As the days dwindle toward the start of the 2015 season, many Houston Dynamo fans have been left wondering if they need to opt in to MLS Live, the league's online streaming service for live matches. Available now at a preseason rate of $64.99, this service provides HD streams to all matches (subject to local and national blackouts), access to an archive of previous seasons, and has proven a vital tool for fans to follow their team, particularly on the road.
Earlier in the week, many Dynamo fans received a notice that MLS Live would be auto-renewing next week unless they opt out. As the Dynamo are yet to secure a TV deal ahead of the new season, fans aren't sure whether they should pick up the service or, for season ticket holders, whether the team will foot the bill for another year of complimentary access, as they did in 2014.
Are you wondering if you should sign up? Let's break it down.
First, a bit of background. Last season, the Dynamo were carried locally by Comcast Sports Houston, the infamously restrictive channel that couldn't find its way into many fans' living rooms. Due to that lack of access, the Dynamo were allowed to have their matches available on MLS Live without local blackout restrictions. The front office even granted a free year to season ticket holders as a perk.
This year, Comcast Sports is no more and the Dynamo are seeking a new TV deal. What this could mean is that the new television partner may prevent an online service like MLS Live from broadcasting Dynamo matches to users that are located in Houston. If you were on the fence about whether you should buy a year of MLS Live, here's what we recommend you do:
If you live in Houston and want to watch the Dynamo's home and away matches on MLS Live, you should use a wait-and-see approach. A new TV deal might mean your only option is to hook up a cable box next year and plopping down $65 on MLS Live when you only care to see the Dynamo would not be worth it. The catch to this is that the price of Live will rise as we get closer to the new season so if the new TV deal allows for local broadcasts online, you might be paying a slight premium for not getting in early enough.
If you're a season ticket holder, the front office will not be paying for MLS Live anymore. According to ticket representatives, there may be some sort of MLS Live offering through the Membership Rewards program that began last season. But without a TV deal in place, it's tough to nail any specifics. Officially, however, they have announced that they will not renew the service for season ticket holders. This means if you received an auto-renewal notice from MLS Live this week, you need to cancel the service or, if they have your payment information, you'll be paying for the new year on your own. If you're only trying to follow the Dynamo, use a wait-and-see approach here, as well.
If you want to watch more than the Dynamo (i.e. other MLS matches) or if you're a Dynamo fan living outside of Houston, buy it now. This is the cheapest the service is going to be until the very end of the season and it's a great value for a fan of the league. With the service, you'll be able to watch any team not under national blackout (for example an ESPN broadcast) and it's even sweeter if you're a Dynamo fan living or traveling outside any local blackout restrictions.
For most, there isn't much more to do than wait for the start of the season. Hopefully, you won't have to wait long before knowing how to act. "Positive negotiations are on-going with local TV partners," says team president Chris Canetti. "I think we are a few weeks away from finalizing anything, but I'm confident that we will have a new deal in place in time for the first game."