SPORTEL America Buzz


EPL Talk and MLS Talk attended the 2009 SPORTEL America conference the past several days. Here are some of the points of conversation. Typically we don’t report on gossip on this site (other sites specialize in that) but we felt the need to bring you some of this information as one of the few American based reporters provided access to the conference.

  • ESPN is smarting from losing the UEFA Champions League rights in Latin America to FOX. While it is thought ESPN may have not submitted a serious bid for Premier League rights in the US, they may have changed their tune after losing a very valuable property.
  • FOX will be keeping the Copa Libertadoras rights in the US for the foreseeable future. Copa Sudamaericana could face some bidding, but is overall a less valuable and less lucrative property than the Copa Libertadoras.
  • GOL TV as announced this morning has kept English and Spanish language La Liga rights until 2012 for the US market.
  • GOL TV will be working to maintain Bundesliga rights in the US when that comes up for bidding this summer. GOL TV has both English and Spanish language rights for the Bundesliga, and the German National Team in the US. The package has performed well for GOL TV since the network wrestled the rights away from FSC three years ago.
  • The new UEFA Champions League rights  package in the US will be announced within the next week.  Setanta, FSC, and ESPN have all submitted bids.
  • Setanta has acquired the English Language rights for the COMNEBOL World Cup qualifiers in 2009. This news was announced before the conference, but is newsworthy from our perspective as it is Setanta’s first major foray away from European based football. It also will increase Setanta’s overall profile in several key US markets and help the network get on more cable systems.
  • Traffic Sports the owners of Miami FC are almost 100% certain to operate the USL-1 team in 2009 but are concerned about the South Florida market. The Brazilian based football marketing company is committed to USL as a league more than they are committed to the Miami market. This is just my hunch, but if Miami FC does not turn things around by 2010, I think Traffic rather than pulling the plug will move the team. I think Miami FC has survived due more to Traffic’s desire to work within USL, a league whose profile has increased greatly in Latin America in the last 12 months, than any particular loyalty to the Miami market.
  • Many European based football pundits were curious about the Puerto Rico Islanders and why USL outperformed MLS in CONCACAF. One London based pundit of note told me that it really reflects poorly on MLS more than favorably on USL.
  • ESPN and FSC will not be dumping MLS. While ESPN is unhappy with the performance of the package they feel they have protected the product by lowering internal expectations and also taking it off of a valuable network time slot. ESPN may concede sometime in the future that their stated goals for MLS viewership were unrealistic, for a league that still doesn’t have a comprehensive national footprint.
  • We will have much more buzz and breaking news from the conference on forthcoming episodes of the EPL Talk and MLS Talk podcasts.
  • UPDATE: The interview by The Gaffer of EPL Talk (with a single question from Kartik Krishnaiyer of MLS Talk about Broadband rights) with Setanta Sports has been released and is now posted here.

12 thoughts on “SPORTEL America Buzz”

  1. Great update Kartik! I’m glad someone covered this. Where are all of our professional soccer writers from the US? Were any of them actually there at these important meetings?

  2. Very good update!

    Note this before tomorrow night ESPN, the MLS opener is up against the first round of NCAA BB. Nothing beats viewership of that! Kartik himself and yours truly will be following what is the greatest weekend of sports in American. Yes, I mean that,4 days of buckets from early morning to past midnight. Can’t beat it. So, the number of people to break away to a MLS game, despite the attractive nature of the game will not be large. No one should get bent out of shape since everyone in America who cares about sports will have a bracket to watch and see if they are ahead in the pool. Since you can easily get the BB online all of us can tune in to ESPN and watch the tournament online.

  3. The Champions League is staying on ESPN for sure. Look, ESPN didn’t pay for MLS rights. They paid for rights to SUM owned properties including FIFA events. They never would have paid a rights fee for MLS. You always get that wrong. The package is under performing if they had actually paid for it. FSC ought to dump MLS. A 0.0 rating is embarrassing. You know they get a 0.8 rating for the BPL? Miami FC should have been moved. If I were Traffic I’d stick with USL. A cheap buy in for a product which is more committed to the development of the game in this country than MLS. But Miami is a market which won’t embrace a team that is considered small time. All of MLS dishonest marketing about its product vs USL has led Miamians to crave MLS and ignore USL. BQ, other reporters don’t cover this event because they are in the tank to MLS. Honestly, they don’t broaden their horizons. Goff, he’s pretty good. Grahame Jones also. But the rest are all yes men who set out to glorify the league. I’m at the point where I formulate my own opinions, watch the national team, try and keep up with USL a bit and ignore MLS unless the game is really good. The league is way off track, and adding two more teams in 2012 is just simply a joke. By that time if USL keeps Montreal it will be a better league outright.

  4. One thing about expansion in Montreal. Once upon a time Montreal was a great AAA baseball town. MLB decided to put the Expos there and we know what happened. Will soccer be different? I hope so, but would a team in British Columbia be a safer bet for MLS and make a stronghold in the Pacific Northwest for MLS.

  5. The Impact would easy sell out a 20,000 seater at Saputo Stadium for Major League Soccer. They sell out a 13,000 seater and have lead attendence in the USL-1 since they’ve been in the league, from what I recall. Being in a higher tier would make it extremely easy for them to sell out 20,000, possibly 25,000 seats.

  6. Kartik:
    Do you believe that Vancouver got the invite simply because Montreal would not pony up the cash? Or does MLS have ideas about a Pacific Northwest Division?

  7. USA in 2010, I can’t find anything on the net yet, but Jamie Trecker Twittered yesterday evening that ESPN have indeed lost the Champions League rights to FSC. I’m not sure this is a good thing for a number of reasons which I’ll probably post on my blog. For now I’ll just say that I think a quality soccer competition on ESPN did bring some credibility to the sport in this country. I wonder if FSC will be able to bring the same high level of broadcasting to it’s viewers of if their pre and post game will be a cheesy cable looking program.

  8. Montreal was a slum dunk if they wanted it. The Saputos said, we have this stadium and it’s always full and we’re in the quarterfinals of CONCACAF and we can get 55,000 to a CONCACAF match. What does MLS provide Montreal for $40 million other than admission to a club which generates the lowest television ratings of any major North American professional sports league? The Impact have already reached a wide audience in town WITHOUT MLS. Why waste $40 million on joining the league the Saputos thought when they can spend that money to improve their club and their stadium even further.

    Vancouver got in by default. Portland, is a blow for USL. No question about it. I thought losing both Portland and Montreal may cripple the league but by losing Vancouver and keeping Montreal, USL can go forward with expansion plans to New York and Tampa while riding off the magical ride of the Islanders in CONCACAF which btw may not be getting much notice here at home but if SPORTEL is any indication, football people in Europe and Latin America have noticed it and are talking about it.

  9. I should point out for a lot of cities, it’s critical to get to MLS over USL. USL just doesn’t have the marketing prowess or visibility that MLS does even though the football is roughly similar.

    But for Montreal it made no sense. If their is no expansion fee, that’s one thing, but for $40 million, no way. Other strong USL markets like Rochester, Cary, NC and Charleston aren’t being considered for MLS expansion. Montreal is USL’s top market. The MLS fans who seem to be envious of USL’s CONCACAF success and want to put the league put of business (which to me means they are not really supporters of the game in this country but simply of a certain brand or product )will not be able to finish off USL until Montreal is in MLS. It’s that simple.

  10. The Islanders’ and Impact’s success was a beautiful thing. Now their league is salivating over the prospect of embarrassing “Major League'” even more during this year’s U.S. Open Cup. The stakes have been raised and this year’s U.S. Open Cup
    will be more competitive than ever.

    Not to mention the Canadian Championship. The Toronto-Montreal rivalry has now been firmly extablished

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