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Run of Play: Technical Difficulties

NWSL games will now be available on the go90 platform via app and desktop

NWSL games will now be available on the go90 platform via app and desktop

It’s been five weeks, and it’s time to say it: this streaming deal stinks.

This weekend the NWSL streams decided it was time for something completely different and gave up entirely. After half an hour of a blank screen instead of the Orlando-North Carolina game, the powers that be finally relented and allowed American viewers access to the stream that was already in place for international viewers via the NWSL website. When the Chicago-Boston game had the same problem, it too was switched.

Some might say this was the final straw in a deal that’s been a mess from the start.

THE ROLLOUT

Prior to the beginning of the current NWSL season, we learned that the Youtube streams we’d grown accustomed to were a thing of the past. And oh, how we rejoiced. No more squinting at blobs of color! No more announcers reaching new decibel levels! No more frozen screens!

So we waited. And waited. And then we waited some more. Finally, on the eve of the season, a groundbreaking deal with Lifetime was announced for three years of television coverage. After only getting a handful of games each season on television, we were now going to get a game every week. Great! What about the rest of the games?

Hurry up and wait, the league said. Be patient. It’ll be worth it. You won’t be disappointed. Finally, with zero time remaining (two days before the opening match), it was announced that all non-Lifetime games would be streamed exclusively via Verizon’s Go90 app. International streams would be available on the league’s website. It took an extra week before the games were available on go90’s website as well.

Public opinion on the streaming deal was doomed from the start. It simply took too long to announce, leading to ill-informed rumors and dire predictions. Before we ever downloaded the Go90 app, we were soured.

{Related: Lee: NWSL missed the mark with Go90}

QUALITY

It’s bad.

Not a gameday goes by without a stream flashing random black or green screens. The wrong team’s graphics come up when lineups are announced. Video disappears, leaving viewers and sometimes even announcers literally in the dark. Streams are swapped between games without notice, and at the worst possible times, too. And we won’t even get into the app’s shortcomings that make replays more trouble than they’re worth.

When they work, the quality is fine. We could get nitpicky and talk about the glare of the turf in Boston or the poor angles in Washington that cut off near corners, but that’s a venue issue, not a streaming problem. It’s when the streams don’t work, whether that’s bizarre flickers or a nonexistent stream entirely, that’s the problem. And it’s a problem that occurs too often.

{Related: So How Was Your Week 1 Go90 Experience?}

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

It’s hard to believe that expectations which were comically low to start with have been dropped, but that’s the case. Go90 has become a running joke. A common suggestion is to use a VPN to access the international streams. Quite frankly, that’s ridiculous. If it’s easier to jump through hoops and skip the domestic streaming mechanism, why does that mechanism exist at all?

The NWSL gets the lion’s share of the blame, and while that’s probably unfair – it really should rest on Verizon as the creator of the app and Vista Worldlink, who actually produces and streams the broadcasts – it’s just how it is. It was the league’s choice to partner with Go90, and it’s the league who is getting hurt by it.

If I didn’t need to watch games to cover them for the media, or I wasn’t a big fan to begin with, there is no way I would put up with this mess. If I’m a casual soccer fan who was told by a friend to tune into Orlando versus North Carolina because it was going to be a banger of a game (and it was), and I saw the technical difficulties screen, I’d tune out after 30 seconds. Fan lost.

Not only is the streaming situation pushing loyal fans to their breaking point, it’s not growing the fan base at all, and it’s hurting the brand. We have been patient, it’s not worth it, and we are disappointed. Fix the streaming.

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