April 9, 2019

EPL FREE KICKS: Should fans be concerned about EPL’s move to DAZN?

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

Fans of the Premier League are about to be riding a wave into the future next season – for better or worse.

As we reported back in December, DAZN and Premier League have reached a deal for the streaming service to become the exclusive broadcaster of the EPL in Canada. The three-year pact was officially announced last week.

The move from traditional TV is one that will turn many off, but is a reality of where the TV industry is going these days and DAZN has managed to be at the forefront of it.

While we raised several concerns about the impact of this move on both fans of the sport and the growth of the league in Canada, neither seem to trouble the streaming service.

“I believe that if the Premier League was concerned about this, they would not have done the deal with us,” said Norm Lem, a senior VP at DAZN Canada. “We are both looking forward to working with each other for the next three seasons and delivering the league’s rich roster of European soccer including all 380 matches.

“We see this as an opportunity to truly engage and serve soccer fans who, in the past, have had to subscribe to so many different cable packages and services to try and cobble together full access to the sport they love.”

There certainly is an appeal to having every game under one roof and, when you consider that Sportsnet World – home of 170 of this season’s 380 EPL games – costs the same price as a subscription to DAZN at $19.99 per month, the hit to your wallet isn’t actually that bad.

The biggest concern, raised by several readers, is that Internet service in Canada can be spotty in some areas, too expensive in others or both.

“I would suggest (EPL fans) talk to their ISP as more and more services are launching every day or converting to a streaming-focused model due to the prohibitive costs of traditional entertainment packages. We also know many Canadians don’t have cable these days and cord-cutting is a major trend. As cord-cutting continues, Internet Service Providers will need to upgrade to meet this new demand.”

Of course, there is some irony about DAZN asking you to contact Bell or Rogers about improving their Internet coverage so that you can watch a product that they lost, but that’s just where we are these days.

As for fans that are unfamiliar with DAZN or even streaming services in general, Lem says the company is working on educating fans – especially those in older demographics.

“We are gearing up for our August kick-off date and will make sure we can deliver to all Canadian fans. We recognize that there is a group of soccer fans who may not be familiar or comfortable with streaming services overall and we will be actively pushing education campaigns and information on how easy it is to sign up and use DAZN,” Lem said.

“Ultimately the content will convince them to come aboard, so we just want to make it easier for them to do so and let them know that with DAZN there is no off-season.”

For what it’s worth, Bell, owner of TSN, wouldn’t comment on the DAZN deal, only releasing a statement saying that TSN “continues to deliver an expansive schedule of soccer coverage as part of the network’s lineup of 60+ championship events.”

And if you think that this is it for DAZN and bringing other sports properties to its service, you’re wrong.

“DAZN certainly has ambitions to be a multi-sport player in Canada and is always looking at ways to expand our offering for our Canadian fans,” Lem said. “You’ll just have to keep an eye on us to find out.”

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

It’s not quite the run that he went on during Leicester’s championship season three years ago, but Jamie Vardy is certainly on a fine run of form.

The Foxes striker scored twice and picked up an assist against relegated Huddersfield Town. That gives Vardy six goals and two assists in the past five games.

Perhaps coincidentally, former Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has been in charge of Leicester for the past five games.

While it is entirely possible that we’re seeing a new manager bump, the fixtures have also been friendly for the Foxes, having not faced a top-six side in the past seven games.

AROUND THE LEAGUE

Speaking of Leicester, midfielder Youri Tielemans has been excellent since joining the team on loan from Monaco. But his strong play could be putting the Foxes in a bind: The better he plays, the more he’ll cost to buy this summer … With this past week being a spot where some makeup games for postponed fixtures were being played, we had EPL action every day of the week except Thursday. Now, some people love it, some people hate it, but can we all just agree that it makes no sense when there are just three games played on a Saturday in that case? … Referee Mike Dean gave out his 100th red card this week after showing Ashley Young his second yellow. Quite the milestone for a ref that draws a lot of ire from fans … Fulham spent 112 million euros on players this season, the most by any team to ever be relegated .. If this is Eden Hazard’s farewell tour from Chelsea, he’s doing a good job of reminding people what he can do when he’s in form. His first goal against West Ham on Monday came after a marvelous run.

THE LAST WORD

Watford and Wolves put on a semifinal worthy of its billing.

After falling behind 2-0, the Hornets bounced back to tie the game and eventually won it in extra time. It was the type of thrilling game that makes even casual fans stand up and cheer.

And when you consider that these are two midtable teams hoping to make the FA Cup final and have a rare chance at some silverware, you can see why they were competing so hard.

Had nothing been on the line, we probably wouldn’t have seen Jose Holebas try to play through a hamstring injury before being subbed off. We wouldn’t have had the electric atmosphere at the West London stadium with more than 80,000 fans in attendance.

They call it the “Magic of the Cup” for a reason and that was certainly on display.

Whether Watford can pull the giant upset and conquer Manchester City when the two teams reconvene at Wembley in mid-May remains to be seen. But we have a feeling that the fans will be behind the team in yellow and black.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

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