You may recall that last week, I wrote that Comcast had agreed to a carriage deal with beINSport, the new al-Jazeera-owned soccer channel which owns the broadcast rights to the United States men's national team's road World Cup qualifying games.
Well, it turns out the deal isn't as simple as what I had originally been told. I talked with a spokesperson for Comcast just now and was told some significant new information.
It's still true that he channel will launch on Comcast on Thursday, September 6. But the launch will only include the Spanish-language feed, and that feed will only be available in standard defintion.
This means that you will not be able to watch the U.S.' crucial game at Jamaica on Friday night live on Comcast cable systems.
Yes, really. It turns out that beINSport is only showing the game live on its English-language feed. The Spanish-language feed will air the game at 11:45 p.m. Eastern time.
You can see the programming grid here - click on the boxes for Friday, September 7 to see all the details of that day's schedule.
I was told that the reason why Comcast moved to launch the Spanish feed first is that it carries more live games from Spain's domestic league, which is considered beINSport's flagship content.
There's some merit to that argument - apologies to fans of Italian soccer, but it's hard to deny the draw of Barcelona and Real Madrid, especially among this country's Spanish-speaking population.
You might make a counter-argument that the U.S. national team is a significant property, one which is capable of drawing high ratings for major events.
You might also argue that the demographics that watch the U.S. national team aren't quite the same - though you would likely get a response from TV industry analysts that the ratings for the summer's European Championship easily beat the audiences that U.S. World Cup qualifiers have historically drawn. Those numbers resonate with Comcast and beINSport as much as it does ESPN and other broadcasters.
That said, Comcast has clearly noticed the reaction from fans of American soccer who want to watch their national team's biggest game of the year this coming Friday night.
(Note the distinction between the phrase "fans of American soccer" and the phrase "American soccer fans.")
I asked the source with whom I spoke (who has a pretty good knowledge of soccer, by the way) whether Xfinity TV's website will be ready to stream beIN Sport online by Thursday evening, as it was noted in the press release announcing the carriage agreement that online streaming was part of the deal.
The answer is that they aren't ready to roll that out yet, and I wasn't given a date when the service would start. Nor was I given a launch date for the English-language feed, or high-definition broadcasts in either English or Spanish.
But Comcast is aware that the next U.S. game on beINS port is the World Cup qualifier at Antigua & Barbuda on October 12. I got the distinct impression that they are going to try hard to have everything up and running properly by then.
As for what you'll get on Thursday, here are the specifics. beIN Sport's Spanish-language feed will be available in standard definition via the multi-Latino package and the Sports and Entertainment package. The latter tier includes Fox Soccer Channel, Gol TV, NFL Red Zone, CBS Sports Network and the Tennis Channel. So if you get any of those channels, you'll get beIN Sport.
When I asked what markets would get beIN Sport on the launch date, I was told that "virtually all of our markets are launching on the 6th" "virtually all of our markets are launching on the 6th]."
I pressed for details and couldn't get too much more on the record. I can tell you that these regions will definitely have the service at launch: Philadelphia; Washington D.C. (including suburbs in Maryland and Virginia); Boston; Chicago; the Bay Area (San Francisco, San Jose, etc.); Portland, Ore.; and Seattle.
If you want to complain to Comcast, send a tweet to @ComcastCares. They've been quite responsive on the beIN Sport discussion, including a few tweets sent to me without me even asking them anything.