The Union announced Wednesday that their local TV broadcasts will remain on PHL17 and 6ABC, with a new twist added this year.
In addition to the TV coverage, all locally aired games also will be streamed live on the team’s website free of charge for fans in the Philadelphia market.
It’s the first time in years that Union games will be widely available online to local viewers. The team’s previous deals with PHL17 and 6ABC provided only for TV broadcasts. That understandably drew a lot of criticism from fans.
"Providing a digital stream option for our in-market fans is a testament to our continued commitment to growing soccer in the Delaware Valley,” said Union president Tim McDermott, who took the brunt of that criticism. (McDermott recently received a promotion from his previous title of chief business officer.)
When you go to the Union’s website to watch a game, you’ll be asked to provide your location. That’s how the system will know whether you’re tuning in locally or not. If you’re outside the Philadelphia area, streaming will be available through ESPN+, which streams all out-of-market MLS games.
Fans can check whether they are in the in-market area by going to the team’s website.
As of now, broadcasts through the team’s website will not be archived for replaying later. It’s unclear whether the blackout will come off ESPN+ after the game ends.
During the preseason, the Union and many other MLS teams tested localized online streaming of games through teams’ websites. It was the first time preseason games weren’t available to all viewers, and the league was silent about what was going on.
Was that a test run for streaming regular-season games? It seems that way, but the league office wouldn’t confirm it.
This much is known: the Union won’t be the only team with this kind of setup. D.C. United reportedly will do the same thing, and it won’t be surprising if others do too.
MLS deputy commissioner Gary Stevenson told The Inquirer that “if there’s not a suitable streaming service [in an existing rights deal], clubs have an option on their own to stream those local matches on their website.”
Stevenson added that the league is okay with in-market streaming being free of charge, instead of pushing it to ESPN+'s paid subscription service.
“Because all of our rights are expiring at the end of 2022, it really is a two- or three-year solution for our clubs to be able to stream the matches to their fans,” he said.
Expct a more comprehensive setup in the next rights deal.
The Union’s local broadcast crew remains what it has been for the last few years: National Soccer Hall of Fame member JP Dellacamera calling the play-by-play with analyst Tommy Smyth.
Dave Leno will again serve as Dellacamera’s backup, and will split studio hosting with Marisa Pilla. Former Union player Sébastien Le Toux will again serve as a studio analyst.
There’s no word yet on whether the Union will bring back the Spanish-language local broadcasts they trialed a handful of times last year.
Of the 27 Union games that will be locally broadcast this year, 24 will be on PHL17, two will be on 6ABC and oe will be on 6ABC’s secondary digital channel — now called Localish after a rebrand from Live Well Network earlier this year.
“6ABC is proud to say we’ve been a Union partner since day one, and look forward to many years to come,” said station president and general manager Bernie Prazenica, who has long been one of the region’s biggest soccer fans.
The other seven games will be on national TV: three on Fox Sports 1 and Fox Deportes, three on ESPN and ESPN Deportes, and one on UniMás in Spanish and English.
Here’s the full broadcast schedule for the season:
Saturday, Feb. 29: at FC Dallas, 6 p.m. (PHL17)
Sunday, March 8: at Los Angeles FC, 10:30 p.m. (Fox Sports 1, Fox Deportes)
Saturday, March 14: vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 7:30 p.m. (PHL17)
Sunday, March 22: vs. D.C. United, 3:30 p.m. (Fox Sports 1, Fox Deportes)
Saturday, March 28: at Portland Timbers, 10:30 p.m. (PHL17)
Sunday, April 5: at Inter Miami, 3 p.m. (ESPN, ESPN Deportes)
Saturday, April 11: vs. Montreal Impact, 1 p.m. (6ABC)
Wednesday, April 15: vs. Los Angeles Galaxy, 7:30 p.m. (PHL17)
Sunday, April 19: vs. New York City FC, 4 p.m. (Fox Sports 1, Fox Deportes)
Saturday, April 25: at Columbus Crew, 7:30 p.m. (PHL17)
Saturday, May 2: vs. FC Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m. (PHL17)
Saturday, May 9: vs. Atlanta United, 7:30 p.m. (PHL17)
Wednesday, May 13: at Nashville SC, 8 p.m. (PHL17)
Saturday, May 16: vs. Sporting Kansas City, 7:30 p.m. (PHL17)
Saturday, May 23: at Colorado Rapids, 9 p.m. (Localish)
Saturday, May 30: vs. Columbus Crew, 7:30 p.m. (PHL17)
Saturday, June 6: at New York Red Bulls, 6 p.m. (UniMás)
Saturday, June 13: vs. Real Salt Lake, 7:30 p.m. (PHL17)
Saturday, June 20: at Atlanta United, 5:30 p.m. (ESPN, ESPN Deportes)
Saturday, June 27: vs. Vancouver Whitecaps, 6 p.m. (PHL17)
Saturday, July 4: at Montreal Impact, 7 p.m. (PHL17)
Wednesday, July 8: at Chicago Fire, 8 p.m. (PHL17)
Saturday, July 11: vs. Toronto FC, 7:30 p.m. (6ABC)
Saturday, July 18: vs. New England Revolution, 7:30 p.m. (PHL17)
Saturday, July 25: at Orlando City, 7:30 p.m. (PHL17)
Saturday, Aug. 1: vs Inter Miami, 7:30 p.m. (PHL17)
Saturday, Aug. 8: at New York City FC, 7 p.m. (PHL17)
Saturday, Aug. 15: at Toronto FC, 6 p.m. (PHL17)
Saturday, Aug. 22: at D.C. United, 8 p.m. (PHL17)
Saturday, Aug. 29: vs. Orlando City, 7:30 p.m. (PHL17)
Saturday, Sept. 12: at New England Revolution, 7:30 p.m. (PHL17)
Saturday, Sept. 19: at FC Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m. (PHL17)
Sunday, Sept. 27: vs. New York Red Bulls, 5:30 p.m. (ESPN, ESPN Deportes)
Sunday, Oct. 4: vs. Chicago Fire, 4:30 p.m. (PHL17; could be flexed to national TV)