Comcast has finally delivered on its promise to add beIN Sport's English-language feed to its cable systems. But the move has come at a cost: the nation's largest cable provider has dropped GolTV.
The good news is that you can finally now watch Spain's La Liga, Italy's Serie A, France's Ligue 1, and U.S. men's national team road World Cup qualifiers. The bad news is that you can't watch Germany's Bundesliga, action from Brazil or Argentina, or the U.S. Open Cup Final.
beIN Sport's English feed took the slot previously occupied by GolTV's standard definition English feed, channel 726 (at least here in Philadelphia). Channel 586, which had carried GolTV's Spanish feed, is now dark. Channel 1513, which carried GolTV's English HD feed, is also dark.
As of now, beIN Sport is only available on Comcast in standard definition. I was not given a timeline for the addition of HD feeds. I was told, though, that Comcast expects to add online streaming of beIN Sport through the Xfinity TV website by mid-January.
A pressw release from Comcast said that the online streaming element will include "live matches carried on beIN Sport’s linear networks, along with additional live matches." So it won't just be simulcasts of the TV channels.
A spokesperson for Comcast gave me the following statement:
As sports leagues and conferences change networks, we evaluate programming for the best mix of what our customers want. Recently, GolTV lost its most popular programming - La Liga, the top division of the Spanish soccer league - which chose to give its games to beIN Sport.
Due to this loss of programming, as well as our bandwidth constraints and costs, we have entered into an arrangement with beIN Sport to preserve these popular games for our customers, but will no longer be offering GolTV.
That was all I could get on the record, and it wasn't for a lack of trying.
Now, I want to turn to GolTV for a moment. Its lack of carriage is a serious problem, and I have a feeling that the network's future is limited.
While the Bundesliga may not be the most popular European league among American soccer fans, it is nonetheless growing in popularity. The league has a reputation for attacking soccer and terrific atmospheres in some of the world's most modern stadiums. If you've ever watched Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League, you know what I mean.
In addition, Germany has become home to a number of U.S. national team players, such as Hoffenheim's Fabian Johnson and Schalke's Jermaine Jones.
At this point, the list of providers that don't carry GolTV includes Comcast, DirecTV and Dish Network. Providers that do carry the network include Verizon FiOS (which has a presence in the Philadelphia region), Cox and Time Warner.
But none of those providers have anywhere close to the reach of Comcast. It is by some distance the nation's largest pay-TV provider, and DirecTV and Dish Network are Nos. 2 and 3. Time Warner is fourth, and is the only other provider with more than 10 million subscribers.
I suspect that it will now be very hard for GolTV to secure advertisers, given its lack of exposure. We will see how long the network lasts, especially if another channel is able to win the next round of Bundesliga rights bidding.
I have made repeated attempts to talk to people at GolTV on the record about the network's present and future, and have not yet been able to. I'll let you know if that changes.