Watching Serie A

It was only about five or six years ago that Serie A viewers in the United States were told that if they wanted to watch Serie A, they needed to call their cable providers and request that they carry BeIN, who had purchased the rights that season. For those of us who lived on the West coast, we knew we were doomed. It took months of grainy illegal streams before we could pay to have access to our games. Finally, ESPN came along like heavenly sports angels and for only $4.99 per month allowed us to stream every single Serie A match. But then Paramount Plus, an entertainment network, bought the rights, and their CBS Sports network began their embarrassing coverage of my beloved calcio. They have taken nearly all of the joy out of watching Serie A.

The most legit part of the coverage is this logo

Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows that I am a harsh critic of commentators in Serie A. I don't ask for much, really, just call the game. For years, I have been subjected to Champions League and other coverage with British commentators who did zero research on Italian players, could not pronounce the players' names, declared with every foul that Italians were all divers and cheaters, and were more interested in name-dropping and speculating on the Laws of the Game than talking about what was actually happening on the pitch.

Then came the American commentators. Since so few people here in the U.S. know the game, I guess the broadcasting companies did not mind that they were incompetent at their jobs. Not being able to identify players correctly, break down plays, knowing next to nothing about the Laws of the Game, babbling through cards or other events, speculating on everything... For example, when Giroud had his ankle gashed open by Koulibaly, they spent the time speculating that he was seeking attention, when actually he was just bleeding and needed to have it bandaged before he could continue. That's what the rules dictate. Perhaps it might be shorter to list the American commentators'  strengths: (crickets.) Even those with 10+ years of experience are still better at speculation and banter and not calling the game than doing what they are being paid to do. 

More hot takes from the amateurs

IMG, who owns the international broadcasting rights for Serie A, hires their own talent, and their English speaking commentators are head and shoulders above anyone we have ever had access to before. They are people who are knowledgeable and passionate about Serie A, they are able to call games well, pronounce the players' names correctly, and actually add to the games rather than distract or take away from them. This season, they have also added actual Italians who speak English to add some color commentary.

Why broadcasters here in the U.S. find it necessary to use anyone else in the first place is beyond me, but Paramount Plus went well beyond just the commentators. They hired a slew of largely amateur or inexperienced "pundits" and "reporters." In a recent interview with the "mastermind" behind CBS's "successful" coverage of the Champions League, Serie A, and CONCACAF, producer Pete Radovich, Jr. revealed the secret formula: he did zero marketing research at all. He hired on instinct. That explains so much.

Why research or prepare for the game or try to interview the players when you can just tweet your travel photos?

That's right, Radovich hired a bunch of Italian Americans, because he just assumed that they would know best about Serie A. It doesn't mean that he hired the best Italian Americans, or even competent ones, just some guys with big Twitter followings. His "uno di noi" concept might work if you were looking to hire a pizza delivery driver, but what if you needed heart surgery? You would need a professional. So does covering Serie A for the masses.

They say over and over that their goal is to grow Serie A, and yet they 100% market to Italian-Americans, who already watch Serie A. So much so, that they are offending the rest of us English-speaking Serie A fans who are truly passionate about the game. We don't care so much about the offensive sub-culture they are self-promoting and cramming down our throats. I cannot even imagine neutral fans tuning in to watch their rudimentary and sometimes just incorrect "analysis" and their tragically uninformed opinions. They are ruining Serie A, not growing it. 

In their original press release, they couldn't even spell cappuccino correctly

Also disturbing in Radovich's  interview is how much he talks about how he wants his "talent" to "just be themselves." He has turned the lens so extremely and narrow-mindedly to focus on his precious "talent" that it has detracted from Serie A and what makes Serie A so great. They do not even show the epic coreografia or the passion of the fans in the stadium, or other important parts of the game, because they are too busy arguing amongst themselves about pasta and other Italian "culture" they know shockingly little about. (I'm literally 100% American and seem to know more than they do about so much of this stuff.) Plus, their Italian language is actually not the greatest. I have no problems with creativity in broadcasting so long as you actually broadcast about what you claim to be broadcasting about, not yourself.

Their budget is astonishing, as they send their people to Italy to cover the games, and instead of preparing to actually cover the games or getting interviews with players or talking about the culture of the games or the football itself, they are busy shooting videos of themselves in front of Italian landmarks or taking selfies of themselves eating at Italian restaurants. If you count the number of times they reference themselves in their coverage, it is astonishing. They are so incredibly self-absorbed, the coverage is more about them than the football. And Serie A misses out. We as Serie A fans miss out. Just turn the cameras around and show us the football. You know, that product we are paying you to cover?

Access does not equal legitimacy

Most recently, one of them had the opportunity to interview Giroud after he scored the game-winner against Napoli, and he took credit for Giroud's luck in scoring in big games. (Not surprising, the same "reporter" has a long history of taking other people's tweets and stats and reworking them as if they are his account's.) The debate on Twitter about the Giroud interview was shocking, as journalists and non-Americans found it absolutely appalling. Italian American and Italian Canadians defended their "paesano" and accused critics of being "jealous." I am here to say that I am not jealous in any way. I have never wanted to be on television, I have no idea what I would say to a player, but I do know that what the CBS Sports employee did was shocking and unprofessional. All I want is to not have to cringe when people ask me if I am American, too.

The frustrating thing is that I really have no choice but to access Serie A via Paramount Plus. Their streaming service is horrible, you cannot rewind while watching, and the replays are often not up for hours after a match. ESPN's service was perfect and replays were up immediately, so I got a little spoiled. I suppose I could get a VPN and access the IMG world feed through DAZN in Canada, but that would cost me more than I am paying now and is not as solid. I feel a little silly for complaining, because in many other countries, people still pay multiple fees to multiple broadcasters to have access to Serie A, Coppa Italia, and Champions League matches. Some people still have no legal access at all to some of the games. But even they are appalled at what we have to endure here in America when we are watching Serie A. 

This post inspired by the music of NIN's "Head Like a Hole"

Our next match is 
Serie A Week 30
Cagliari vs. Milan
Saturday, March 19 • 20:45 CET (3:45 EDT)*
note the time difference due to Daylight Savings Time in the U.S.

Watching Serie A Watching Serie A Reviewed by Elaine on 12:00 AM Rating: 5
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