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Why The World’s Most Popular Player, Team Are Going A Month Without Being On U.S. TV

Cristiano Ronaldo and Manchester United are going an entire month without being on TV in the United States.

Another week of Manchester United football, another week U.S. networks decide the world’s most popular player on the world’s most popular team isn’t worth putting on TV. Anyone trying to find Manchester United on TV over the last month has been sorely disappointed.

On Sunday, Manchester United visited Stamford Bridge in one of the best soccer rivalries of the last 20 years. The coachless Red Devils managed to earn an impressive point off league-leading Chelsea thanks to an error by Jorginho, a day later voted the third-best player in the world. But the match wasn’t available on TV in the U.S. Despite the potential for a massive TV audience — Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Christian Pulisic! — NBC hid the match on Peacock, which requires an additional subscription.

Next up for Ronaldo and United — the player and club with the highest social media followers in the world? A showdown with old rival Arsenal on Thursday in a match that could go a long way in deciding if either team qualifies for next year’s Champions League.

Once again, it’s not on TV.

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Arsenal’s visit to Old Trafford will only be viewable on a streaming service in the U.S., with NBC yet again deciding to screw over United fans who can’t afford to pay for both cable TV and an extra streaming subscription. It’s endlessly frustrating to see NBC continue to nickel and dime customers by forcing them to pay for two subscriptions to watch Premier League soccer, only made more infuriating by the fact NBC will have the EPL TV rights for another six years

In fact, the Red Devils will go nearly an entire month without being on American televisions. The last time we saw Manchester United on TV in the U.S. was the Manchester Derby on Nov. 6. The next time they’ll be on TV is against Crystal Palace on Dec. 5. With CBS refusing to put any Champions League matches on TV, not even United’s group-stage matches against Atalanta or Villarreal were on TV in November. 

No wonder so many American soccer fans were upset by the fact NBC retained its grip on U.S. Premier League TV rights.

Of course, the simple solution to this would be to just pay the $5 to watch Peacock. It’s not a ton of money for a month of soccer. But the fact a fan of a given team never knows if they’ll need a cable TV subscription or a streaming subscription to watch their matches makes it an exasperating endeavor. I think most soccer fans would be fine with the current situation if a subscription to Peacock also allowed them to watch the matches that are on TV, but NBC has refused to do so, and reportedly will not do so over the next six years of its contract with the Premier League. 

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Even more frustrating, when NBC decides to not put these matches on NBCSN, USA Network or NBC, it also decides to prevent Telemundo or Universo from airing the matches in Spanish, doubling down on requiring Peacock subscriptions. At least when CBS refuses to air Champions League matches, you can rely on Univision and its family of networks to show the big games. In fact, NBC would do well to emulate Paramount+, which allows subscribers to watch every single Champions League and Serie A game, regardless of whether or not they’re on TV. 

Alas, that is unlikely to happen. Despite clear proof networks can draw large audiences with soccer, even MLS matches, they continue to favor subscriptions over TV ratings. So U.S. soccer fans should expect to continue to be forced to subscribe to cable and streaming services simultaneously for the foreseeable future just to be able to watch Manchester United on TV, just to be able to see the world’s most popular player on the world’s most popular team.

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