MLS, Versus in Early TV Contract Talks

It’s already been a year full of off-field news – good and bad – for Major League Soccer.

And it may be about to pick up again.

MLS and Versus are talking about a potential TV partnership after the league’s current deal with Fox Soccer Channel expires at the end of this season.

The story suggests that this may just be a ploy to use a little World Cup bounce to leverage a better deal from FSC in the renewal talks that will be coming somewhere down the road.

There may be something to that, but you’d have to believe that the league will take its wares to the highest bidder – whether the network has the word “soccer” in its title or not.

There are no quotes available, and the story reports that neither MLS Commissioner Don Garber nor Versus chief Jamie Davis were on hand for the meeting.

So when we say early talks, that’s exactly what we mean.

What do you think? Would you like to see a move to Versus, or would you prefer to see MLS games stay on FSC?

0 thoughts on “MLS, Versus in Early TV Contract Talks”

  1. Randy, to be honest I have a friend who told me he wanted Versus to be a partner for MLS because he felt FSC hasn’t done the job to give MLS the respect it truly deserves.

    1. I agree with the move to Versus. Versus tends to put on better production of the sports it acquires. The contrast is most evident between the NBC and Versus broadcast of hockey. As a Canadian, I’ve seen both, and Versus blows them out of the water.

      There’s a reason why NHL on Versus ratings have grown steadily since making the switch.

      Versus promotes their games, and they also put on higher production values.

      Smart move if they make it.

  2. I can I say I told you so!!! well on anyway. But still MLS should have did this Years ago. FSC is nice and all but its not on Basic cable like Versus is. if MLS wants a true National presence they need another tv deal on the same or just below as ESPN. So wat one game is on ESPN show one on Versus and more exposure(well alil more) to viewers. MLS is Slowly learning.

  3. Good news by me. Versus is on the move as a sports network and with it’s NHL experience they will give a much more professional presentation then FSC. Others may know this better but is Versus in more households?

  4. I think versus could work as well if not better than FSC. The only problem is that Comcast owns Versus and they tend to create problems in negotiations, whereas Fox is a juggernaut and can dictate to other companies by threatening to pull all its channels. What are the comparisons on households reached?

    1. Terence,

      I agree with most of your post mate, but FOX (FSC) hasn’t been able dictate HD let alone anything else. ESPN and Versus is the way to go. HD all the way.


  5. Does it HAVE to be one or the other?

    With MLS well on its way to 20 teams and clubs entered into various competitions, isn’t there enough matches to supply both FSC & Versus with matches?

    1. Well, that’s where the RSN’s and Direct Kick will come in. If/when there are 20 teams, I don’t see all 10 weekly games being on national television. We’re not yet at the point where there’s enough demand to show anywhere beyond 1 or 2 matches per week. This isn’t the EPL we’re talking about.

      What Versus would do is give MLS an outlet just in case they don’t re-up with one of their TV partners. That’s something that they never had 10 years ago.

  6. I think they should decide based on the dollar amount and each network’s commitment to MLS. Versus is in more homes, but FSC has the hardcore soccer audience so I don’t think MLS would have an innate preference. If Versus put as much professionalism into MLS as it does into its NHL broadcasts and offered a competitive dollar figure, I would say go with them. FSC’s broadcasts all seem to be done on a minimum budget, and half of their broadcasters are awful.

    Another reason I would like to see MLS on Versus is that FSC and ESPN approach soccer from an international perspective first and treat MLS as an afterthought. Versus could treat the MLS like a major league instead of as something to watch in the European offseason.

  7. What I would really like to see is a channel like Versus pick up the rights to the U.S. Open Cup and show every game (even qualifiers with lousy teams).

  8. I say great, maybe VS. will show more than 1 match per week. I don’t see any reason why we can’t see a Saturday and Sunday match, it seems like there is at least one of each per week. More exposure should create more interest and hopefully more fans. I’m all for it.


  9. I like the Idea of Versus taking over. Maybe they will give MLS a build up show like NFL Live on ESPN. I hope this deal goes through and Versus shows the other networks (ESPN pay attention) how to Promote MLS.

  10. I totally agree with those who support Versus picking up the MLS. For starters, the MLS always takes a back seat on FSC to the other leagues abroad that they broadcast (EPL and Serie A especially). Second, Versus is on the rise as a sports network and heavily invest themselves in the sports they are covering, just look at the steady rise in NHL ratings the last two seasons. Anything that would give MLS more exposure to more homes with a cable partner who would promote the league as priority viewing is a big step up, IMO.

  11. It is very frustrating to not be able to watch many away games. I would love to be able to see all of the games without having to buy an expensive satellite package.

  12. I think it would be a win win for Both Versus and MLS. Versus could take hold of the MLS and suceed where ESPN and FSC failed. Plus it is time for a sports network to challenge ESPN and Fox Sports.

  13. Boy, you guys don’t get it.

    The real reason why MLS is talking to Versus:

    FSI has told MLS that FSI will NOT offer a rights fee to renew MLS Saturdya Night on FSC in 2011.

    1. Then that’s fine with us. FSC has become a big fail for those of us that want more exposure for our league.

      1. Amen. For those that are MLS fans they are supposed to pay for Euro games and get a handful of MLS games every year. No, if I had to choose I would rather pay for MLS Direct.

  14. I think Versus has the potential to increase exposure for MLS. FSC is a premium channel while Versus is not. Given that Versus does not air MLB games, they could easily make MLS as prominant as they have made the NHL. Basically NHL in the winter, MLS in the summer. Two domestic leagues on a domestic basic cable channel. Sounds like a good idea…
    The need content anyway as they fill air time with sports movies now. It is not hard to imagine some USOC games coming along with the deal, which would help make that tournament more meaningful.
    Based on Versus treatment of the NHL vs ESPN’s, this could be great for MLS…

  15. I hope they get it…Free versus pay. What are they going to show less games than FSC ? I don’t watch NHL much, but all the sudden NHL is on NBC for playoff games after seeing a lot of games posted on Versus all year.

    Soccer should be able to crush NHL.

  16. I know that is a crazy idea but let’s imagine:
    – Fridays: ESPN; – Saturdays: Versus; – Sundays: TeleFutura/Galavision

    Fusion between Fox Soccer Channel & GolTV to create MLS Network:
    (Shareholders: MLS 40%; News Corporation 30%; Tenfield 30%)
    – Fridays: 1 MLS Game; – Saturdays: 2 MLS Games; – Sundays: 1 MLS Game
    – 2 Games p/Week: England, Spain & UEFA Champions League (in English & Spanish);
    – 1 Game p/Week: Argentina, Brazil, Mexico & CONMEBOL Copa Libertadores (in Spanish);
    – 1 Game p/Week: Germany, Italy, Scotland & UEFA Europa League (in English).
    Obs. MLS Network would need improved graphics and commentators (in comparison with FSC)
    Just and Idea!

    1. It’s not a bad idea, but honestly it’s either FSC or Vs. Because FSC continues to disrespect the true American audience and that means not just promoting Everything England & Italy & Europe. You have to do the same thing for MLS.

      What Vs. will do is give our league the respect and us who also watch MLS to give a better direction and promotion of our game. That’s all we’ve been asking for. It hasn’t come all the way.

      Regardless of how the level of play is, regardless if it’s not Europe, the excuses has to stop. You can support your clubs in Europe and support your local side here in the States. It’s not a crime.

  17. I hope they switch to VS just so I don’t have to listen to Brian Dunseth’s shrill voice anymore. And people thought Bretos was bad…

  18. I just had this thought. Should MLS jump to Versus, maybe FSC could re-brand itself as “Fox Association Football Channel” or FA FC. That way, they’ll let everyone know that they’re about anything but the domestic game. They could make themselves a logo that resembles one of the traditional badges of the European clubs.

    Fox Soccer Plus could become “Fox Football Plus” to reflect the airing of many of the other codes of football.

  19. I could see the following scenario happen (if MLS does do a deal with Versus):

    – ESPN/ESPN2/Deportes will continue airing World Cup matches through 2014 and may continue after that. They’ll have locked up the US Men’s National Team TV contract real tight by then. All those WC Qualifiers are a good business for them. One big question is how they would be able to show US-Mexico in Mexico the next time it happens.

    – FSC/Fox Sports en Espanol/FSN/FS+ along with GolTV to concentrate on international club competitions and international friendlies or WCQ’ers. Will they be able to keep the Champions League and the Club World Cup or will these migrate to ESPN?

    – Versus, with a possible team-up with mun2, gets MLS games from FSC. A combined Comcast/NBC would be in position to get major FIFA-sanctioned competitions like the Club World Cup and the World Youth Cup, if they desire to. It would be a natural extension to NBC airing Olympic soccer. One thing that they could that is big is if they can get the TV rights to US-Mexico in Mexico. Imagine the Azteca game at a more respectable English channel this time.

    – I don’t see Univision losing the Spanish-language telecast rights to MLS, although they’re not exactly bringing in as big of an audience as with Mexican soccer. As long as FIFA requires anyone bidding for the World Cup video rights to “take in” the domestic competition as well, nothing much would change.

  20. For someone like me, who does not get FSC, it would be a BIG step up. Versus actually puts care and heart into it’s broadcasts. Everyone brings up the NHL, which is a great example, but also look at the IRL and IndyCar in general. Even though they don’t broadcast all races exclusively, Versus makes sure to put on the best care and highest production values possible. I mean heck, compare the job that both Versus and ABC do. Versus wins hands down in my book, aside from the Indy 500 (just think if Versus got THAT!).

    Versus with NHL, IRL, and MLS is a major win in my book. All sides really need to make this happen as I think they could form a unique partnership. NHL in the fall/winter months, with MLS in the summer and IRL spread out on certain weekends.

    My main concern would be if MLS is on Versus, would they also show games from the US Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League & SuperLiga competitions? Versus has a unique opportunity to capitalize on US soccer boradcasting.

  21. Dave Cooper is spot-on. The Fox EPL Worship Channel is garbage, and the minute they drop MLS, I drop them! I’ve been hoping to hear that GOL TV or someone would pick them up! I’d rather listen to Phil Schoen and Ray Hudson any day, and I don’t believe that GOL would essentially short-change their audience and apologize for their having to cover MLS!

    Now that I’m hearing the possibility that Versus may be picking them up, all the better! I agree with the posts that point out the fact that VS. isn’t on a special subscription package. Fox has had the ability to put MLS on their over-the-air broadcast channels for years, and aren’t interested. Their company is junk, their product is forcing European everything down our throats, and if they bugged-out of MLS, all the better!

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