It’s inevitable. One day in the not-too-distant future, sports fans in America and throughout the world will consume live sporting events exclusively via online streams.

It’ll take some time for the NFL to go full stream in the United States, because the planet’s richest sports league has the world’s most lucrative television broadcasting deals, and those don’t expire until after the 2022 season. But the league has become stream-friendly in a lot of ways of late — prime-time games have been available live on network websites to cable subscribers in the United States for several years and Amazon Prime reached a deal with the league this offseason to air live over-the-top digital streams of Thursday Night Football broadcasts.

NFL live streams have already become commonplace internationally in recent years thanks primarily to NFL Game Pass, a subscription-based video service provided and hosted by the league which launched in 2009. The platform offers international subscribers access to all preseason, regular season, and playoff games (blackouts notwithstanding), along with bells and whistles such as on-demand archives, coaches film, access to condensed games, split screen, a thorough search feature and the ability to jump from play to play and game to game (American subscribers aren’t able to live-stream games beyond the preseason but enjoy all of those features at a greatly reduced cost).

But the NFL is a moneymaking machine, so we should have known they’d reach a point at which they’d sell off online rights to highest bidders. That’s not yet easy to do with NBC, CBS, FOX and ESPN having so much say domestically, but the league did strike a deal this offseason with an on-demand sports streaming service called DAZN (pronounced “Da Zone”, per the London-based company) which now owns exclusive digital NFL rights in Canada, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Japan.

According to data from the Global Web Index, there are about 14 million NFL fans in Canada and Germany combined. They’re two of the five largest international NFL markets. Considering that the league is clearly trying to spread its wings internationally, it’s important that it doesn’t alienate or rankle its fan bases in those regions.

Speaking as a Canadian NFL fan, I’m feeling a bit alienated and rankled.

This transition means Canadian TV providers can no longer offer NFL Sunday Ticket or NFL RedZone. So if you’d like access to every game every Sunday, you have to subscribe to DAZN. And the reality is that DAZN forces me to consume what has thus far felt like an inferior product to that of NFL Game Pass, which would be infuriating enough without considering the fact handcuffed DAZN subscribers in Canada have lost access to most of those bells and whistles which made NFL Game Pass so great.

Viewers can no longer watch multiple games at once with a split screen, they can no longer jump from play to play, they can no longer search for specific plays, teams or players, they can no longer access condensed games, and the archives are both difficult to navigate and lacking in depth.

At this admittedly early stage, the service is blatantly inferior, which is a shame considering that no other options exist.

And people are pissed.

That’s not to say DAZN is a complete disaster for NFL fans in Canada and the other countries under the service’s umbrella. The price (CA$20 per month or CA$150 annually) is right for that level of access, especially considering that nothing is blacked out. DAZN also pledges that the service will be available on pretty much any device you can imagine, and that the user experience will be stronger on a lot of those devices than it was with Game Pass. And they offer several other pro sports that almost nobody in Canada cares about, which might at least serve as a bonus for some users.

Alex Rice, DAZN’s Managing Director of Strategic Partnerships, did tell me that the company responded to social media and customer feedback after the first week of the preseason by making an effort to increase the quality of certain game feeds. The goal, he says, is for frame rates to match or exceed the levels that were offered by Game Pass. Latency (the lag behind real time) is an industry-wide problem, but it’s also something DAZN is trying to reduce.

Regarding features, Rice told me that user analysis data revealed that certain Game Pass functions (search, for example) weren’t heavily utilized by subscribers in Canada and elsewhere.

“We wanted to ensure that we were catering to a much broader audience,” he said, noting that DAZN is “trying to minimize huge overlays of information which can be too imposing, too clunky and too complicated” for users. But he says they’re still looking at adding more features over the course of the season.

Glass half-full? It’s the preseason for everybody. Here’s hoping DAZN bolsters its product and finds a way to offer subscribers more of the features they enjoyed when they were allowed to access and use NFL Game Pass.

But in case they don’t, there is a half-decent alternative for Rogers Cable subscribers in Canada who would prefer to take in live games without risking heavy pixelation, buffering and a real-time lag which makes it impossible to watch the action while on Twitter. TheScore.com explains:

Rogers has countered by offering its Super Sports Pak subscribers a time-shifting package that will give them access to NFL games on channels they might normally not be able to watch.

“We know our customers want to experience sports on a big screen in HD or 4K from the comfort of their living rooms, and we’ll continue to offer all the best weekly NFL matchups through customers’ regular cable subscriptions,” a Rogers spokesperson told theScore on Thursday.

Rogers estimates that customers will be able to watch up to half of the games on Sunday afternoon, and 60 percent of all NFL games in a given week.

Bell TV appears to be offering something similar. It’s better than nothing, and arguably way less of a headache.

About Brad Gagnon

Brad Gagnon has been passionate about both sports and mass media since he was in diapers -- a passion that won't die until he's in them again. Based in Toronto, he's worked as a national NFL blog editor at theScore.com, a producer and writer at theScore Television Network and a host, reporter and play-by-play voice at Rogers TV. His work has also appeared at CBSSports.com, Deadspin, FoxSports.com, The Guardian, The Hockey News and elsewhere at Comeback Media, but his day gig has him covering the NFL nationally for Bleacher Report.

  • newdog301

    No, it won’t happen. Eventually, all the streaming sites are going to price themselves out of consumers hands.

    Broadcast TV will always have some appeal because you just need an antenna and it’s free. Netflix, Hulu and Amazon alone costs you over $30 a month. A decent over the top package costs at least $50, and you’re missing out on a lot of channels.

    It’s hard to say if cable will be able to adjust to OTT and find a way to compete, but traditional TV is not dying any time soon. Most people watch programs on an actual TV, so why not watch programs through the way they were intended?

  • They’re taking 29.97 Hz US ATSC feeds, pulling them down to 25 Hz PAL for European broadcast TV, then transmitting those feeds back to ATSC Canada? Please tell me the CRTC is putting on the foil right now, just out of DAZN’s sheer technical incompetence.

  • Parts

    Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered

  • N00bicals

    There is a solution, VPN into Game Pass International via a non DAZN or blackout laden country like NL. I looked, a UK subscription is £140 (C$225), which should work well with a powerful and reliable VPN like ExpressVPN or IPVanish. Please note, look at multiple countries to find the best price; it changes and ordering via one country does not affect your ability to watch games via another to get live “blacked-out” games. Membership of these VPNs (~$10/mth) are expensive and will bring the Game Pass subscription up to cable and satellite levels but at this point it is one of the few good options available.

  • Matt Keip

    To be honest I don’t have much sympathy for any Canadian dealing with this as whether you like to admit it or not, the NFL is a foreign football league. Any fan who wants to watch football should be watching our domestic league the CFL.

    • Sgt. Pickles

      The CFL is garbage lol. We are supposed to watch a 3rd rate league (US college is better too) just because its Canadian?

      I suppose we should not watch US tv shows or movies either?

    • John Houghton

      @Matt Keip: “Any fan who wants to watch football should be watching our domestic league the CFL.” Sounds like the little communist is coming out in you. Like Sgt Pickles said….The CFL is GARBAGE

  • Sgt. Pickles

    Its really not THAT bad. Especially given the price. If they can add some more sports (that people care about) it would be a steal.

  • Dwayne Gibson

    DAZN is absolute garbage. They offer none of the bells and whistles that

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