Echoing the sentiments of many supporters yesterday, Die Innenstadt is disappointed with FC Cincinnati’s decision to sell its regional streaming rights to FloFC. We believe this move will significantly inhibit the growth of FC Cincinnati support across the FloFC ‘regional area’ and come at a significant cost to the fans.
Furthermore, given the recent experience DC United viewers had with FloTV, we’re concerned the quality of the service will leave much to be desired. Also upsetting is FC Cincinnati’s lack of engagement with supporters regarding this move, as feedback to it is proving to be extremely negative.
WHY IS THIS A PROBLEM?
FloFC is just getting started with their first MLS broadcasts. They are also the official local broadcaster of DC United. This deal was announced in January, and was met with consternation from their fan base. The biggest difference between the DC United deal and the FC Cincinnati deal is that you can still watch FCC matches on Star 64. DC United has no other local TV provider, which means all matches are only available for DC United via FloFC, blocking a significant number of people from watching their games. The other main difference is that there were discounted prices offered to DC United fans. This was not offered to FC Cincinnati fans.
With that being said, FloFC is also expensive. The price is $150 per year ($12.50/month). If you want to pay by the month, though, you are looking at $30/month. This is an expensive package for a maximum of 27 matches. There are 34 regular season games in MLS, but any matches shown on national TV (ESPN, FS1, etc) will not be available on FloFC, meaning you will need a cable subscription to watch these. If you watch every possible FC Cincinnati match that will be “aired” on FloFC, you would be spending at least $5.55 per match to watch. If you go to games, or are out of town, it would be more expensive per match for those you are able to use FloFC to watch.
According to DC United fans, their first experience with FloFC did not go well. There was a lot of buffering, people were logged out randomly, the stream was choppy, and the video quality was bad. Many missed the first 15 minutes of the match entirely. DC United issued an official statement:
This does not inspire confidence in our experience. For some people, FloFC will be the only legal way to watch FCC matches from home.
In addition to FCC matches, FloFC does promise additional features including behind the scenes footage, interviews, etc. It will also have CONCACAF Nations League matches exclusively, if you’re interested. It’s likely that they will continue to add options, but for now, there isn’t a lot there for soccer fans. The rest of the options are mostly NCAA sports that are not broadcast on other channels, and a hodgepodge of miscellaneous sporting options (wrestling, cheerleading, swimming, rodeo, track, grappling, etc).
While there is an iOS app, there is still no Android app (we have been unable to confirm if Blackberry has an app – this article will be updated when we have more information).
HOW THIS DEAL COMPARES TO OTHER STREAMING DEALS
For comparison, we have to look at what other streaming services provide and how much they charge.
ESPN+ provides all out-of-market MLS matches otherwise not shown on national networks. Many FCC fans already subscribe to this service. The total cost for this is $49.99/year or $4.99/month. In addition to MLS matches, subscribers also get access to a plethora of other sports such as NCAA basketball, lacrosse, soccer, etc, select NHL games, USL, Italian Serie A, and many EFL matches among others. ESPN+ is the official local streaming service for other teams in MLS as well, which provides a value that can be bundled.
YouTubeTV provides local streaming for many MLS teams as well, and costs under $40/month. YoutubeTV also provides live television streaming for many other channels that would interest FC Cincinnati fans such as FS1, FS2, local CBS, NBC, and ABC affiliates, ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports Ohio, NBCSN, among other regular TV programs. For fans who cut traditional cable, this could actually save people money who switch.
Other leagues around the world have better deals than this local deal with FC Cincinnati.
The English Premier League recently moved many of its matches to NBC Sports Gold, which costs $49.99/year. Fans of the EPL chided this decision because not all games will be available on the streaming service. EPL matches that feature on NBCSN or NBC over-the-air channels are not available on this streaming package. Similarly, FC Cincinnati matches shown on national television will also be blacked out for FloFC subscribers.
The German Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga are available on Fox Soccer Match Pass. Every single game is available for streaming on this service (306 matches in each league). While it is a little more expensive than NBC Sports Gold (at $19.99/month or $139.99/year), it is still cheaper than FloFC’s pricing of $30/month or $150/year and features no black out matches.
WHO THIS AFFECTS
FC Cincinnati fans who live outside of the MLS designated “Cincinnati region” can still watch all non-nationally televised matches on ESPN+. This service is very reliable, and available on most devices (Roku, mobile, tablet, etc). Any match not shown on networks like ESPN or FS1 will be aired on ESPN+. This FloFC deal does not affect any of these people. The orange region above is the area that will not be able to access FC Cincinnati matches on ESPN+.
For FCC fans within the Cincinnati region that have access to Star 64 and currently watch games on that channel, you will not notice any changes. This FloFC deal would only be something you can subscribe to in order to stream matches on your phone or computer. If you are happy with your access to Star 64, nothing will change and you don’t need a FloFC subscription. If you are in the region, you cannot watch matches on ESPN+, but that has been true before this FloFC deal was announced.
FC Cincinnati fans who live within the “Cincinnati region” as defined by Major League Soccer will only be able to stream matches via FloFC or watch Star64. Many of those fans are outside of the broadcast range of Star 64 and will be unable to watch matches without the FloFC subscription. These are the fans that will be affected the most. Here’s a step-by-step guide to determine your best course of action.
(Currently we do not know the ramifications of people who subscribe to DirecTV Now or other streaming services supplied by a traditional provider like DirecTV. We have heard that Star 64 would be blacked out on these services, but haven’t confirmed this, yet)
1. FIND OUT IF YOU HAVE STAR 64
You may have Star 64, and not realize it. If you have a cable subscription, look for it in your guide (it may be under the name WSTR).
If you don’t have it in your cable or satellite subscription or don’t pay for one, find out if you can access it via an antenna.
Below is the approximate range of Star 64. The quality decreases as you get further away, and topography can block the signal (if you’re in a valley, behind a hill, behind tall buildings, etc).
If you live in this range, your next step should be looking at the FCC website. No, not that one. The other FCC website.
Enter your zip code on the Federal Communications Commission website to find out how strong your signal is for WSTR-TV. This doesn’t guarantee you will be able to pick up the signal with every antenna, but it gives you an idea of whether it is worth a try. If your signal is shown as strong or moderate, there’s a good chance you can get Star 64. Below is an image of what you will get when you put in a location (Kettering, OH was used here).
If you are within the range of WSTR, you can buy an antenna at any local hardware store or online. They range in price starting at about $20. Some are better than others, so you may need a stronger antenna if you live in the moderate/weak range. You will receive over-the-air channels for free with this antenna, so it’s only a one-time purchase, and if you are in the moderate signal strength range, it’s probably worth a shot.
2. IF YOU ARE OUTSIDE OF THE STAR 64 RANGE…
If you are outside of the signal range, don’t get Star 64 in your cable package, and you are within the “Cincinnati region” defined by MLS, your only legal option for watching FC Cincy games live is FloFC. We encourage everyone in this scenario to attend watch parties so you aren’t paying an individual subscription. Hangar 937 is a great supporters’ group (SG) based out of Dayton. There is also a group in Lexington: Orange & Bluegrass. Obviously, everyone’s schedule is different, and not being able to watch the team play from the comfort of your own home is disappointing, but unless you feel comfortable paying the $150/year cost, we would recommend against subscribing to FloFC. We have heard nothing but bad things about this FloFC service from DC United fans in their first streamed match this past weekend. Unless they drop the price and increase their quality, we would warn against subscribing. On the FC Cincinnati website, there is a tool that can take any zip code you plug in and will tell you whether you will need FloFC or not. Currently it is showing the Dayton market as eligible for ESPN+ though, as well as Newport, KY. So take it with a grain of salt, as we're not sure how accurate this resource is.
This has the biggest impact on the season ticket holders who live in this live-streaming purgatory within the region: outside of the Star 64 coverage area but inside the “Cincinnati region.” For these fans, they will likely be going to all 17 home games. That leaves 17 away matches that they will be watching from home. Of those 17 matches, three will have a national broadcast (FS1 against Seattle and ESPN against Atlanta already aired; our June 29th match at Minnesota will also be on ESPN and unavailable on FLoFC). That leaves 14 matches that a season ticket holder will likely be able to watch using FloFC. At a price point of $150/year, that is a cost of over $10 per match. If you are buying the $30/month option, you would be spending much more to access the games you can’t otherwise see.
FC Cincinnati has struck a bad deal with FloFC that hurts the regional season ticket holders more than anyone else. Of course, this service is an addition you can purchase that wasn’t available before, so in that regard, it’s good to have the option. It’s unfortunate that this is the deal that was made, when much better streaming providers exist in other markets. Again, we encourage everyone to avoid subscribing to FloFC unless you feel comfortable spending the money on a risky streaming service. Go to an away watch party, or work with a bar to set one up. If you have any questions, let us know.
FCC has worked hard in the past to get matches accessible to fans across the region at a reasonable price and quality. We were pushing for local TV and radio deals when that was not the norm in the USL. We understand that there are circumstances that limit what can be done, but we are not satisfied with this deal FCC announced with FloFC. Hopefully the club will be able to minimize the financial impact for season ticket holders or provide additional over-the-air networks in other markets within the Cincinnati region. We will be discussing this with the club at our next meeting to see what can be done.