TIME Business

Why You Can’t Find the Baseball Playoff Game on TV

Baseball Matt Carpenter
St. Louis Cardinals' Matt Carpenter hits an RBI single during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers in Milwaukee on Sept. 7, 2014. Morry Gash—AP

Big events, like the final games of the Major League season, are moving to harder-to-find cable networks. And cost of your cable bill is only getting biggger

At a Bay Area retirement community this past Monday, a group of elderly baseball fans gathered in a room to watch their San Francisco Giants take on the Washington Nationals in the National League playoffs. One problem: the game was nowhere to be found on the TV. The MLB Network, a league-owned cable outlet that requires a special subscription in many areas, was airing the game. The old folks were out of luck, until a worker called the cable company for a quick fix. “An associate and I were able to negotiate a deal (probably not such a good one) to get the game and the channel instantly,” a worker at the retirement community told the San Francisco Chronicle, “for an additional $18/month.”

These retirees weren’t alone: the Chronicle reported that its sports desk fielded over 150 calls from fans trying to find a playoff game on TV. The migration of sports programming away from free TV is nothing new. But now even the crown jewels are on cable. For the first time ever, the bulk of baseball’s two league championship series will air on cable channels. TBS will carry the American League Championship Series between the Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals, which starts Friday; Fox Sports 1, the network Rupert Murdoch launched in August 2013 to compete with ESPN, will handle Games 2-5, and Game 7, of the National Championship Series between the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals, which starts on Saturday. The Fox network will broadcast Game 1 and Game 6.

The baseball playoffs have moved way down the dial. I, for one, never thought I’d be watching a league championship series on Channel 99, home of Fox Sports 1 in my New York City neighborhood.

TBS broadcast the Final Four national semifinal games last season, will do so again this coming season, and will add the title game in 2016. The Super Bowl still rotates between CBS, NBC, and Fox: the Super Bowl of college football, the championship game of the new College Football Playoff, will be on ESPN. The sports cable boom isn’t going anywhere: on Monday, the NBA announced that it extended its rights deal with ESPN and TNT through the 2024-2025 season. These networks will pay the NBA a combined $2.66 billion a year, almost triple what they pay in the current contract.

Such lucrative agreements fatten the wallets of players and owners. But they do consumers no favors; they’re driving up the cost of cable. An FCC study shows that the average monthly cable bill for expanded basic service grew 30%, to $64.41 between 2008 and 2013. According to SNL Kagan, a media research firm, sports networks account for 40% of the fees that operators pay cable network to carry their programming.

Operators pass those costs along to consumers, while building in some margin for themselves. So if ESPN and TNT are tripling their investment in the NBA until 2025, they’re going to charge operators more to finance this investment, further spiking your bill. According to SNL Kagan data, ESPN and TNT are already the two most expensive national basic cable networks: operators pay an average of $6.04 per month per subscriber to carry ESPN, and $1.44 per month for TNT. That’s right: ESPN can command a price that’s three-times as high as the second most-expensive national basic cable channel. Four of the top-10 most expensive basic cable networks are sports channels (ESPN, NFL Network, ESPN2, Fox Sports 1). Two others — TNT and TBS — feature high-profile sports content like the NBA regular season and playoffs, the baseball playoffs, and March Madness. (Disney Channel, Fox News, USA, and Nickelodeon round out the Top 10, according to SNL Kagan).

In some areas, the regional sports networks are among the most expensive for operators to carry. For example Fox Sports North, which serves Minnesota, Wisconsin, and other states, costs $4.67 per subscriber per month. Comcast SportsNet Washington (DC) costs $4.60 per month. NESN, in New England, costs $4.22. The rates dwarf the top-tier, non-ESPN basic cable nets like TNT ($1.44), CNN ($0.61), MTV ($0.47) and AMC ($0.39). The network that shows Minnesota Twins games is nearly 12 times more expensive than the one that airs “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad.”

Over the past five years, ESPN’s carriage fees have jumped 48%. NFL Network fees are up 100%. CNN’s have spiked 22%; fees for Lifetime Television are up 18%. Two forces have driven — and will continue to drive — the accelerated growth in sports cable prices.

First, sports remain DVR-proof. You can record a great TV show, and catch up to it later while fast-forwarding the commercials. (Just stay away from spoilers.) A great sporting event is perishable: going back three days later to watch a Super Bowl just doesn’t make much sense. “Sports is an anomaly,” says Derek Baine, research director at SNL Kagan. “People watch it live.” So ESPN and other sports networks can still attract advertisers, and this ad revenue allows these networks to keep upping the ante for sports rights.

Second, blame Murdoch. If the Fox chairman is going to mount a serious run at ESPN, Fox Sports 1 needs big events. This year’s NLCS, in many respects, is a dress rehearsal. Murdoch’s presence alone made ESPN and TNT pay a premium for the NBA; the networks knew that if they didn’t ante up, Fox would likely swoop in. Fox Sports 1 and other new outlets like NBCSN (NBC Sports Network) increase competition for rights, which create bidding wars that drive up cable bills.

The more expensive monthly bills may not be a bad deal for avid sports fans. For less than $10.00 per month, ESPN comes out to pennies on the hour. But if you don’t want sports, you’re getting rooked. Since cable companies bundle channel packages, you have to pay premiums for ESPN and other sports networks in order to get the stuff you want. Sen. John McCain has pushed for “a la carte” cable — just pay for the channels you know you’ll watch. He won’t get his way any time soon though. The cable industry is fine with their bundled revenues, thank you. The sports boom is just too good. No matter how it costs you.

 

 

TIME Football

ESPN Anchor Makes Emotional Address on NFL and Domestic Abuse

"What exactly does the NFL stand for?" Hannah Storm asks

In an emotional address on SportsCenter on Sunday, ESPN anchor Hannah Storm discussed the tough questions that have been raised, in her household and within the NFL, in the wake of the league’s domestic assault scandal.

Seemingly near tears, Storm said that the release of elevator surveillance footage, which showed then-Baltimore Ravens running back Rice slugging his then-fiancée and current wife, Janay, in an Atlantic City hotel, has prompted “impossible” questions from her own daughter. Questions that Storm found herself struggling to answer, such as, “Mom, why did he do that? Why isn’t he in jail? Why didn’t he get fired?”

Apart from Rice’s actions, Storm also addressed the actions — or, rather, the inaction — of the NFL and the Ravens, who waited until the video was leaked before kicking Rice out of the league.

“In the NFL, apparently seeing is believing,” Storm went on. “If the NFL and the Ravens had to see that video to be moved to significant action, then shouldn’t those who support the league demand the same? To see action? To see change before believing, as we all wait on the answer to the central question: what exactly does the NFL stand for?”

MONEY Sports

How to Watch Every NFL Game This Season Without Going Broke

guys on couch cheering for football team
Michael Cogliantry—Getty Images

The 2014 NFL season starts Thursday, September 4. Here are 5 essential tips for tuning in to all the NFL action your eyeballs can handle throughout the regular season, and beyond.

Watching the NFL used to be simple. Fans could just plop down on the couch on Sunday afternoon, click on the local broadcast station, and they’d be contentedly screaming at the ineptness of the local team before they knew it. Then came exclusive NFL contracts with pay TV providers and sports channels, plus Thursday Night Football, plus a wide range of streaming options. Let’s not forget about the advent of fantasy football, which brought about the “need” for fans to keep tabs not just on their local team, but on the players they drafted across the league and relied upon to stomp on the teams run by their college buddies and office mates.

Stuff got complicated, at least compared to how it used to be. For help sorting out how and where to watch the NFL this season without spending a fortune, here are some handy tips.

All fans can watch some Thursday Night Football for free. According to NFL.com, “Thursday Night Football” starts one week from today, on September 11. That’s silly, of course. Even CBS Sports acknowledges that Thursday Night Football begins tonight, September 4, with rival NBC broadcasting the season-opening matchup of the Green Bay Packers versus the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. Anyone with access to free network TV can watch the game.

What the NFL is referring to is that September 11 is when the NFL Network begins its airing of Thursday Night Football. But even then, it’s not necessary for fans to have a pay TV package that includes the NFL Network. For the first time, seven Thursday night games, between September 11 and October 23, are being broadcast on both the NFL Network and CBS. An additional Thursday night game will be aired on NBC on Thanksgiving night. So unlike in the recent past, when the NFL Network had exclusive rights to almost all Thursday night games, even cheapskate fans without a pricey pay TV package get to tune in to some pro football on Thursdays. What’s more, whereas in the past Thursday night games tended to be dominated by mediocre matchups, this year’s lineup features several premier rivalries of teams with big fan bases, including Steelers-Ravens (September 11), Giants-Redskins (September 25), and Jets-Patriots (October 16).

On Sundays, check out networks for free, or DirecTV at a price. Fox and CBS will broadcast NFL Sunday afternoon games featuring local-market teams—and another game or two, usually—and NBC is yet again the network destination for Sunday Night Football.

For fans who want the freedom of tuning into any NFL game their hearts desire on Sundays, DirecTV is the go-to provider. Thanks to an exclusive contract with the NFL, DirecTV offers two packages to subscribers: the NFL Sunday Ticket ($40 per month for six months) and the supersized NFL Sunday Ticket Max ($55 per month for six months). Both options allow subscribers to tune in to any out-of-market NFL game on Sunday. The Max package comes with extra features including the Red Zone Channel (shows highlights and scoring plays of all Sunday games) and, notably, the ability to stream Sunday NFL games on your computer, tablet, or phone.

ESPN has a stranglehold on Monday Night Football. Nothing new here: ESPN has the rights to air Monday Night Football. The MNF action begins with a double header on Monday, September 8, starting with a 7:10 ET kickoff of the Detroit Lions hosting the New York Giants, followed immediately by a matchup of the Arizona Cardinals hosting the San Diego Chargers at 10:20 ET. If you don’t have a pay TV package, or you don’t have a package that includes ESPN, you’re out of luck (though there are some less-than-fully-legal streaming methods out there). Monday Night Football is available for streaming—for subscribers only—at WatchESPN.com. Subscribers have the option of tuning in via desktop, tablet, Google Chromecast, Xbox Live Gold, and several other methods, but not through phones.

Here’s how to watch games in just 30 minutes. In addition to ESPN and DirecTV streaming options, a variety of Game Rewind packages are offered by the NFL, allowing fans to watch full game replays on-demand on your choice of devices after they’ve aired on TV. As a bonus, subscribers can use a Condensed Game feature, in which the typical, stretched-out 3.5-hour football viewing experience is boiled down to roughly 30 action-packed minutes. Fans have the option of buying Game Rewind for a single team ($30 for the season) or all teams ($40) during the regular season. A Season Plus package ($70) includes all of the above, as well as access to view the NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl—on-demand, after they’ve aired on TV.

(The alternative to Game Rewind is simply recording games on a DVR, then fast-forward or replay to your heart’s content.)

Yet another streaming option is available for subscribers to Verizon Wireless More Everything plan. Verizon used to charge $5 monthly for subscribers to live stream nationally televised games on Monday, Thursday, and Sunday nights, but it dropped the fee for this season. Fans can also use their devices for live streaming local-market games on Sunday afternoons.

For now, hated blackout rules remain in effect. In recent years, the NFL has received pressure from fan groups as well as the FCC to get rid of blackout rules, which stipulate that networks will not broadcast local home games if the stadium isn’t at least 85% sold out within 72 hours of kickoff. The rules threatened to ruin several Sundays for many fans around the country last season, even during the playoffs, but several teams ran last-minute ticket promotions to boost attendance and thereby avoid blacking out broadcasts. In a few cases, local corporations or the NFL franchises themselves bought thousands of tickets and distributed them free of charge so that games wouldn’t be blacked out.

Lately, the league has been threatening to move all NFL games to cable if the FCC insists on eliminating the blackout rule. That, in effect, would black out the games for everyone who doesn’t have a pay TV package. So for now at least, the blackout rules remain, and fans of local teams that have trouble selling out—Jacksonville Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Buffalo Bills, we’re looking at you—are likely to face the choice of paying up for a ticket or missing the game a few times this season.

TIME NFL

Dallas Cowboys Sign Michael Sam, Save NFL From Stupidity

Michael Sam
Former Missouri player Michael Sam, left, waves to fans has he and former teammate E.J. Gaines, right, are introduced during the first quarter of the South Dakota State-Missouri NCAA college football game on Aug. 30, 2014, in Columbia, Mo. L.G. Patterson—AP

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, never afraid of attention, signs the NFL's first openly gay player to practice squad. The team needs him

The whole thing was starting to stink. Michael Sam, after performing well during the preseason, really wasn’t good enough to earn a spot on any NFL roster? Not even as a practice player?

Leave it the one NFL owner who doesn’t mind a media “distraction” — sarcastic air quotes very intentional — to step up and sign Sam, the NFL’s first openly gay player. According to multiple reports, Sam will be added to the Dallas Cowboys practice squad, as long as he passes a physical. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones relishes the media attention that many teams fear will accompany Sam into the locker room. This is a guy who wanted to draft lighting rod Johnny Manziel, before his son talked him out of it. He told ESPN The Magazine writer Don Van Natta that he still regrets passing on Johnny Football. He built a ridiculously lavish stadium. He signed T.O.

Even better, Sam is no carnival barker; he’s the anti-T.O. This isn’t a publicity stunt. Sam makes football sense for the Cowboys, who are weak at defensive line. Though he’s starting on the practice squad, don’t be shocked to see Sam get a promotion.

Sam’s release from the St. Louis Rams, who drafted the University of Missouri star in the seventh round, was never going to be a shocker. That team had well-documented depth at defensive line. But after an impressive preseason in which he recorded three sacks, it seemed likely that some NFL team would pick him up, at least for their practice squad. The odds looked very, very favorable.

This year, 41 players, including Sam, were selected by NFL teams in the seventh and final round of the NFL draft. As of early Tuesday afternoon, 80% of them were slated to start the season on an NFL roster. Twenty-one players made the 53-man active roster, six more made practice squads, and six were placed on injured reserve/physically unable to perform lists.

What’s more, Adam Schefter of ESPN noted the following:

Three other defensive ends were picked in the seventh round. One, Ben Gardner from Stanford, is on Dallas’ injured list. The other two did not come from major football schools. Terrence Fede, of Marist College, and Shelby Harris of Illinois State, made the active rosters of the Miami Dolphins and Oakland Raiders, respectively. Sam was the SEC co-defensive player of the year at the University of Missouri; Fede and Harris are more physically imposing than Sam (Fede is 6’4″, 282 pounds, Harris is 6’2″, 288 pounds, Sam is 6’2″, 261 pounds).

It’s easy to think that seventh rounders are long-shots to make NFL rosters. But no, not this year: over half the players made the active team, and only 20% of them, including Sam, were unemployed as of early this afternoon. So why was Sam among the jobless, despite his strong pre-season performance? Despite being a pass-rush specialist in a pass-happy league that puts a premium on quarterback pressure? Bleacher Report NFL writer Mike Freeman surveyed some front office executive, and his findings were revealing:

In interviews with a number of team officials, I can’t find one who will actually say to me, “He can’t play.” They all point to the media and say he’s too big a distraction.

One general manager told me, “Teams want to sign Michael Sam but fear the media attention.”

Ah, the “distraction” issue. What an awful crutch. Sure, the media hasn’t always behaved gracefully here — look no further than ESPN’s sloppy reporting about Sam’s showering habits. (Not that the shower issue isn’t totally irrelevant. If Sam was refusing to shower with his teammates because he felt like the locker room was homophobic, that is certainly important and newsworthy. The problem was that ESPN’s report was so thinly sourced that the information the reporter shared — an unnamed player speculating that Sam was waiting to take a shower so teammates weren’t uncomfortable — wasn’t worth airing.)

But that report aside, the Rams seemed to survive the preseason intact, despite the Sam “distraction.” If NFL teams were indeed passing on Sam for their practice squads for non-football reasons — sure seemed that way — what an ugly move. At best, the “distraction” excuse is cowardly. What, an NFL team can’t handle a few extra cameras in the locker room because of Sam, cameras that would surely thin out once the season began and Sam went about his business? It’s not like he’s extending an open invitation for the media horde to ask him questions. People just happen to be interested in him. Sam was going to be denied an opportunity for reasons beyond his control. The only decision he made to “bring on” this attention was a very admirable one: being open about his sexuality, and thus serving as a role model for others.

At worst, the media is just a scapegoat. Pure bigotry was at play.

For now, though, these issues can be cast in the background. Jerry Jones bailed the NFL out, temporarily at least. Sam will get another shot.

A well-deserved one.

TIME Baseball

Mo’ne Davis Helps Draw a Record Little League Viewership

Nearly 5 million viewers in all tuned in

Little League World Series’ sensation, 13-year-old Mo’ne Davis, may have got pulled during her game on Wednesday night, but the event did garner the largest viewership of a Little League game in ESPN’s history, says the Hollywood Reporter.

Despite the 8-1 loss by Davis’ Philadelphia team Taney Dragons to Las Vegas’ Mountain Ridge, the coverage drew a 3.1 rating, which, according to ESPN, was up 155% from last year’s viewership. In Philadelphia, 14.9% of homes tuned in on Wednesday, while 16.3% watched from their homes in Las Vegas. Nearly 5 million viewers in all tuned in for Wednesday night’s game.

Davis was catapulted to fame this summer as the first female in the history of the Little League World Series to pitch a shutout game. She landed a Sports Illustrated cover and a ton of fans.

However, her unfettered success took a turn when she was pulled in the third inning after allowing Las Vegas three runs on Wednesday. She was then unable to pitch against Chicago during Thursday night’s game (because of restrictions designed to prevent arm strain). And because Philadelphia lost 5-6, the possibility of her taking to the mound during a Saturday night rematch with Las Vegas was quashed.

Davis’ manager Alex Rice nonetheless has big hopes for the 13-year-old’s future. “The world’s her oyster, right?” Rice told the Associated Press after the Chicago loss on Thursday. “Mo’ne will figure out her future, and it’s going to be terrific.”

TIME Sports

Sports Analyst Apologizes for Comments About Ray Rice and Domestic Violence

ESPN's Stephen A. Smith has retracted statements that implied women can provoke domestic violence

Sports analyst Stephen A. Smith apologized for the comments about domestic violence he made on ESPN’s First Take on Friday. While discussing Ray Rice’s two-game suspension following the footballer’s arrest for allegedly punching his wife unconscious, Smith said that women should think about how not to “provoke wrong actions” from men.

Following his statements, many lambasted Smith for implying that women could do anything to “provoke” a violent attack, including Smith’s fellow ESPN analyst Michelle Beadle, who tweeted, “Violence isn’t the victim’s issue. It’s the abuser’s. To insinuate otherwise is irresponsible and disgusting. Walk. Away.”

Smith initially defended and clarified his feelings on Twitter, but Monday morning on First Take, he called his initial statements “the most egregious error” of his career. Cari Champion, the host of the show, followed up on Smith’s comments by discussing trigger words such as “provoke.”

ESPN issued a statement saying that Smith will not be suspended:

We will continue to have constructive dialogue on this important topic. Stephen’s comments last Friday do not reflect our company’s point of view. As his apology demonstrates, he recognizes his mistakes and has a deeper appreciation of our company values.

See Smith’s comments on Friday’s First Take below:

TIME Sports

ESPN Sportscaster Suspended After Ray Rice Comments Stir Controversy

Commentator Stephen A. Smith has been accused of victim blaming

Updated at 5:45 p.m.

ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith has been suspended from the network for one week following controversial comments he made suggesting an NFL player’s wife may have provoked the alleged severe beating that landed her husband in jail.

Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice received a slap-on-the-wrist, two-game suspension after being arrested and indicted for allegedly hitting his now-wife so hard that he knocked her unconscious. Following the NFL’s announcement of the punishment, Smith implied Monday on First Take that women need to be careful about what they do or say so as not to tempt men to viciously attack them:

We know you have no business putting your hands on a woman. I don’t know how many times I got to reiterate that… But what I’ve tried to employ the female members of my family, some of who you all met and talked to and what have you, is that again, and this what, I’ve done this all my life, let’s make sure we don’t do anything to provoke wrong actions, because if I come, or somebody else come, whether it’s law enforcement officials, your brother or the fellas that you know, if we come after somebody has put their hands on you, it doesn’t negate the fact that they already put their hands on you. So let’s try to make sure that we can do our part in making sure that that doesn’t happen.

He goes on:

In Ray Rice’s case, he probably deserves more than a 2-game suspension which we both acknowledged. But at the same time, we also have to make sure that we learn as much as we can about elements of provocation. Not that there’s real provocation, but the elements of provocation, you got to make sure that you address them, because we’ve got to do is do what we can to try to prevent the situation from happening in any way. And I don’t think that’s broached enough, is all I’m saying. No point of blame.

ESPN announced in a message to USA Today Tuesday that Smith won’t appear on First Take or ESPN radio “for the next week.” He’ll return to work on Wednesday, the network said.

ESPN host Michelle Beadle fired back at Smith after the segment on Twitter.

She has also retweeted several violent threats that were made against her following her comments.

Smith responded by trying to clarify his position and apologizing to Beadle. He tweets that he never accused women of being wrong. But he also concludes, “I was simply saying to take all things into consideration for preventative purposes.”

https://twitter.com/stephenasmith/status/492731963732922368

https://twitter.com/stephenasmith/status/492732424653389824

https://twitter.com/stephenasmith/status/492732649237409792

https://twitter.com/stephenasmith/status/492733037160185856

https://twitter.com/stephenasmith/status/492733521518428160

https://twitter.com/stephenasmith/status/492733696966139904

https://twitter.com/stephenasmith/status/492733896199794688

https://twitter.com/stephenasmith/status/492734116652404737

https://twitter.com/stephenasmith/status/492734304603365377

https://twitter.com/stephenasmith/status/492734735467421696

https://twitter.com/stephenasmith/status/492735107636420608

https://twitter.com/stephenasmith/status/492735400889581569

https://twitter.com/stephenasmith/status/492735546444496896

https://twitter.com/stephenasmith/status/492735758479134720

https://twitter.com/stephenasmith/status/492736075300089856

https://twitter.com/stephenasmith/status/492736129733771264

MORE: The NFL Needs To Take Domestic Violence Seriously

TIME Courts

Sleeping Yankees Fan’s Lawsuit Won’t Get Far, Legal Experts Say

A $10 million lawsuit filed by a man who was broadcast on ESPN while sleeping during a baseball game draws skepticism

Legal experts are skeptical of the $10 million lawsuit filed by a man after he was broadcast on ESPN while sleeping during a baseball game.

Andrew Rector, who was sitting amongst Yankees fans with his head resting on his shoulder, appeared to have dozed off during the April 13 Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees game. Once Rector appeared on camera, ESPN commentators Dan Shulman and John Kruk quickly began discussing his slumped-over body.

“Maybe that’s his buddy, and he likes him a lot better when [Rector's] asleep,” Kruk said, referring to a man sitting next to Rector. The commentator duo also remarked that Rector was “oblivious,” expressing surprise that he had fallen asleep during the fourth inning.

Rector filed the suit against ESPN, Shulman, Kruk, the New York Yankees and Major League Baseball (MLB), which also picked up the footage, according to Courthouse News Service. Rector claims damages for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress, citing false statements said about him including that Rector is “a fatty cow” that represents a “symbol of failure.”

In response, ESPN stated that “the comments attributed to ESPN and our announcers were clearly not said in our telecast. The claims presented here are wholly without merit.” MLB declined to comment.

Legal experts agree with ESPN’s assessment. “I think he has no chance on this lawsuit,” Vincent Blasi, a professor at Columbia Law School and expert in tort law, told TIME. “If the grievance is defamation, you have to show someone said something factually false about him. It requires a misstatement of an empirical fact.”

The idea of defamation rests on false written or spoken statements about an individual that damages his or her reputation. Classic defamation cases include suits in which the plaintiff was falsely accused in public statements of manipulating clients in business, or having a debilitating infectious disease.

“[Rector was] clearly been set up for ridicule. He’s unfortunate. He’s been made a butt of jokes. But there’s just no defamatory statement about him,” Harvard Law School professor John Goldberg told TIME, noting that defamation suits rest more on reputation damages than emotional distress.

Goldberg added that the suit, which was filed in Bronx County Supreme Court in New York, would face an uphill — if not entirely vertical — battle. Though there are constitutional limits applying to all U.S. states, New York is “notoriously unfriendly to defamation suits,” and it is “very unlikely that the suit will get anywhere,” he said.

Still, defamation suits have the potential to result in significant compensation. A Palestinian shopkeeper, Ayman Abu Aita, filed in 2009 a multimillion lawsuit against comedian Sacha Baron Cohen and the Late Show With David Letterman after the TV program aired a clip from Baron Cohen’s movie Bruno that portrayed him as a terrorist. Aita claimed the movie damaged his business and caused him to receive death threats. The case was subsequently settled in 2012 “to the mutual satisfaction” of everyone, according to Fox News.

MONEY Sports

Your Guide to Watching World Cup Soccer—Legally, for the Most Part

There are more ways than ever to tune in to the World Cup, held this year in Brazil. Here are all the options.

The World Cup starts on Thursday, and if you’re like pretty much everyone in the world (the 2010 Cup drew an audience of 3.2 billion), you’re looking for ways to watch this event at home, at work, on the train, maybe in the shower. Here are all the legal methods — plus a couple ambiguously legal ones — to get your soccer football fix.

Regular Old Television

If you own a TV (or can sneak one into your office), you automatically have access to the 10 matches that will air on ABC. Have cable or a satellite TV package? Then you can watch the other 54 matches exclusive to ESPN and ESPN 2. Here’s a TV schedule to help you keep track of all the channels. As you might guess, the first two scheduled matches for the United States team, on Monday, June 16 (versus Ghana) and Sunday, June 22 (versus Portugal) are being shown on ESPN, not ABC.

Streaming Via ESPN

TV? What is this, 2010? Nowadays it’s all about watching everything on your computer, smartphone, or tablet, and ESPN has delivered with the relaunched ESPN FC. The website is a soccer news and video hub that sports both a website and a downloadable app for your mobile devices. During the World Cup, ESPN FC will be airing all of ESPN and parent company ABC’s World Cup coverage. That means you can watch all 64 matches online as well (assuming your cable provider is on this list). The problem? Just like with NBC’s online streaming of the Winter Olympics, you need a cable or satellite subscription to access any of the content.

Stream Directly From Your TV

Want to watch at work, but don’t have a TV at your desk? Devices like Slingbox let you stream direct from your home TV and then watch on the Slingbox website or app. It also offers a 1080p viewing experience in case ESPN’s quality dips. You can stream anything you could normally watch on your home TV, meaning no ESPN unless you pay for cable or satellite. However, Slingbox can stream ABC matches from your TV if you own a digital TV tuner (which comes included in certain Slingbox models).

Try Aereo (Before the Supreme Court Bans It)

Aereo is a service that has planted thousands of tiny TV antennas all around the U.S. and then streams that content to a subscriber’s computer or mobile device. (This creative method of skirting copyright law has led to a bit of legal trouble.) Because it largely depends on what it can pick up off the air, Aereo’s content essentially consists of the major networks. Luckily for you, that means all 10 matches being shown on ABC. (Unlucky for you, no matches featuring Team USA, at least not in the beginning.) The best part? The company is offering a 30-day free trial (after that, it will cost $8 a month). Just make sure you live in one of its coverage areas.

Stream for Free … in Spanish

Spanish language channel Univision is streaming every single match from the first two rounds for free, without requiring the viewer to be a cable or satellite pay TV subscriber. Even better, the company offers an Android and iOS app in addition to its website. The catch? Well, obviously, broadcasts are in Spanish. If you speak the language, this is muy bueno, and if you don’t, you can listen to EPSN radio with the match on mute. Consider giving the original broadcast a chance, though. Spanish announcing is always better. Gooooooool!

Cross the border

As for the more… creative methods for World Cup viewing, many U.S.-based soccer fans head across the border — virtually. Canada’s CBC, the U.K.’s BBC, Ireland’s RTE and Australia’s SBS are all streaming everything for free—but only to people who live in their respective home countries. To get around the regional lock, hard-core fans use services like TunnelBear that create a virtual private network, masking one’s true location.

Is it legal? Accessing content from outside these networks’ region is a clear violation of their terms of service; but whether users are actually breaking the law is apparently a grey area. “While there are differences among the courts about the use of masking IP addresses to gain access to a site,” Electronic Frontier Foundation staff attorney Mitch Stoltz told Forbes, “it is pretty well established that simply violating the Terms of Service alone is not sufficient to warrant a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.”

Stoltz admits that authorities might go after a TunnelBear user as an example to others, but says such an outcome is “very unlikely.” For its part, TunnelBear emphasizes that it is based in Canada, outside U.S. jurisdiction, and that there is “no Canadian law that requires us to keep logs on customer usage.”

TIME World Cup

ESPN Taps Landon Donovan for World Cup Coverage

Landon Donovan
Landon Donovan during the CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal match at StubHub Center on March 12, 2014 in Los Angeles. Victor Decolongon—Getty Images

The all-star won't be on the field, but he'll still be on TV

Landon Donovan may not be on Team U.S.A.’s World Cup roster, but he will still get to go to the World Cup—in spirit. ESPN announced on Wednesday that the famed soccer player will join the sports network as a commentator, broadcasting from Los Angeles, during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Donovan, who many believe to be the best player in the history of the U.S. national team, will make his ESPN debut during their two-four FIFA World Cup Preview Wednesday.

“Adding Landon to our ESPN roster just before the World Cup is a coup because he knows the United States team better than anyone having played such a huge role in its success, especially at this event,” said Jed Drake, ESPN senior vice president. “Landon is also one of this country’s biggest sports stars and we believe that he will help attract even more fans to our month-long coverage.”

Donovan added, “I look forward to working with the talented ESPN broadcasters to provide unique insights for our amazing U.S. Soccer fans.”

Donovan was cut from the 23-person team in the last round in May. He is the all-time leader in goals and assists for the national team. He has played in 12 World Cup games and scored five goals in those games, both U.S. records.

 

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser