The executives at Major League Soccer defy logic. Take for example the TV viewing numbers for this 2010 season which recently ended. The viewing numbers were down 12% compared to last year on ESPN2. And they remained flat on Fox Soccer Channel with an average of 53,000 viewers during the regular season.
With dismal numbers like that, what do you think Major League Soccer would say to Fox when approaching the broadcaster about renewing its TV rights deal especially when you consider that it was only a couple of years ago that MLS paid Fox Soccer Channel and ESPN to show its games on their networks.
Well, the news has been announced today that Major League Soccer has asked Fox Soccer Channel to renew its TV deal at $20 million a year — nearly seven times more than the $3 million that FSC has paid annually since 2007, according to several sources reported to Sports Business Journal.
If I was Fox Soccer Channel, I would tell MLS to shove off. Fox pays a lot less for rights to other leagues and gets better viewing audience numbers for those than its MLS games, so what incentive is there for Fox to pay the $20 million a year ransom?
There is one incentive, however. If Fox Soccer Channel is serious about bidding for the US TV rights to the upcoming World Cup tournaments in 2018 and 2022, part of the deal may be that Fox also needs to have the rights to televise MLS games.
Negotiations have to start somewhere so maybe Major League Soccer’s offer of $20 million per year is their “shoot for the stars” opening bid and the two parties will negotiate from there.
Meanwhile, fans of Major League Soccer who are hoping for Versus to step in to bid on MLS may be disappointed to learn that Versus has not met with MLS since September 2010, and talks did not advance to the point where specific rights fees were discussed, according to a Versus executive who asked not to be identified.