team is in, the interest level is not high enough to get me out of bed at 4am, and it’s certainly not high enough to protest to anyone about it. Would I enjoy watching Juve – Milan? Of course I would, but not more than I’d enjoy watching my own team struggle to beat a bunch of part-timers in a meaningless cup competition.

    What’s shocking here is that – as with almost every form of entertainment which can be digitised – those in charge have badly misunderstood what has happened. The information is out there; it will be accessed, like it or not. You can’t control that, so you’d better control making it easy for consumers to consume. If you don’t, they’re just going to ignore you and get this stuff illegally and for free.

    I love the happy, naive, 20th century idea that television, sport, music, whatever, has national boundaries. Right up until the tipping point when the internet went mainstream, it did. Now, don’t be silly – if I want to watch Albanian television at 3 in the morning, I’ll do that. And I won’t be watching the Canadian equivalent unless it’s of higher quality (which, to be fair, it probably will be) or of more interest to me. It’s not a problem for me to source pretty much anything I want to watch when I want to watch it – it’s trivial. Content producers still can’t understand that and in trying to control some part of the information flow, have got hold of the wrong part altogether.

    Lots of people and organisations are to blame for the fact that the Canadian rights holders for some of the most popular sports in the world don’t broadcast in Canada. But none of them are solving the problem, so mostly we the consumers will simply ignore that minor obstacle and just do what we want anyway. And not buying a Doncaster Rovers shirt which I wouldn’t have bought anyway because they’re not my team isn’t going to change anything, I’m afraid.

    Reply

  2. wfcfan

    August 30, 2013 at 6:24 am

    Bein purchased the North American rights to access the US market with no intention of pursuing a Canadian license and perhaps want to sell the Canadian rights for a fee. That’s like people who hoard food during a natural disaster and sell it for 4x the normal price and say “hey you should blame the grocery store for selling it to me”. Legal -yes, good karma ? no.

    Reply

    • TOareaFan

      September 5, 2013 at 9:52 pm

      Bein purchasing rights for Canada even though they are not a licensed carrier in Canada is exactly what Setanta did all those years ago. In that case, there was enough of a market here for the matches that Rogers saw value in partnering with Setanta to form Setanta Canada (now known as Rogers Sportsnet World). If there is enough of a paying audience for these leagues surely Rogers or TSN or Shaw or someone will see the value in those rights (either to purchase them or partner with Bein)

      Reply

      • Steven Sandor

        September 5, 2013 at 10:23 pm

        Some differences between Setanta and BeIn. Setanta didn’t have blanket rights for leagues (Sportsnet still had EPL matches, and The Score at the time had them too) and came in as a premium service. CRTC does not accept a foreign broadcaster that comes into the country with blanket rights for foreign leagues. Must open competition to Canadian broadcasters.

        Reply

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