Broadcasting partners: Are the fans interested?

After a quiet beginning to the off-season, the Union pushed through multiple transactions in succession, most notably the extension of Andre Blake and acquiring David Accam. The moves, especially adding a proven talent like Accam, may have been just enough to appease a restless fan base that wanted to see a tangible effort to improve the roster.

With that came along opinions and comments about the state of the team as we inch closer to a new season. I planned on writing a column about the offseason (which still may come at a later date) but decided against it. Instead, I want to get the readers’ thoughts on something else, the Union’s TV deal.

News broke a little over a month ago, and seemed to be just a blip on the radar for most Union fans. For a sports media junkie like myself, it definitely piqued my interest.

Fortunately, the duo of JP Dellacamera and Tommy Smyth won’t be broken up, but beginning this year games will no longer air on NBC Sports Philadelphia (formerly Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia) and will instead air mostly on either PHL17 or 6ABC. There will also be two games airing on the LiveWell Network, those will be available as a free stream on the Union’s website.

With all non-nationally televised games now on over-the-air TV, games will be available to fans who didn’t have NBCSP as a part of their cable package, as well as people who are ditching cable television altogether.

On the surface, this seems like a win for the organization. It can’t hurt to retain your popular broadcast partnership, while also expanding your reach by airing games on local channels.

I’ll be keeping a keen eye on the production quality that comes with the switch. The NBCSP broadcasts were solid, and I appreciated the live pre- and post-game that accompanied most broadcasts. The crew will also go from a sports-based network to 6ABC running every production. I don’t think that’ll be much of an issue, just something to note.

Philly is fortunate to have some great broadcasters: Merrill Reese, Tom McGinnis and Marc Zumoff just to name a few. Guys who have loyal followings, so much so that they’re considered just as much of a reason to watch/listen to the game as the on-field action.

It could be argued that JP and Tommy have been the best part about watching the Union since Tommy joined the booth… but back to the main point.

I earlier said it seemed like just a blip on the radar, so, was it really? Or were fans actually interested, but stayed mum on the topic, holding out for bigger roster announcements to come?

The move to a local affiliate seems like a “build it and they will come,” type of move.

But will they?



  1. CSN was fine, but a lot of Union games were on TCN, which wasn’t offered by my cable provider and must’ve hurt ratings. I love this move and think it will pay big dividends down the line.

    • I also am pleased about this. Not having TCN, I always watch on MLS Live, and it’s a pain to have to have to always hear the away announcers when I like JP and Tommy so much. It’s also, of course, a pain to have to play for MLS Live.

    • agreed on this point, i was happy to see the switch. my cable package only came with one of the 2 channels they aired games on

  2. The concern I’ve see is for fans in the more far-flung parts of the region (Central Jersey, Lehigh Valley etc) who don’t have 6 and 17 on their cable but have NBCSP. Not sure if they are in the blackout zone for the MLS stream.

    • Yeah, this is the case for me. Every decision like this has winners and losers, I guess.

    • From what I understand, there Philly doesn’t implement the media blackout zone like other markets. So hopefully it’ll be available via MLS Live (or whatever that morphs into).

      • I live in SJ, right over the walt, and MLS live has always blacked out the Union for me. NYRB home games are blocked too, even though I’m not in their TV range. Maybe they group the whole state of NJ in with the NY zone?

  3. Am I the only one who hates Tommy’s broadcasting, or am I the victim of not identifying sarcasm?

    • Dan C( formerly of 103) says:

      He’s atrocious.

    • I don’t know which guy it was, but someone tell him to stop eating during the broadcast and/or get him a glass of water, for Pete’s sake. You could tell the guy was about to talk because there’d be a loud smacking sound first. Oof!
      Kind of like the sound right before the fire blast in the fire swamp in Princess Bride 😉

      Well that, and the comments are .like he was competing with the game for attention

    • No – Tommy seems like a great and fun guy to watch with, but his color commentary is too obnoxious and homer-biased. I get that the local commentators need to appeal to the home crowd/viewers, but I really think guys like Tommy seem to lose too much objectivity in that.

      Although the worst are the San Jose guys (in my opinion), just clueless about soccer and the Quakes could just do no wrong.

    • I’m not a fan of Tommy’s broadcasting either. The problem is that every time the Union get someone good, one of the networks grabs him up or he gets busted. And then there’s Rigby.

    • I dislike him more than I disliked Bob Bradley.
      That is saying something.

    • I like Tommy. He may not be the most insightful analyst out there, but I think he’s fun to listen to. In some ways we’ve been spoiled, we’ve had Kyle Martino, Taylor Twellman and Alejandro Moreno. But not really. I mean, would you really rather have Peter Pappas or Bob Rigby?

      • On air I had no problem with Pappas. Yes, he wasn’t as colorful as Smyth but I thought he understood the game better.

      • Agree Andy, on air Pappas was fine. Tommy Smith is just cliche. I actually feel bad for J.P. having to work with him.

    • Richie_The_Limey says:

      Tommy is a dinosaur from the old days of when ‘any guy with an accent’ would do. He offers little to no analysis and when he does it is more often than not incorrect. Pappas actually pointed things out to help people understand the game more. I have to mute the TV now.

    • Section 114 (Former) says:

      I like him, but don’t love him. That said, I like his rapport with JPD. In this way he’s very much like the Sixers team — I can leave AA alone, but the A-Z team is a good pairing.
      Tommy’s the first Union color guy who wasn’t either incredible or horrendous. I think we’ve been spoiled by Martino/Twellman/Moreno.
      And anyone who is saying nice things about Rigby or Pappas needs to watch some tape. The only reason each isn’t clearly the worst color guy ever is that the other one gives them a run for their money. Is it still too soon to make a Pappas joke?

    • Far, far from it. I really dislike both of them. JP’s delivery is just far too underplayed for me. Goals – hell, even quality shots on goal – are hard to come by in this sport, and a good announcer needs to bring a tiny bit more up-and-down pitch and volume; JP is very, very flat. He often seems to be confused about what just happened. Can’t count the number of times we see a goal scored – clear as day on TV – and there’s a pregnant pause while he seems to be trying to figure out where the ball went, followed by a very underwhelming ‘and it’s in the net’. I don’t need a totally rah-rah guy amping things up artificially, but let’s not dampen a celebration, either, eh? And Tommy – he’s a comedy routine with a collection of cliches. His act is entertaining for about 40 minutes of one game, and then you never need to hear him again.

  4. el Pachyderm says:

    I am never in favor of a color commentator without either keen tactical observation or an ability to speak honestly about what is happening.
    With respect to the man’s longevity in the game, I could move on from Tommy in a minute- because he offers neither, in my opinion.

    • The ability to speak honestly is often, nay, almost always, heavily restricted by the club.
      Many years ago, Al Michaels left the Cincinnati Reds because he wanted to report attendance as the turnstile count, not tickets sold.
      It was Cincy’s loss.

    • Yes. To each point made.

  5. Oddly, the streaming TV service I have doesn’t include PH17. I have CBS3, 6ABC and NBC10. Guess I’ll need to go buy a hi-def antenna to watch the U. I do think it’s a pretty good deal. I think a lot of the NFL’s success comes from so many games being available on regular broadcast TV.

  6. One thing I worry about is the production value put into the broadcasts. I pinged Kevin Kinkead on this (since he has experience with local broadcasting in Philly) and he didn’t seem to high on the move.

    The most important thing is to have retained JP, best play-by-play broadcaster in American soccer (in my humble, homer opinion).

  7. Fwiw, I live in Delco and I cannot get 6ABC with my antenna. I have Playstation Vue for cable so I get it on there, but for some reason it is not 1 of the 57 channels I do get with my antenna. Beyond that, this is a great move as I had no way of getting TCN so I had to purchase MLS Live to watch the away games – and that was usually the home team broadcast.

    • It just recently started coming in on my antenna in West Philly. They must have boosted the transmission.

    • I live in Burlington County and I cannot get 6ABC with my antenna either. But there’s only a couple of games there. PHL17 comes in through my antenna just fine. I also used MLS Live, but I might cancel this year.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      Quick question – don’t need a long response, but how was Playstation Vue treated you? Really REALLY want to switch next year when my contract is up. Thanks!

      • To give a short response, GREAT! Live TV, plenty of sports, stream quality is very great, no difference from cable. I watch live TV upstairs on my PS4 with NO cable outlet, and downstairs on a Fire Box. Oh and on my iPad in the kitchen or backyard. Totally worth the investment and the $45 a month I save (including a $10 internet speed upgrade).

  8. Atomic Spartan says:

    So if not Tommy, then who? Suggestions?

  9. I dumped Comcast for sling last year, so this is perfect for me.
    Broadcast team is a big part of developing a fan base. Eagles, sixers and flyers have broadcasters worthy of a big league team. Phils tv team is awful -maccarthy unlistenable—and the reason I don’t watch them anymore. Radio team is 100% better.
    I think JP struggles to keep up with match flow, adds little insight into strategy (he tries too much) and does a really poor call of goals. Tommy is a great pair with him and adds so much color and insight.

  10. JP – Yawn….wish Marc Zumoff could do more games.

    I like Tommy’s energy and much better than previous color guys that moved on to other broadcasts or went to jail.

    • I’m indifferent to Tommy. He’s good on Grumpy Pundits, but a non-factor for me on broadcasts.
      But Zumoff was awesome. Unfortunately, he and JP play the same role. It’s like having 2 All-Star point guards.

  11. I love this. LOVE. I cut cable about 5 years ago and have been straight streaming ever since. With our antenna hooked up, I now won’t miss a game. All games will either be MLS Live or through the antenna.
    Streaming is the future, so this is a great idea that selfishly works for me, but also appeals to a growing trend in how people digest TV. If you can’t stream everything, you need to be able to see a broadcast without being held hostage by cable. This accomplishes both.

  12. As a cord cutter and someone who had paid for MLS Live every year since 2010, I love this move.

    Sure, I’m going to lose access to some of the out of market games; but, the antenna on the roof now gets the games I want to watch for free!

  13. I’m happy that I can see the games without going to a pub and asking if they can put it on.
    I’ll probably still go to the pubs though 🙂

  14. I was definitely happy about it as a cheapo package subscriber of Comcast.

  15. Are they still going to broadcast away games from Wells Fargo center? If not, where from?

  16. This is definitely a good move, giving more people (especially those who can’t afford/don’t want cable) access to the game.
    In terms of fan reaction, this ranks above Chief Tattoo Officer, but there are so many pressing areas of need for this team. Any announcement has to work pretty hard to overcome the general malaise that grows from FO inaction over the last year.

  17. TimetoClosetheCurtin says:

    I like JP as the play by play announcer. Having grown up in Pittsburgh he was the voice who introduced me to soccer when I was a child watching the Pittsburgh Spirit. I think it’s cool my kids can listen to him with the Union. Tommy certainly adds the color but lacks the tactical chops like el pach suggests. He is however entertaining and after the abysmal year after year performances of this club I’m grasping at straws to find any type of positive vibes coming out of Chester.

    PS….. Please let the announcers TRAVEL to the away games. It’s bush league to have them voiceover from the studio.

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