By Christopher Schachter, EPL Talk correspondent
ESPN just announced their rights package, the leagues fourth if you include HDNet and Univision…all games on the Deuce (industry parlance for watching soccer with baseball scores on perpetual scroll at the bottom of the screen). It’s a Thursday night 26 regular season and three playoff match package in prime time. ESPN will then buy the time on the ABC network for the season opener, all star game and MLS Cup. Package is to run from 2007 to 2014. I asked ESPN’s EVP of content, John Skipper, if any announcer talent has been chosen. He said no, but he thought Davie O did a fine job – go figure. Tommy Smyth was there, poor man’s eyes rolled to the back of his head. Skipper spent some time in the UK buying and running Soccernet and claims to be a Spurs supporter. No dollars have been announced. Presiding over the announcement was MLS boss-man Don Garber. His state of the league address outlined increases in team value, marketing success, expansion, first time ever TV rights fees actually paid to the league instead of the league buying the air time on ESPN and massive appeal of the sport coming off the World Cup which had a boatload of ratings. Sounds real good but when I asked him if the current single entity, LLC league management structure could be re-visited in the future now that there is serious broadcast demand for their product, he emphatically said under no circumstances will that occur and actually cited “Once in a Lifetime” (the NY Cosmos ESPN financed movie of profligate spending, chicks, drugs) as a lesson on how not to run a league. So, they’re just gonna continue to play with severe salary restrictions, second rate players and centrally dictated player allocations and collect the dough at HQ…man, I really want to care for and support this league but they make it difficult.
I NEED A DISH because Setanta are gonna make weekends living hell for all our significant others as The Gaffer just informed me that they will be supplementing FSC’s EPL schedule like mad.
The guys in the truck are still too tired from Germany to realize I’m taking some pix as they continue prep for the ESPN show…remember, the content is still controlled by the league until next season and yes, the MLS weasles force Sierra Mist down everybody’s throat at regular intervals and no, Fuller’s ESB is not available at any concession stands…
Note from The Gaffer: See Chris’s latest behind-the-scenes pictures on the EPL Talk Flickr account at http://www.flickr.com/photos/epltalk — new ones just uploaded.