Watching World Cup Soccer Without Cable!
We are "cord-cutters"-- brave pioneers who long ago stopped subscribing to cable television! We struck out on our own to find content when and where and how we could!
The sacrifices are not great. Thousands of hours of "content" is available, through a variety of means-- without cable. Much or most of that content can be accessed for free or for a small fee.
Catching live sports telecasts does present a problem for those who live cable-free, however. Dying television networks the world over realize that live sports is one of the few categories for which they can still charge viewers a lot of money. This means that watching some sporting events-- for free-- can be tricky. But we are up to the task!
Using a combo of a classic "rabbit ears" antenna (purchased at the 99 Cents Only store!), an old Acer 4560 laptop pumping it's display through our Big Screen, and a subscription to a VPN (Virtual Private Network) called Tunnel Bear, we are guaranteed to be able to watch every World Cup 2018 for nothing!
For the novices (or for those born after 1990 or so), the "rabbit ears" pick up broadcasts "over the air," or OTA, just like in the old days. The laptop is hooked up wirelessly to the router, which lets us watch- in bigly format-- anything we can stream from the WWW. And if we want to watch something on British television or German television or Australian television, the VPN lets us fool their websites into thinking we live in Liverpool or Dusseldorf or Perth, and only costs $50/year! Quite a deal for a monthly fee that comes out to about 13 cents a day.
We also have a Roku Express (MSRP $20~) perched on the Big Screen, pumping its content to the Big Screen through the HDMI 1 port. There's a World Cup Roku Channel that's offering tons of content-- clips, recaps, re-broadcasts of games-- and plenty of streaming of live games.
Fox Television is running a lot of the games and that is good. The Fox5 affiliate here in Vegas comes in crystal clear. And, while Fox is carrying every game from July 6th up to, and including, the final, their coverage in the early rounds is spotty.
STRANGE THING # 1:
This morning, we watched Denmark beat Peru via local OTA digital sub-channel 31.1! It was supposed to be carrying the game via Spanish-language Telemundo. Instead we were treated to the feed from ARM TV, carried by their local affiliate, Armount TV, which claims it is"the most viewed Armenian television network in Nevada USA." We have neither the desire nor the ability to refute this claim.
The broadcast had an odd look to it, a somewhat cinematic or painterly quality that made it resemble ancient clips from ABC's Wide World of Sports, or perhaps an early satellite transmission from 1964. Usually, OTA channels are digital-quality. This one seemed slightly murky, possibly due to inferior equipment on the transmitting end.
STRANGE THING # 2
Check out the illustration accompanying this article. It's a pic of the official World Cup 2018 mascot. He is described by FIFA as "a wolf who radiates fun, charm and confidence." His name is Zabivaka which, literally translated, means "the one who scores." I can picture Bill Maher hearing this and insisting that his staff address him as "Mr. Zabivaka."
The current State of the Mascot Art is dismal. Zabivaka and his pals are vacuous and soulless, a hackneyed pastiche of anime and uninspired, quick-and-dirty, 60s TV cartoon characters. Their exaggerated friendliness and blithe reinforcement of heteronormative conventions is positively Hanna-Barbaric.(Sorry, I went all Camille Paglia for a minute.)
STRANGE THING # 3
I think it's so cute how CBS Sports, when touting their online World Cup coverage, refers to "fixtures." As I found out, a "fixture" is "a scheduled match that has yet to be played." (I had to look it up.) In the US, we call them "games." Hey, CBS, stop calling them "fixtures!" It's like you're speaking in metric! And for God's sake, do not call the field "the pitch." It's like Madonna faking a British accent.
STRANGE THING # 4
Russia. There. I said it. Russia-- the country, the look, the Cyrillic letters-- is strange. Call it "exotic" if you want. It just has odd visual, cultural and other quirks that make it feel familiar or Western while simultaneously seeming utterly sideways.
And when it's 3 PM on Saturday afternoon here in Vegas, it's 1 AM Sunday in Moscow!
And Russia has eleven time zones! So, when the crowds in Kaliningrad Stadium are enjoying an early afternoon soccer match, it's three o'clock in the morning here! And Kaliningrad is one hour different from Moscow! And I cannot figure out exactly how to account for that when calculating exactly when the match occurs, while I'm sleeping and not watching it!
STRANGE THING # 5
Watching telecasts that are accompanied by Spanish- or German- or Armenian-language color and play-by-play commentary may be disorienting at first. Eventually it becomes clear that the English-language chatter that accompanies the games on Fox or FS1 doesn't add much! Well, perhaps that overstates it a bit. Let's put it this way: I can follow a game just as easily when the folks in the booth are spouting non-English gibberish. Once, during a particularly tense match, I found myself grabbing the remote to bump up the volume-- only to realize that I had been watching and listening to Telemundo! It's Spanish! I'm not going to understand it any better at a higher volume!
Since the World Cup is such a big deal in practically every country, practically every country has at least one outlet that offers full coverage! So, with the help of a VPN, you could, for example, "spoof" the folks down under at SBS (the Aussie version of PBS) into thinking you're accessing their site from inside their country, enabling you to watch all 25 games they've promised to broadcast-- delivered with an Australian accent!
And keep in mind that you can use these same methods to view the Olympic Games or whatever! Use your imagination! Think outside the "idiot box!" (We watched several of the Vegas Golden Knights playoff games through the Canadian Broadcasting Company, who live-streamed them through their website when the games were blacked out or not available OTA down here in Vegas!)
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If all else fails, you can just take up FuboTV on their offer of a seven-day free trial. FuboTV is a soccer-heavy sports OTT (Over The Top or a "content provider that distributes streaming media as a standalone product directly to consumers over the Internet, bypassing telecommunications, multichannel television, and broadcast television platforms"). This World Cup FuboTV is offering a hair-raising array of camera angles, simultaneous broadcasts and other groovy features. It's even offering an entire "channel" devoted to multi-angle, instant replays of the latest jaw-dropping plays from games as they are being being played! SlingTV and PlayStation VUE are also each offering a seven-day free trial.
All three OTT's are showing EVERY game! Time it right and you could sample each content provider, in sequence, during the opening rounds, and not miss a minute of play.
We sampled PlayStation VUE during March Madness of 2017 and it's one OTT that offers a lot of value for even the lowest tier of programming and, at $34.99 per month, it reminds me of one of my first cable packages from 1984! If I ever "relapsed," I would subscribe to PlayStation VUE. Sling TV? Not so much. FuboTV is too sports-heavy for my tastes.