A British review of US sports and media offerings

Possibly the easiest signup form, presented by Fox Soccer
Possibly the easiest web signup form, implemented by Fox Soccer

This week I’ve been working from our newest sales office in Atlanta, USA. It’s been a great week, and we’ve met some really interesting (and super friendly) people and companies.

During the visit, I spent some time looking at the consumer media offerings over here. The US has often been ahead of the UK market when it comes to television, but the UK leads the world in some web offerings – such as grocery shopping and BBC’s iPlayer, so I wanted to see what the US has to offer. And it’s difficult to do this from the UK because so many sites are geo-blocked.

Whilst watching TV in the hotel, two adverts really stuck out. The first advert was during MSNBC breakfast news promoting catheters. I’ve nothing against catheters, but advertising during breakfast seemed a strange time slot.

American Football

DirectTV - offers every American Football match simultaneously
DirectTV – offers every American Football match simultaneously

The second advert was for the sports offering on DirectTV (a TV provider) which shows all American Football matches simultaneously on Sundays. DirectTV also have an app for subscribers with extra features such as tracking players (for fantasy leagues, which are massive in the US) as well as live streaming of all the matches.

Personally I disagree with the media rights situation back in the UK for the English Premiership. Consumers need to subscribe to two providers – Sky and BT Sport, and even then only a small percentage of games are televised. To watch whole game replays like DirectTV offer in the US, UK fans need to subscribe to individual club websites, and even then, games aren’t available for several hours after the end of the match.

DIrectTV 'try the app' service works surprisingly well
DIrectTV ‘try the app’ service works surprisingly well

The whole situation is based upon TV sports rights, and I hope the Premiership are looking at the American Football model for some inspiration of what fans really want. DirectTV isn’t cheap at $55 a month (£33) – about £10 a month more than Sky Sports in the UK.

One last point about DirectTV and their football product. They have a ‘try the app’ feature on their website which works better than any other app ‘emulator’ I’ve seen.

Football (aka soccer)

US consumers who want to watch football can do so via Fox. What I liked about the Fox offering is that consumers can subscribe to just the digital offering really easily.

When I checked the site, there was a free 7 day trial, with a repeating $20 monthly subscription. The sign up form was really quick to fill in – through social connectors including PayPal.

TV shows (and movies)

Hulu - the mother of all TV catch up services
Hulu – the mother of all TV catch up services

When it comes to TV and movies, the US have taken iPlayer and put it on steroids with Hulu. Hulu is a joint venture between a number of TV channels – it’s the equivalent of combining many of the catch up offerings in the UK (ITV, Channel 4, BBC iPlayer, Sky, etc.). If you sign into Hulu with credentials from your TV provider, there is access to more content from that provider. It all works nicely.

Each of the US broadcasters put their most popular content into Hulu, and users can watch content for free with adverts through a web browser. To watch content on mobiles or other devices such as Xbox, users need to subscribe for $8 per month, and then more content becomes available.

Another nice feature of Hulu is that if you search for a show which is only available on a broadcaster’s own website, you are directed to that website. For instance, I searched for Homeland, which is only available on the broadcaster’s site, in this case it was Showtime.


Pandora - an exercise in user interface simplicity
Pandora – an exercise in user interface simplicity

In the UK I use Spotify, which I’m happy with. In the US, Spotify competes head to head with Pandora which has a much nicer user experience. Without registering, you are presented with a single text box. You can enter the name of an artist, a song title, or a music genre. As soon as you type something and press enter, music starts playing. If there’s one mighty impressive feature of Pandora, it’s the speed.

Pandora then continues with a ‘radio station’ based on your first entry, and it’s reasonably intelligent, with few quirky tracks.

If you then close the browser and return to Pandora later, the music immediately picks up from where you left it.

And if you do register with Pandora, users can setup several ‘radio stations’.


I was impressed with the offerings available to US consumers. I understand why so many people I speak to in the US call themselves ‘cable cutters’ – they now subscribe to a few digital offering rather than traditional TV broadcasters.

I also like how consumer centric the offerings are. It feels like the user experience enables users to watch legal TV, whether it’s live sport or on demand episodes. Content is constantly signposted, even if it means redirecting users to competing websites.

Compare this to the UK where users might search Netflix and a broadcaster for a show (such as Homeland), but if they can’t find it, the only alternative is an illegal download or streaming site. And this is amplified for live sports – because so little content is available online in the UK, especially on a short-term basis, the illegal sites have a field day. The nearest competitor in the UK is NOW TV, but even that is hampered by the anti-consumer-focussed TV rights limitations.

The UK has a lot to learn from these US products.



http://www.directv.com/sports/nfl and http://www.directv.com/sports/nfl/app



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