In a way, One World Sports seemed to mirror the NASL. The Cosmos were coming to an organization that was relatively new on the scene, eager to grow, and had promising components to it upon arrival. Growth was promised, expectations were high, and a glowing future seemed to be on the horizon. I, for one, saw the exclusivity as a unique opportunity. The club would have their own broadcast partners, and wouldn’t have to compete with other clubs on the network for coverage. It seemed to be a very promising fit.
However, entering year three of their agreement, it’s safe to say that this marriage is entering new, nearly self-destructive levels. Let’s break down the current state of the deal, component by component.
There seemed to be an unofficial mantra to this broadcast agreement: growth.
Yes, One World Sports was not on many providers at the time, but it would be soon. Yes, they’ve made inroads with (insert very popular broadcaster here). Yes, they’re ready for this move, no problem.
A few years later, and that doesn’t seem to have been the case, whatsoever.
In fact, the only major deals that One World Sports have struck are that of Verizon and Optimum, two of the more prominent telecom providers in the Long Island area. One World Sports fails to be available on any of the top five cable providers in the United States, and even on providers that do carry One World Sports, they aren’t part of a normal sports package.
Getting the channel is only a few short phone calls and $2.95 a month away, yes, but this is still miles away from reaching the casual soccer fan in the United States. At the NASL level, teams (no matter if Cosmos or Armada) need to get regular and popular exposure in order to survive and thrive. OWS should be given credit for the quality of the content they produce (shout-out to New York’s Original Bad Boy Shep Messing), but the accessibility of that content to the general soccer public (and even some die-hard fans) is simply not good enough, especially with the addition of NASL matches on BeIn and CBS this season.
TICC approached One World Sports for comment.
“ONE World Sports has been steadily growing its distribution through additional carriage providers as well as emerging digital platforms such as fuboTV and SONY PlayStation Vue. ONE World Sports moved to Verizon Fios HD in November of last year which allowed even greater exposure for Cosmos and NASL matches. While the network would like to be on basic cable in every platform, many of these decisions are not within our control. We ask viewers to consistently demand ONE World Sports from their cable providers in an effort to help us grow our distribution.”
It should be noted that One World Sports’ availability to PlayStation Vue users appears to be only with the “Elite” package, which will normally cost a subscriber $65 a month, but at time of release is being offered at a $55 a month rate.
Stream Availability and Quality
One World Sports has become infamous for its streaming and broadcast shortcomings since joining up with the Cosmos and the NASL. This writer has come home many a time from Shuart Stadium to find that the Cosmos match didn’t record fully because the first seventeen or so minutes were blacked out.
In addition, One World Sports’ streaming options had been far from consistent up until this season. Until this season, streams would be provided sporadically on the OWS site for free, but many a game would be bumped to the cable login-only “Watch OWS” app. However, the network has constantly streamed games for free on their site, which deserves some respect.
The actual quality of One World Sports streams (and broadcasts, in fact) are quite notorious. Rarely will you go to a Five Points viewing party and not hear the famous “buffering” chant that has been become a mainstay of the life of Cosmos fans in recent years. From computer to phone, West Coast to East Coast (and some Argentinian and English complaints to boot), the desire for a quality stream has existed far and wide for years now. In addition, the broadcast quality hardly ever surpasses that of the stream.
When asked about streaming, OWS provided some hopeful words, and gave some insight into future plans for streams:
“ONE World Sports also recognizes its recent streaming issues and has taken measures to distribute its programming through its YouTube viewer in an effort to alleviate some of the problems. ONE World Sports has also partnered with AOL.com who will be streaming the Cosmos upcoming August 13 match against the Tampa Bay Rowdies.”
Once an interesting prospect for the future, the exclusivity deal that One World Sports hold over the New York Cosmos is, to put it frankly, strangling the club’s visibility and ability to market itself.
In sports, TV should serve a two fold purpose for clubs:
- Give fans easy access to the game they want
- Provide a platform to reach new fans and new markets.
As previously mentioned with the channel availability, OWS has struggled on both of these fronts from the jump. However, the true effects of this were not felt until both BeIn Sports and CBS Sports were brought on as league broadcast partners this season. Considering CBS Sports is available to 96 million homes nationwide and BeIn broadcasts on nearly all major providers OWS doesn’t, the opportunity missed is massive. While the classic “Devils Advocate” counter argument could be presented that the NASL broadcast numbers have been less than record breaking on these networks, you cannot quantify the potential significance of being broadcast on these major national networks.
When asked about the exclusivity deal with the Cosmos, One World Sports said that they only have an exclusivity deal with home games with the club. However, when asked about the struggles of having no Cosmos in new broadcasts deals in an interview with TICC Pod, Commissioner Bill Peterson spoke broadly and made comments that seemed to contradict (in principle) what One World Sports told us.
“Those broadcasters can tell you that they would prefer to have Cosmos involved, but at the same time they’re all in the television business, so they understand the relationship between One World Sports and the Cosmos with the common ownership, and they’d probably all do the same exact thing if they were in their shoes. I don’t know where this goes in the future, but it’ll be an issue that we discuss, and we’ll have to figure out what’s best for the league and the Cosmos and everything else going forward.”
Last, but certainly not least, is the issue of match availability. Not an issue until recently, One World Sports has solved many recent scheduling conflicts between the Cosmos and various cricket matches by bumping the Cosmos onto the online stream and broadcasting cricket matches. The Cosmos saw several of their matches last month bumped to the online stream and the first 17 minutes of the Puerto Rico FC match unavailable to watch.
If that was not enough, the league felt cricket’s effect during a Game of the Week match between Minnesota United and Puerto Rico FC. After a first half that was broadcast in full on One World Sports, the second half was lost to cricket. It was later revealed that technical problems at the CPL match were the only reason that the full NASL matchup was not bumped to stream that night.
“ONE World Sports strives to provide the highest quality programming of live sports content from around the globe to a diverse audience,” stated the network when asked about this. “While we take every effort to avoid conflicts, there are instances where we have multiple live events happening concurrently. In these circumstances, in an effort to satisfy all fans, we have opted to air one event on the linear channel and the other on our website. For the programming that appears on our website, we traditionally re-air the game later that evening and again the following day. Recently, we have had a few conflicts with New York Cosmos and/or NASL matches and Hero Caribbean Premier matches occurring at the same time or a CPL match extending longer than anticipated delaying our linear coverage of the soccer match. We take every effort to avoid switching between matches and giving advance notice through our on-air ticker, on-air mentions and on social media platforms on how to watch. We take many factors into consideration when programming the channel and try to balance the needs of all of our viewers.”
In closing, it appears to this writer and fan that One World Sports are failing in their obligations to both the Cosmos and the NASL. From availability to quality to even broadcasting the games agreed upon, they have been subpar in all areas of the agreement between the two parties. Logically, one cannot expect a new deal to happen for the Cosmos as the two entities share the same owner. One World Sports is here to stay. All Cosmos and NASL fans can do is hope that One World Sports begins to step their game up.