They don’t make it easy for you, that’s for sure.
Previous World Cups have been available to stream in the US via a stream package on ESPN or Willow TV. I think in 2015 it was like $99 for the entire tournament, with a sliding scale charged if you signed up late in the tournament. It wasn’t ideal, but it was worth it. I probably would have watched more of the matches but the tournament was in New Zealand and Australia so the bulk of the matches were on in the middle of the night, which really wasn’t the stream provider’s fault.
This year, however, I still have yet to find a definitive answer to the question: how do I watch the World Cup this year? This is something the American sports fan is simply not used to. It’s easy to both watch on TV or stream most if not all American sports, via package deals or cable or satellite. This includes professional leagues as well as collegiate. And it also includes loads of international sport, mostly foreign soccer leagues but also pro cycling and skiiing and the Olympics of course plus Formula 1 and UFC. In other words, watching sports in America is super easy. And it just keeps getting easier. It’s probably easier than anywhere else on earth. It’s certainly far easier to watch English Premier League matches in the US than it is in, ironically, England. Expensive, sure, but easy.
Cricket? Not so much. I mean, I admit, it has come a long way. In 2007 I had to watch the final in a bar on a channel that literally no one got — Setanta, remember them? — and I am pretty sure I had to pay a cover. All to watch Adam Gilchrist bad with a squash ball in his glove for two hours and then have the match end on a damp whimper after Sri Lanka’s innings were cut short by rain. The next two World Cups were on the other side of the world so while streams were readily available, I still didn’t watch very much aside from the knockout matches. But this year the tournament is in England, with very reasonable match start times of 4:30 in the morning on my watch, and so even if I slept in I would still be able to watch the majority of the chase. So I got my credit card out and was ready to pay whatever Willow or ESPN asked of me.
Not so fast, Becker, said the universe.
I still have no idea who to freely give my money to in order to watch the damn cricket.
Per press releases and some friendly folks on Twitter, I have learned that the US streaming rights are shared by Willow TV and Hotstar, the Indian digital service. On Willow TV’s website they have all the matches listed, but they all say “TV channel or Sling TV only.” And that’s it. No other information on how to stream the matches.
So I went over to Sling TV’s website and looked at their packages available and saw no information about Willow TV. Finally, after a little digging, I found a World Cup page, for $10 a month you can get Willow TV via Sling and watch the World Cup. Fine. Okay. But I do I need a Sing TV package and the Willow TV channel? Or do I just need one? And if so, which one? Or do I need a Sling TV package, a Sling TV Willow TV subscription AND a Willow TV streaming subscription? Or is this like the IPL where my Willow TV subscription granted me access to Hotstar where I could watch those matches?
I am at a complete loss. I am willing to pay the money, but no one can tell me who to give it to. It’s so … unAmerican. In America, cable channels and cable companies and streaming services cannot wait to tell you what they offer and how to get it. Or sometimes it’s even easier: flip on the television and watch the game.. Hell, every single NFL game — from the preseason to the Super Bowl — is on free, over-the-air tv. Even international events like the soccer World Cup are for the most part available on over-the-air tv.
But so many hoops, just to watch the cricket.
Are you paying attention to this, USA Cricket?
Now, I get that this really isn’t their fault. USA Cricket might be an ICC associate member, but that means nothing when it comes to streaming rights of big tournaments that they aren’t even appearing in. And, honestly, right now, they have bigger fish to fry — with bright futures for both the men’s and women’s teams. But if they truly want to grow the game in the US — and it authentically seems that they do — then they need to make sure people who want to watch the best cricketers in the world, are able to do so, without too much trouble. I get that that they might not want to advertise a product that is superior to their own — MLS is probably still pissed at Fox Sports for making the EPL so easy to watch — but high tides raise all boats. Want to grow the game here? Make it easy for people to watch. People in America love sports. All sports. Put the semi-finals and final on TV, give them each a couple days of the ESPN hype machine and I guarantee people will tune in and a lot of them will dig it and a lot of those folks have kids and the rest of the narrative writes itself.
Anyway, I think I have figured it out. I need to subscribe to a Sling TV package ($15 a month for the first month, $25 a month after that) and then add the Willow TV channel to the Sling package ($10 a month). So when you add it all up, for the two months I will need it, it shakes out like this: $40 for two months of Sling, $20 for two months of Willow TV on Sling, and $20 for two months of my regular Willow account which I know I could cancel but they make it so damn hard to do so it’s literally not worth it. Add it all up and it will cost me $80 to watch the World Cup this year.
$20 less than it cost me four years ago.
So I guess I should stop complaining.
But it still shouldn’t be this hard. And I am still not even sure the above will work.
Maybe I will just listen to the games on BBC radio instead.
Until next time.