Old Man Yells at Cloud

MLS Television Blackouts: When Emotion and Data Collide by Jared Young

Major League Soccer placed a calculated bet a few years back. They wagered they had core fans for life while they went searching for more marginal fans. The first part of this bet became public when MLS announced that ESPN had exercised their right to stream out-of-market games, and they would fold their digital streaming service MLS LIVE. All out-of-market content would move to a new ESPN+ app. It was sold as a great deal for existing fans. MLS Live was running at $70+ per season and the ESPN+ app was under $60 per year, and there was more content available. Sounds like a win, right?

But MLS LIVE wasn’t just an out-of-market service, because thirteen teams in 2017 did not exercise a blackout policy for their local games. Blackouts happen when a game is not televised for a specific group of people. They are very frustrating for fans who have paid for a service yet aren’t able to watch the game on a channel they thought they had paid for. The benefit of MLS LIVE was that fans of those thirteen teams that had severed ties with cable (aka "cut the cord") could watch their local team with the app. As a cord cutting Philadelphia Union fan, one of the teams that did not enforce blackouts, I was very happy with MLS LIVE.

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