Yesterday afternoon the Riverhounds announced that this Friday’s match against Orlando City B will be the first USL match streamed on ESPN3 as part of a season long initiative. Last season the USL Championship game was on ESPN3, but since then the league hasn’t really mentioned anything on that front. Late last week observant fans started to see USL matches show up on the network’s schedule. While still nothing official from the league, the Riverhounds press release gives us an in-site into the deal.
The short version is the USL has partnered with ESPN3 to broadcast 20 “Game of the Week” matches through out the season. These matches will be hosted / called by Michael Watts and Juan Arango, replacing the local crew for that game. Fundamentally ESPN3 isn’t much different than YouTube. They’re both online only streaming services. The difference being ESPN3 is locked behind cable and/or ISP subscriptions. What it does have is the ESPN name and clout that comes with it, which from a marketing perspective is big. What’s interesting about it is having the same two announcers each week instead of relying on the local guys. It brings an air of professionalism that people expect with national broadcasts in other sports, including MLS’s more recent soccer Sunday setup. I’m curious to see if there will be pre and post game components to the show as well. NASL games have been airing on ESPN3 for a little while now, but I haven’t tuned into one to see what it’s like.
YouTube has worked well for the USL over the last couple seasons, but as the league grows and continues to push towards D2 status they need to branch out to other broadcasting partners. The NASL signed several deals with ESPN3, BeIN Sports, and CBS Sports this year. If the USL feels they’re competitors with the current D2 league, they have some catching up to do. I’m sure MLS would like to see more exposure for their step child league as well.
The takeaway on our end is I think it says a lot that the league is starting with the Riverhounds to kick this thing off. I’ve heard many times that the league views the Riverhounds streaming setup as a model for other teams in the league to emulate. We were one of the first teams to do multiple camera angles, and the first (and one of the few) who do goal cams. We the Steel Army don’t see it a lot since we’re at the game, and I know the opener this year was a little rough, but I’m always impressed by what the crew puts out. If the USL is going to start a new streaming initiative, they might as well start with the best of the best.
We’re on a bigger stage this week folks. Get down to Highmark Stadium and show them what we got! Kick off is at 7 pm. Tailgate starts between 4 and 5.