"Are you still going to be a Villa fan next season?"
"How are you going to watch Aston Villa in the Championship?"
"Will Villa's games even be on TV?"
These are all questions I've heard over the past few months. "Yes", "I'll find a way" and "Yes" are how I answered them. While it's true that access to live (or even delayed) footage of Aston Villa will be harder to come by, it won't be impossible, especially in today's day and age. With this thing called The Internet, matches should be available, even if they aren't exactly legal.
What I mean by that is networks that aren't the rightsholder in your country will still broadcasting some matches. In the past, I've watched Villa on Sky (England) or even Canal (France), despite living in the United States of America, where those channels aren't available, and the matches were screened on NBC, ESPN, Fox, et. al. Or maybe they weren't. Despite Fox holding exclusive rights to Bundesliga football in the States, they only showed three games per weekend on television, and one of the teams involved was always FC Bayern München. While this is great for Bayern fans, it isn't so great for fans of the 17 other clubs in Germany's top tier of football. Fortunately, there aren't any mega clubs in the Football League Championship next season, so such a scenario is unlikely to develop. However, some teams will be shown more often than others.
For me and my fellow American Villans across the pond, beIN Sports has owned the rights since obtaining them from Fox before the 2012-13 season. beIN shows about 3-4 games per weekend, and with Villa being one of the big teams in England's second tier next season, they're certain to feature on more than the odd occasion. For example, Villa play Sheffield Wednesday (who had 40 thousand fans travel to Wembley to watch their team come up just short against Hull Tigers in the play-off final) in the last Sunday timeslot of the Championship's first weekend, and that should be good enough to merit coverage. It's at 4:30 local time, and will be on Sky Sports 1/HD in the United Kingdom.
Another service available is fuboTV. On fuboTV, matches are streamed online, with users paying a monthly fee ($9.99) to gain access. From what I understand, fuboTV is able to stream matches that are broadcast legally from select networks, one of which is beIN.
In England, Sky Sports shows 112 live matches per-season, plus live play-off matches and final (50 Championship, 25 shared between League One and League Two) until 2019. Additionally, under the current deal, highlights are on Channel 5 until 2018. Also, BT Sport will screen up to 24 live FA Cup matches.
With the Sky deal, each team is guaranteed to have at least two home matches selected for broadcast. Each weekend, there are five timeslots for matches: Friday at 7:45 p.m. (1:45 p.m. US Eastern time), Saturday at 5:30 p.m. (11:30 a.m.), Sunday at noon (6:00 a.m.), and both Thursday and Monday at 7:45 p.m. (1:45 p.m.).
More for the English/UK fans can be found here, on the Birmingham Mail's site.
Unfortunately, the broadcast decisions aren't usually made until the season is underway, so that match dates kickoff times can be determined and the coverage can be assigned appropriately. That information is yet to be released, but it should be known by the end of the month (or sooner, hopefully).
Here's what beIN's website currently looks like regarding the FLC fixture list:
As the schedule is announced, you'll be able to find television information on LiveSoccerTV.com. The link will take you to their page for the Championship, but here's what it looks like:
We can see from last year that the play-off matches were televised almost everywhere, but then again, those are the play-off matches so they're not exactly a great example to base expectations off of. On the other hand, it is encouraging, and we should still get to see plenty of Villa next season as they (hopefully) mount a promotion challenge.
So, it's nowhere near the level of coverage that Villa saw last year, even as one of the worst teams in the division, but it's something. Plus, there's radio -again, local, but can be streamed (sometimes you have to work to get around the country settings), and I think it's fair to expect much, much more out of Aston Villa's in-house media outlet, AVTV. There are plenty of changes happening behind the scenes at the club. Former broadcaster Jack Woodward has departed, so there will be a new lead commentator for the AVTV radio broadcasts.
Last season, Derby County had the most games broadcast this season for a non-Premier League side, with 14. If I had to make an estimate, excluding the potential play-off matches, I'd guess that Villa will be on TV 12 times.
Are you planning to try to watch Villa as much as possible next season? Or, are you relieved that not every match will be on TV? Let us know in the comments!