Point by Point: Dan, Hannah on lead up to opening day

Dan Lauletta and Hannah Kronick April 15, 2017 44
Week 1 is here. How did the NWSL handle its offseason?. (photo courtesy Meg Linehan, Excelle Sports)

Week 1 is here. How did the NWSL handle its offseason?. (photo courtesy Meg Linehan, Excelle Sports)

The fifth NWSL season is here. All 10 teams are in action Week 1, starting with the Dash hosting the Red Stars at 2 p.m. EDT on Saturday. The new season is complete with a new media deal, a national Game of the Week on Lifetime, and a recently announced deal to stream the rest of the games on the Verizon go90 app.  Things are looking up.

Dan Lauletta and Hannah Kronick are here to discuss the run-up to the 2017 NWSL season.

The league finally announced its streaming partner. All non-Lifetime games will be streamed on the go90 app. Is this a good move?

Dan:  I want to say yes, and I owe it more time both for research and just to see how it works, but I have to say on the surface the answer for me is no. Free, non-revenue-generating YouTube streams were never going to be forever, but the go90 deal cuts out anyone trying to watch on a PC or laptop. My friend Allison Lee lays this out pretty well here.  I know there are ways to cast it onto a television and workarounds to watch on nwslsoccer.com, but that seems too complicated if you’re trying to bring in new fans. Also the timing of the announcement did not exactly leave people much time to get squared away in time for the opener?

{LEE: Why NWSL missed the mark with the go90 deal}

Hannah:  I agree with Dan. I was (still am not) the biggest fan of last year’s YouTube streams due to quality, but one thing that those did offer was accessibility (on any device). I think alienating people who watch on a desktop/laptop is a big miss. In the cord-cutting world that we all live in today, many people do have connected devices where using the go90 app would work and yes, lots of streaming today comes from mobile devices, but there are still people who use laptops to stream content to their TVs. There’s also lots of confusion about how the streaming is going to work, which Dan points out above. Awareness and ease of access are two key components to success here, and I think right now, that looks to have failed—the announcement was too late and too vague.

What about the Lifetime package? The schedule has a match every Saturday the league plays, and the production quality is expected to be top notch.

Hannah: I don’t think I can ever argue that the Lifetime package was not a good move. I’ve said it before that I question the overlap between the Lifetime audience and the NWSL fan (and prospective fan)—but, Lifetime gives the NWSL a home on national TV week in and week out. And that’s huge. It’s great for the league right now and it’s great for the sport moving forward. It offers consistency, professionalism, and should drastically increase overall awareness.

{RELATED: NWSL announces Lifetime broadcast team, schedule}

Dan:  Issues with the audience aside, which Hannah covered and for which I already have some anecdotal evidence of, this is going to be great. From everything I’ve heard the production level is going to be through the roof, and the league delivered on making this an actual Game of the Week—no exceptions. I’m not crazy about the games that were picked, but at this point that’s a minor element to a major project. I’m also a big fan of both Jenn Hildreth and Aly Wagner. They should bring professionalism and a good, hard soccer analysis to the production.

What are your thoughts on the timing of the announcements? Will the lag have any long-term impact on NWSL or will it be all better and forgotten about by May?

Dan: There is no way to get around it. The last 10 weeks have been a PR disaster for NWSL. Let’s keep in mind this is a major tech project and these things often get delayed. While not ideal, I can see why it took everyone until the 11th hour to get everything firmly in place. But why did everyone stay so quiet in the meantime? Why weren’t NWSL and A+E higher-ups giving interviews—offering interviews—to clue fans in on what was in store? A little bit of good news here could have gone a long way. Instead, the silence led many to anticipate the worst and eventually the timing became so tight it was ridiculous. Even when NWSL announced its Opta partnership, much of the reaction was, “That’s great but can we see the games?” There is a good chance this will be long forgotten by mid-season, but I do think NWSL cost itself some goodwill and maybe even a few fans for acting like they were too important to sell their own product in the time since they announced the deal with A+E.

Hannah: I agree completely with what Dan said. One thing to add is that, with the lack of announcement and information over the last 10 weeks, I think the excitement for the start of the season was overshadowed. People were worried that there wouldn’t be a way to watch games outside of the Game of the Week, and that worry and concern greatly eclipsed anticipation and excitement for season kickoff. The NWSL should have made this announcement sooner–or at the very least, been forthcoming to clue fans in to when they could expect it. Doubt and concern surpassed exhilaration this week. On the other hand, although the ambiguity is apparent right now, it will subside by mid-season, if not within the next few weeks when fans get adjusted to the go90 platform and continue to stay excited about the Lifetime piece.

NWSL somewhat quietly announced an agreement with Opta to provide advanced statistics for every match (Opta also has 2016 data collected). How will this change the way NWSL is consumed?

Hannah:  I think this is great. As a top-tier professional sports league, it’s essential. Data and analytics are big drivers of content, and it gives fans another touch point for engagement. In addition to fueling fan engagement, I think this level of data will also help teams advance their analysis of game performance. Better stats and analytics will better inform tactical and technical decisions that coaches make, it will transform how players are analyzed by the media and by their respective coaching staffs, and will influence post-season awards as well.

Danielle Colaprico, left battling with now teammate Stephanie McCaffrey, is considered one of the best D-mids in NWSL. Will Opta stats support that claim? (photo courtesy: Boston Breakers)

Danielle Colaprico, left, battling with now teammate Stephanie McCaffrey, is considered one of the best D-mids in NWSL. Will Opta stats support that claim? (photo courtesy: Boston Breakers)

Dan:  While this is a great addition to the overall presence of NWSL, I’m going to disagree to an extent. Advanced stats are a good thing, but they can also lead to situations where people lean on them too much. All across sports it feels like we’re trending toward crunching data in a computer over watching and analyzing the games we all grew up loving. I’m okay with advanced stats within the context of the game itself which can never be defined or shaped through any hard numbers outside of wins, losses, and draws. But to repeat, it’s a great way to engage new fans and establish legitimacy for a league still in its nascent stages.

Finally, what do you expect from this NWSL season, especially at the beginning?

Dan: A lot of excitement, maybe after some grumbling as opening weekend stream issues get ironed out. For the most part, national team players will be with their teams except during FIFA windows. Marta should be here in a week to help Orlando move into a brand new stadium. North Carolina has a chance to become a cornerstone market for the league. And being on television literally every week of match play is an incredible boost. And did anyone notice that fewer players retired this off-season than in years past? I scratch my head about how NWSL sometimes goes about communicating information, but the league has absolutely broken ground on a new level if stability for women’s professional soccer.

Hannah: A continuation of momentum! I think the last few months have been instrumental in getting the NWSL to the spot that it’s at right now. On the eve of year five with a national TV deal, a reliable streaming partner, a re-worked digital league hub, a data partnership along with major signings like Marta and a new market in North Carolina–this league is at an important juncture in time, and it’s ever so important to see continued momentum throughout the season.

  • Jake

    Can the games on go90 be seen replay on my pc at their site? Heard that may be possible and at least see a game if true.

    • sweetjazz3

      Who knows? Not even sure if the league has any idea at this point. We’ll see.

      That’ll be the only way for me to watch games at this point, so that’s how NWSL can keep me from losing all interest as I wait for them to develop an option to stream on my laptop. I’m not unwilling to pay a fair price for it, but right now it’s not even an option. I have zero interest in a cable subscription or using a mobile device.

      • Steglitz49

        If you pay Chelsea 9 USD, they will let you watch Crystal. Else, try some site that transmits Lyon for Alexandra the Great.

        • wolf

          Seems like a good idea . If the nwsl honchos don’t want eyeballs on their games, then the eyeballs will go elsewhere.

      • Silver Frost

        I cut the cable 6 months ago. I don’t miss it. I do miss watching NWSL on YouTube. I refuse to watch soccer on a cell phone.

        • mockmook

          How many more times does it have to be said that you DON’T HAVE TO WATCH IT ON YOUR CELL?

          • wolf

            Perhaps like me Silver Frost does not wish to pay the Google tax to watch the games.

          • mockmook

            Quote from Silver Frost:

            “I would pay a subscription for a streaming option.”

            A reputable VPN is just that — plus, it gives you the ability to get to all kinds of other geo-blocked content.

          • Ron Rocha

            Worked great! Hou. was so-so, Por. good and Was. was great…possibly the best stream ever!

          • Bruce

            *cough* a reputable VPN allows you to access blocked content that you could – reputably – pay to access.

          • mockmook

            People also use automobiles while robbing banks — or should I say “disreputable” automobiles?

      • mockmook

        You can buy a one-time/”lifetime” VPN subscription (which also has other uses) and watch the games directly from the NWSL website similar to watching on YouTube.

        I bought mine for $39, and it seems to be one of the better plans. There are cheaper ones.

        • Bruce

          Let me get this straight – the NWSL could have probably made $0.10 this season from go90 if you watched all of their games and ads.

          You were willing to spend $39 to watch games via VPN, but since you see international feeds the league makes nothing.

          NOT a value judgement. Just an observation.

          • mockmook

            Well, it gets a bit more complicated than that:

            If I had to buy Chromecast or an Apple TV product, I would likely have balked at the coercion.

            I acquiesced to the VPN deal since I wanted to test that technology anyway (and I liked the one time “forever” fee).

            [ I shouldn’t have used the term “lifetime fee” — that gets confusing when also talking about the Lifetime Network’s products]

            Also note, my $39 theoretically covers many many years and I am completely free of the obligation to keep a smart phone or any of the other devices.

          • Bruce

            I think a lot of fans share that same reasoning. Seems like the NWSL left a lot of revenue on the table.

          • guest

            How was go90? What/how many ads?

          • Bruce

            Gotta admit I don’t remember seeing any in the CRS-HOU game. Maybe I was just focused on the field.

          • guest

            And there’s no charge to your cellular plan for the data used (one HD game must be more than 1,000 MB of data)? I’m just trying to understand how go90 works.

          • Bruce

            The go90 app is owned by Verizon. So if that is your carrier, data is free. Otherwise, the streams will eat your data plan.

            Of course, you can get around that by connecting to WiFi.

          • guest

            Okay, so if I get the cheapest smartphone on the market, with the crummiest data plan, I can stream the games for free in HD by using the go90 app?

          • guest

            Hey Amanda, go90 is not free for everyone!

            Okay, I understand now what’s going on here. Bruce and others have unlimited wifi internet where they live, so they switch the stream from their mobile data to their unlimited wifi, so go90 is essentially “free.” I however have mobile internet, which happens not to be unlimited and I pay for every MB I use. Point is, I can’t switch to “free” wifi, so using go90 would be very expensive for me paying by the Megabyte.

          • mockmook

            Are you on Verizon? It seems for Verizon the data would be free even without wifi.

          • guest

            Verizon would certainly be the way to go at this point, which is what they’re hoping we’re thinking.

        • guest

          Do you have any moral or ethical concerns about doing this? Isn’t it like cheating? I’m a bit of a hypocrite in that I may use VPN, but I’m not gonna, like, talk about it.

          • Ron Rocha

            You’re probably right. If NWSL gets wind of this devious Black Op they will probably raid our homes and take away our soccer ball key chains!

          • mockmook

            “Do you have any moral or ethical concerns about doing this? ”

            In this case, no.

            To have a deal, both parties need to agree to the deal. I never agreed to not use a VPN to watch the NWSL. I never agreed to buy devices just so I could watch the NWSL

            And, the NWSL said that all the games would be free.

            Regardless, this “moral dilemma” will be short lived since they are working on having the games stream to a PC.

          • guest

            “they are working on having the games stream to a PC” Yeah, the NWSL has a secret lab under Cheyenne Mountain devising an algorithm to break Verizon’s encryption code.

          • mockmook
          • Constant Weeder

            That’s a very informative article from Jonathan Tannenwald. Thanks for the link.

          • mockmook

            I should have mentioned:

            The NWSL gave us a very short window to implement a working solution to viewing the games — the VPN seemed like the least complicated for me.

            I may eventually migrate to Casting if they continue to “force” that option on us.

    • Bruce

      On their site, no. On the apps, yes.

  • Guest

    christen press sucks again

    • Uswntsorority

      I hope ohai shows up all season . Ellis is an ass and just vindictive towards kealia

  • Ethan

    Pretty sure M. Evans was robbed by Long on Portland’s second goal, not Monica. Didn’t understand Sermanni’s decision to sub in Evans for Weatherholt, but I was hoping for the best. Obviously hasn’t worked out and directly impacted the match in a negative way for Orlando. Evans played a number of very good passes last season, and I think that might be why Sermanni subbed her in. However, I wasn’t too impressed by other facets of her game, and she was not aware enough and not quick enough to recover on the buildup to Sinclair’s goal. Don’t understand the Pressley substitution for Monica either. I wasn’t that critical of Sermanni last season, but a number of his substitutions and player preferences confused/frustrated me.

  • Guest

    LOL at the poster who said that Fields, Spencer and Ubogagu were goal scorers earlier. Orlando has no forwards and no midfield

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  • Ethan

    She hasn’t been prolific at the professional level yet, but Daly really has a penchant for spectacular goals.

  • Ron Rocha

    Just noticed that the highlights posted on the NWSL web site are also posted on YouTube’s NWSL channel. UMMM, You don’t suppose….

    • Bruce


  • DNG

    Win or lose SBFC has moved up in priority of team I will watch this year. Impressed with their play so far.

    • mockmook

      They were impressive last year as well before they faded late in the season.
      I don’t think that fade will happen this year.

      Mills and Freeman already look like veterans on Defense.

      (Though, I suppose there is some worry what would happen to the Defense if Rampone goes down.)

      And, I think they will look better on Offense after getting a few games in — they already look solid there.

  • sowerofpower

    Now that we have OPTA stats, could a fantasy league be in the offering in the near future ? I recall WPS having one and becoming really engaged because of it.

    • Nwslfl.com

      • sowerofpower

        Brilliant, thnx !