Doug Jacobs has received a few nasty e-mails, even an angry phone call, from U.S. soccer supporters upset that his New Jersey-based company, Integrated Sports Media, holds the broadcast rights to the June 12 World Cup qualifier at Guatemala and will show the match on pay-per-view.
Jacobs understands the national team stirs passions. And he appreciates the emotional response when fans aren’t able to watch a qualifier on standard TV.
“Look, I know times have changed” in terms of sporting events being available on untold cable and satellite channels, he said in a phone interview Monday morning. “I’m not making some cold-hearted decision or giving the middle finger to fans. Networks made a business decision [not to buy the rights.]
“If we didn’t do it, this game was going to end up on closed-circuit TV in bars and restaurants only. We made it available to people at home.”
For home delivery, fans will have to shell out $29.95 and order through their cable or satellite provider. Bars and restaurants will pay $750 and up for the feed, Jacobs said, then set a cover charge of typically $10 or more.
Online pay-per-view is also being offered at ustream.tv.
It’s not the first time a U.S. qualifier has appeared on pay-per-view: ISM also carried the 2001 match at Honduras. In 2009, the Americans’ victory at Honduras, which secured passage to the World Cup in South Africa, was a closed-circuit production.
How do U.S. qualifiers end up on a pay path in the first place?
As the U.S. Soccer Federation explained last week, international rules allow national federations to sell broadcast rights for home matches. Guatemala has a relationship with MediaPro, a global communications company. MediaPro, in turn, put the rights on the open market. ESPN and NBC passed. Traffic Sports, which is heavily invested in soccer marketing and broadcasting, bought the rights and initially planned to go the closed-circuit route. ISM, which works regularly with Traffic on soccer events, arranged for pay-per-view.
ISM will carry several other CONCACAF qualifiers on pay-per-view in June, as well as El Salvador friendlies against Honduras at RFK Stadium in Washington and New Zealand at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston.
PPV is also a common outlet for boxing and mixed martial arts.
As Jacobs points out, fans end up paying to watch many sporting events, including the NFL. To watch an NFL game not involving the local team or on a national network broadcast, DirecTV’s Sunday Ticket pay service is the exclusive outlet.
ISM has just begun to reach out to bars and restaurants to carry the U.S.-Guatemala qualifier. As of Friday, only Nevada Smiths in New York had committed. But that number, Jacobs said, is expected to grow in the next two weeks. Both and English and Spanish commentary will be available; the announcers haven’t been determined yet. They will call the match off monitors in a U.S. studio.
As for the other two U.S. away qualifiers in this semifinal round -- Sept. 7 at Jamaica and Oct. 12 at Antigua — the importance of the matches is likely to dictate whether they appear on standard TV, closed-circuit or pay-per-view.
The U.S. home games will appear on ESPN outlets, starting with the June 8 encounter with Antigua in Tampa.