CINCINNATI — FC Cincinnati announced a new streaming partnership Monday that will cost fans more than double what a subscription costs with ESPN+, which is what many fans have relied on since 2016 to watch games not available for free through the USL.
FCC announced Monday that its partnering with FloSports, a streaming service that is now FCC's "exclusive regional streaming broadcast partner," according to the release.
FloSports will own regional coverage rights for all FC Cincinnati games "not being aired by any of MLS's national broadcast partners,” according to the press release.This means all games not broadcast on ESPN or F1 will be streamed exclusively on FloFC.
In the past, FC Cincinnati games have been streamed on ESPN+ platforms, and their main broadcast partner has been Star64. These platforms have allowed for bars to provide viewing access for watch parties at very little cost, and fans across the country could enjoy the games from wherever they were.
ESPN+ is still a streaming option for fans outside the Tri-State, but FC Cincinnati’s website specifically says ESPN+ will be blacked out within the Tri-State area.
However, supporter groups argue that FloFC is cost-prohibitive both for fans and for pub partners looking to air the games.
A subscription with FloFC costs $39.99 a month, or $12.49 a month if fans lock in for an entire year (a roughly $150 commitment). This is in stark contrast to the $4.99 a month fans had to cough up for an ESPN+ subscription to stream in previous years.
Other MLS teams are currently partnered with ESPN+ for streaming. YouTubeTV is another MLS partner, and their services provide access to a wider array of national cable networks, running $40 a month for up to six accounts. For savvy fans who want to split the cost of access with friends, this breaks down to around $6.67 per account.
Also, while FC Cincinnati touts FloFC's ability to stream on multiple platforms and provide additional content such as interviews and extended coverage, FloFC is currently only available on Roku, iOS and Apple TV 4. There is currently no app available for Android platforms of any kind.
FC Cincinnati's passionate and loyal fan base has gotten a lot of credit for the team's meteoric rise to popularity and, eventually, Major League Soccer.
From the start, fans have packed into Nippert, crowded into local pubs and rallied behind the orange and blue.
Fans have stuck by FCC's side -- through all the ups and downs.
But now, FCC fan organizations say they’re feeling let down.
— The Pride (@ThePrideCincy) March 11, 2019
The Pride, Die Innenstadt, Dayton fan organization Hangar 937, and Lexington fan organization The Pride: Orange & Bluegrass have all spoken out on Twitter about how this new deal alienates fans and creates barriers to participation for fans outside of the Greater Cincinnati region.
Die Innenstadt is incredibly disappointed w/this decision by FC Cincinnati. We believe this move will significantly inhibit the growth of support, deliver an inferior streaming experience, & come at an inflated cost to fans. We plan to address this at our next meeting w/the club https://t.co/v08D9Urkmg
— Die Innenstadt (@DieInnenstadt) March 11, 2019
— Hangar 937 (@Hangar937) March 11, 2019
We agree 1000% with our parent SG. This deal is a gut punch to any & all who have put forth much time & effort to secure away match pubs, draw in local supporters, etc. Please fix this @fccincinnati and @FloFC_ . Thank you, your many supporters in the Lex/Centrak Ky area. https://t.co/V4XEu8NzJr
— The Pride: Orange & Bluegrass (@PrideBluegrass) March 11, 2019
With regional coverage in the Tri-State blacked out on other streaming platforms, viewers in regions without access to FloSports, like Dayton, will lose streaming capabilities entirely. This means the only access they have to FCC games will be through Star64, which requires a cable subscription, or the nationally broadcast games run by ESPN and F1.
FloSports is also partnered with D.C. United, another MLS team. But D.C. United’s reliance on FloFC for their first match of the season resulted in a broken stream that, among other issues, caused fans to miss the first several minutes of the game, and prompted DC United and FloSports to issue apologies to fans:
— D.C. United (@dcunited) March 11, 2019
At the start of the @dcunited match today some users were blocked in a region that shouldn't have been. The issue was resolved but we apologize for any inconvenience. When the issue was fixed interruptions may have resulted. If you were impacted: https://t.co/4Kqy2yukPh
— FloSports (@flosports) March 10, 2019
The Pride also points out that D.C. United fans were provided with discount codes for subscriptions -- an offer that so far hasn't been offered to FC Cincinnati fans.