NBC Sports Network Replaces FOX Soccer As New Home For MLS

NBC Sports Network has replaced FOX Soccer for the TV rights to MLS beginning in 2012.

So many times the US soccer community that supports Major League Soccer have screamed and shouted for Fox Soccer Channel to improve their telecasts. It looked like they did so for the last few months with their improved graphics and better coverage showing respect to Major League Soccer coverage.

Well today MLS has gone a different direction starting next season. Major League Soccer has signed a three year deal with NBC Sports Network (the new name for Versus beginning January 2), showing six matches on NBC and forty-three on Versus/NBC Sports Network. There will be four US national team games broadcasted as well.

“Our new partnership with the NBC Sports Group is a significant step forward for Major League Soccer and U.S. Soccer,” said MLS Commissioner and Soccer United Marketing CEO Don Garber. “The NBC Sports Group is world-renowned for its award-winning coverage, superb broadcast quality and promotional expertise. We are excited to be part of NBC’s ambitious plans for soccer, and look forward to reaching a considerable audience on multiple platforms.”

Steven Goff of the Washington Post has broken it down as: NBC will show two regular season games, two playoff games and two national team games. With Vs./NBC Sports Network, it’s thirty-eight regular season games, two playoff games and two national team games. At the moment the financial terms have not been reported.

MLS will still keep ESPN as a partner as their deal along with the new NBC Sports deal will end in 2014. For those that have wanted to see this change must be celebrating right now. Many MLS fans have felt that the coverage of the NHL from NBC & Versus was so much better and wanted the league to make this move right away.

While it was a good try by Fox to make the coverage better for MLS with their Soccer Night in America, sadly the past failures has made this move to a national broadcaster and a sports network that is seen nationwide. We all know very well that Fox’s main concern is the English Premier League and the UEFA Champions League.

I’m assuming that the CONCACAF Champions League will remain on Fox Soccer, but as of right now it looks to be that Major League Soccer is in a better place with NBC and it’s fantastic news to hear that one of the three major networks in the USA will be broadcasting Soccer in this country again.

80 thoughts on “NBC Sports Network Replaces FOX Soccer As New Home For MLS”

  1. Finally a mainstream network outlet buys into the US Soccer potential. Now more MLS games will be shown on NBC Sports (Versus) than on ESPN 2 or FSC. They never took it seriously.

    1. Actually I just thought about my Directv package now and will have to change it to accommodate for watching Versus(NBC SPorts). I got the spanish package that cost 70 dollars (with hd so 60 dollars just for sd version) because they had all thwe soccer channels from goltv, fsc, espn deportes that the english package at 60 dollars didn’t have unless I got sports pack (12.99) to go with it and still wouldn’t even get espn deportes. I will now have to get the 2nd tier english package with hd comes to 75 dollars plus the sports pack for goltv and fsc which will run me at 87.99 dollars compared to 70 dollars I pay now.

      1. With Comcast, Versus comes with the basic package. Comcast owns NBC and other subsidiaries. I don’t know about Direct TV. I’ve never had satellite, but Versus is free with cable. If you want to pay less, maybe you should switch to cable. FSC costs like 5 dollars more, but the Spanish networks to watch GOL TV and ESPN Deportes cost a little bit more.

        1. This is why I’m happy to see it go to NBC. I can’t stand watching FSC’s grainy, cropped 480p picture. It’s surprises me that they don’t have an HD channel with all major cable providers.

  2. “Many MLS fans have felt that the coverage of the NHL from NBC & Versus was so much better and wanted the league to make this move right away…” Are you kidding me? NBC and Versus do a poor job of covering the NHL. If you talk to anyone who really follows the sport and love the game you will learn otherwise. They dumb down coverage and act as if all the viewers have never seen a hockey game in their lives. Versus does an excellent job covering cycling and the Tour de France but their hockey coverage is really lacking. Analysis during hockey coverage is amateurish at best. Keith Jones was a terrible hockey player and continues in the same manner as a so-called expert on Versus. Let’s hope Versus can follow their model for cycling in turn for MLS soccer.

    1. Regarding NHL :
      You are in the minority thinking there I believe.

      Not saying you are wrong, but more love the NHL coverage.

      1. I don’t think they’re very good. Production is slick and Doc Emrick is awesome, but that’s about it. Biggest beef with them is they only show 4-5 teams in the regular season.

        Much prefer CBC’s coverage.

    2. I think anyone who is really knowledgeable about a sport is going to think a broadcast should be more sophisticated. ESPN has driven me nuts in the past few years trying to turn themselves into E! for Men in order to attract more casual fans. The point is: every channel dumbs down their sports broadcast and if you know a lot about a sport, you will get frustrated by the analysis given. This is a huge step up in terms of number of households and HD coverage. Plus, NBC will be building their network around MLS and NHL and providing supplemental coverage throughout the week. FSC is low-budget and acts like it is doing MLS a favor by showing the games. This is a great move for the advancement of MLS.

      Even if you don’t like Versus’ coverage of NHL, it can’t get any worse than FSC. At the very least, games will be available to more households in HD and the production will have a much bigger budget.

  3. Ultimately I think this was the right call by MLS and NBC. NBC needs sports coverage, they’re not getting the NBA or MLB back anytime soon, and still have limited NFL coverage with just the Sunday night game, and it was probably pretty cheap (less than $10M/season). It will be interesting to see which matches NBC proper picks up for the regular season (one of the RBNY-LA matches, one of the SEA-PORT matches, a July 4th match) and the postseason. Does NBC preempt a Sunday NFL game for MLS Cup, or do they move the final to a Saturday night (more likely, makes more sense honestly)? It’s a great opportunity, but of course what will remain to be seen is who NBC pulls in for their coverage. I’d bet JP Dellacamara and Kyle Martino are looking for a move away from Fox right now.

    1. i think the final is going to stick with ESPN. i dont think NBC will ever sub a NFL game for a MLS match. i dont know if two networks will have the rights to the final.

      1. Yep, you’re right, my bad. I think ESPN has the All-Star Game and MLS Cup final until the end of its contract, so it would still be on ESPN. Would be interesting though, just to see the ratings, how an MLS Cup final would do on a Saturday night on NBC.

        1. Awful.

          November Saturday = College Football on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, Fox, and ESPNU.

          At least on Sunday nights it’s only up against NBC Football.

        2. DCU1996,

          You forgot the occasional CBS primetime game. But you also forgot that, apart from Columbus and LA, most MLS cities don’t have strong college teams in their home market (and LA doesn’t really care aou. And that the NFL primetime game usually outdraws all those college games combined. Competing against college football makes more sense than competing against NFL football.

          1. I agree with BamaMan. NFL dominates everything. There are a number of sports fans in Chicago that are not interested in college football until the national championship game. There are also a number of people who only casually watch college football just because its on when they want to watch TV. The problem would be there are so many college games and the networks have made commitments to show them while there is only 1 NFL game going on.

            For example, the big game on Saturday before MLS Cup is USC @ Oregon. A big game, but it means nothing for USC because of penalties. The NFL game that will go against MLS cup is Eagles @ Giants. A huge rivalry game that will get killer ratings.

          2. However, NBC does not have a primetime NCAA game. They only have Notre Dame home games which are all but one day games and that is becoming less and less profitable for them. They may try to enter the arms race of recruiting one of the big conferences to move over to them from Fox, ABC/ESPN, or CBS. Or they may see soccer as a more cost-efficient alternative to fill their void of sports on Saturday night. Just a thought.

          3. Seattle has UW. Dallas/Ft. Worth has TCU. Houton has U. of Houston and Rice. And, UT, and to a lesser extent aTm, are big in all of Texas. Portland is Duck and Beaver country. SLC is BYU/Utah territory. Colorado is CU/CSU territory. Bay Area has Cal and Stanford.

            Not all of those teams are always strong, but 5 of those teams have been in a BCS bowl in the last 3 seasons (UT, Stanford, TCU, Utah, Oregon). If you count UConn as being in New England or NYRB territory, then that makes 6.

            The only MLS team with no decent college football near them is Toronto.

    2. What makes you think NBC isn’t getting MLB anytime soon? I think that contract runs through 2012 or so. If NBCSN doesn’t get this new 8-game NFL package, I think they may actually be the favorites for MLB. Baseball isn’t as valuable to Fox as it used to be (and the All-Star Game didn’t even win the night this year, losing to NBC’s “America’s Got Talent”, which I think will doom it to cable in the next contract), TBS’ Sunday afternoon package is a failure (so I think MLB will ax it or give it to MLB Network and split up ESPN’s coverage), and NBC doesn’t have a primetime schedule as worth preserving in October as other networks. The one major obstacle I can think of is that Saturday afternoons on NBC are clogged in the summer with golf, horse racing, and hockey.

    3. What makes you think NBC isn’t getting MLB back anytime soon? I think that contract is up in 2012, and if NBCSN doesn’t get this new 8-game NFL package, I think they may actually be the favorites. Baseball isn’t as valuable to Fox as it used to be, TBS’ Sunday afternoon package is a failure, and NBC doesn’t have a primetime schedule as worth preserving in October as other networks.

  4. Im happy and alittle sad at the same time.

    im happy cuz of course MLS is now on Versus/NBC. luckily i have that channel (VS that is) on my direct tv package. plus its in HD!! so now i can watch more mls games in HD rather than 1 game per week if im lucky that Telemundo or galavision show it. sometimes i record the Fox Deportes game and SAP it to english (even though i understand perfect spanish).

    but im sad cuz FSC and MLS couldnt stick it. it would be nice if MLS could be running up there with EPL and other soccer leagues in the FSC line up but they just dont give a crap bout MLS and neither do the viewers. othewise im sure MLS would be one of the crown jewels of FSC. plus to me associating with FSC is better than VS. FSC is the premier soccer channel for soccer (other than GOL TV) and VS IMO is where all the weird tacky sports are. the losers of the lunchroom so to speak. UFC fights (while cool to others i dont like UFC very much) Slam ball, United Football league, a bunch of WWE wannabe fights, NBA D-league and minor league hockey. they only good lineup is NHL, a coulple of college games, indycar and the tour de france.

    but still as sad as i am that FSC is leaving its good news. if more people have access to MLS (instead of that god aweful MLS app. seriously they dont have to extend their mediocrity to their app) then im sure ratings will go up and thats good for MLS.

  5. NBC will play the MLS Cup on Saturday night, I would imagine. If anyone thinks for a second that they’ll preempt their biggest single draw in terms of TV viewers for MLS, they are on drugs.

    This is great news for MLS. Don’t be surprised to see regional coverage of MLS games on Saturdays in the future. This may in fact be a precursor to NBC dropping their national coverage of Notre Dame and looking for a more consistent Saturday replacement.

    1. NBC won’t ditch Notre Dame anytime soon.

      NBC bid on FSC’s MLS package. No MLS Cup. No All-Star game. Second pick for English games after ESPN.

  6. 4 USmNT matches will be televised by NBC? Thats awesome but I did’t know MLS had the rights to national team games, I thought you know the National Team had those rights. But I am super stoked now.

    1. USMNT rights are mostly controlled by SUM, which is owned by the MLS owners, but is kept as a separate entity to artificially depress MLS club revenues (and thus the salary cap).

      You’re right, it’s ridiculous and an obvious conflict of interest.

      1. @DLH

        Why should MLS salaries be tied to the money SUM makes on US and Mexico NT revenues?

        Are NHL salaries tied to the money NBC or CTV makes on Olympic Hockey?

    2. MLS and USMNT are both SUM properties, so MLS doesn’t own the rights but they are both owned by the same people.

        1. BamaMan, I would argue that in reality it’s the other way around.

          Go Gamecocks, hope to see you Tiders in ATL in December…

          1. It’s just a matter of semantics. All of the profits from the league’s TV rights (US MNT, Mexico MNT, MPD, WC, CONCACAF, and finally MLS) are claimed by SUM, while MLS claims the losses. I’m becoming increasingly convinced that most of the NFL/EPL owners in MLS are simply using the league as a tax write off to offset their profits in other sports ventures.

  7. I’ve read just about every article and press release on this. Strangely, one cannot find how much money NBC is actually paying SUM (none of the money will go to MLS teams, but to SUM instead, thus keeping MLS league revenues and salary cap artificially low) to broadcast these games on Versus. I mean, the rights fee is usually right there in the press release, no?

    Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

    1. I wouldn’t bet any more than $10M a season. I think MLS took the deal because it would get more coverage with NBC Sports and it was a longer term deal, rather than year-to-year which is what Fox would keep doing. But NBC is not gonna overpay, they’ve seen the ratings.

          1. bradjmoore48
            I apologize, I didn’t read the article close enough. The blog was quoting Sports Biz Daily.
            I probably would take that over the LA Times, who didn’t even feel the need to report on the week before MLS Cup….with LA in it.

            Not sure why this isn’t in the reply area…hope you see it.

      1. Well, we know that ESPN paid a big fat “zero” for MLS rights, a recently as a couple years ago… so how much could NBC have paid?

  8. It is great that some –ok only 2, but that is still “some”– MLS games will be on regular, broadcast TV. However NBC Sports/Versus is also a difficult channel to find. Are the FSC games going to NBCS or are the ESPN games? I’m under the impression that ESPN will no longer be broadcasting MLS and they are obviously the easiest of the sports based networks to find.

    1. ESPN still has rights to MLS thro 2014, so ESPN will still show their “Game of the Week.” Versus will take FSC’s matches, but since we know who the TV players are for the league, when the schedule comes out early 2012, there will be some alternation between the two networks for top matches (RBNY-LA, the Cascadia matches, NY/DC/Philly matches, Canadian derbies (MON, TOR, VAN)), so you will probably see something like the SEA-PORT match on ESPN, and PORT-SEA on NBC/Versus.

  9. Why doesn’t espn buy Goltv already and just turn it into ESPN Soccer or ESPN GOL channel. They already share la liga games (espn3 and espn deportes) and bundesliga games.

      1. ESPN Deportes and ESPN 3 online show Bundesliga games since last season. ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPN U, ESPN NEWS, and ESPN Classic as far as I know haven’t shown a Bundesliga game in English on TV yet.

  10. Versus has an audiance of 80 million agaibst FSC’s 40 million ( IMO, many of which are casual front running Euro fans who don’t follow MLS )

    No brainer that Versus could pay more and it looks like MLS waited until NBC came closer to the $18 million they were looking for, as the rumor is $12 million.

    This is very good for MLS fans. Not like we were going to subscribe to FSC just for MLS with the Euro focus and when they show the replay on local Fox Sport channels anyway.

    My hope is they make progress in their broadcasts. Don’t dumb it down, get American announcers, the Al Micheals and John Madden of MLS broadcasts, with half time shows and broadcasts that focus on MLS.
    And for Pete’s Sake quit apologizing for and act demeaning toward US Soccer……That is what we have morons on MLSTalk for.

    1. Thank you, every time I go on this site and show my domestic league pride the Euronobs don’t hesitate to attack me. It’s nice to read from someone who is proud of their American soccer, no matter how better the rest of the world are. This is a black eye for FSC, its now a channel that panders to Eurosnobs(which are the problem for casual fans will only root for American teams, a casual soccer fan will root for his or her local city team rather than support a team thousands of miles away and casual fans help the league grow and Eurosnobs are consider hipsters to try to be cool) I like the Premier League too, but I upgrade to FSC for the MLS and if Versus wasn’t on the same package I would downgrade.

    2. “Don’t dumb it down…..”

      Followed by….

      “get American announcers”

      “And then…..”

      “the Al Micheals and John Madden of MLS broadcasts”

      I got news for ya, bud. I am 100% in agreement they shouldn’t dumb it down, but American announcers isn’t going to help it much. Can they just pluck Arlo White to do MLS games with someone like Twellman or something?

      1. I like to see Arlo White or Christopher Sullivan or JPD with Christopher Sullivan, either way Christopher Sullivan should make the move.

      2. Arlo White would be fine, but I like him doing Sounder’s games.
        The thing I like about White is exactly what I am looking for in an announcer. He doesn’t constant apologize for US Soccer.

        When he talks about Brek Shea is calls him a great player.

        Get Arlo White with the charisma of Madden and you will have perfection.

  11. Well then Soccer Night in America had a good run… now lets hope FSC get a deal with the North American Soccer League (2nd Tier) or a better one with USL Pro/USL PDL (3rd Tier/4th Tier)

  12. So to summarize, the NBC deal replaces FSC essentially? ESPN will still be around and continue MLS coverage just like it has been?

    FSC?…well it looks like the only MLS you’ll see them cover now wlll be CONCACAF Champions league and International exhibitions.

    1. Balboa, Shep Messing and Brandi Chastain did color for the 2008 Olympics for NBC. Martino is out a job with Fox…

      Just sayin’

  13. Call me a dreamer, crazy or stupid, but I do believe that means NY Cosmos is a locker at the 20th spot in the league. Their debut would be in 2013, and MLS managed to all TV contracts expire together in the end of 2014. That means the negotiation would be carried on 2014, right after Cosmos’ first season.

    I believe the hype on Cosmos (specially in NYC, but also nation wide) not only could, but certainly will be great to increase the value of the league for new agreements.

    1. Very interesting observation my man. I certainly hope it is a lock. I’m guessing cosmos accepted the terms of the single entity structure that was one of the issues cosmos had with mls. But anyways to be honest if one of the reasons NBC signed on with mls was for the cosmos then they are probably hoping on the hype of the brand alone. I personally hope cosmos wins it all but mls runs on artificially low caps, restrictions and parity that probably won’t let cosmos be the galacticos they once were so well known for. Plus mls pulled some really low ratings with fsc and ESPN. Most likely NBC is looking to tap into the usmnt market because that’s really the only domestic thing soccer and casual fans alike really care about. Plus like some others here said they probably also want a piece of the world cup pie.

      And I hate SUM scheme for artificially keeping their thumbs on soccer

      1. I’ve seen the Cosmos execs repeatedly say they realize they will have to play within the confines of the MLS salary cap rules. They will certainly join the group of progressive owners (Seattle, Portland, NYRB, LA, Toronto) that are trying to loosen the salary rules, but this idea that they will be given some sort of special exemption from salary rules is a ludicrous fantasy that must have been conjured up on bigsoccer.

        Everything in business comes down to leverage, and MLS has all the leverage in this instance. While the Cosmos would certainly benefit MLS greatly, MLS does not need the Cosmos. The Cosmos, however, cannot exist in any significant way without MLS.

        1. Exactly. Personally I hate single entity and any parity driven rules and restrictions (playoffs I think is the perfect amount of natural parity, either that or keep the parity but switch to single table) but mls will never ever make any exception for any club no matter how much of a money maker they are. On mls point of view it defeats the purpose of them joining. Remember mls is a corporate business if cosmos were allowed to compete as a independent club, the mls (technically SUM) won’t see a dime in what cosmos will profit. In order for cosmos to join the ownership group would have to “sell” the club by giving mls their property including trademarks and the cosmos trademark is their biggest asset. That’s where the issue lies. Plus their mission to become a top club would be flawed cuz they’d have to play nice with everyone. But its either that or no club. BTW I have reason to believe that cosmos will be the next club cuz they closed down their west club. Now that may be old news to some but the official club report was issued a few days ago and in order to join mls, cosmos has to comply with teritorial laws.

          As much as I am pro cosmos I agree mls don’t need cosmos but the legitimacy, the recognition it gets overseas, and its sheer image value is too good for mls to pass up. And of course NBC isn’t riding all on cosmos but they know how big cosmos can be for soccer.

      2. Alex,

        If I am right, expect NY Cosmos to have a “famous-European-that-has-passed-his-prime-but-still-can-play-well-this-side-of-the-Atlantic” and two USMNT players in its roster (or two of the former and one of the latter, but you got the picture) for their very first season. They need this BANG.


        MLS does not need the Cosmos, but that the league can get some help from this brand is undeniable.

  14. Anyone else think this means NBC is getting ready to make a serious run at the next FIFA World Cup? Allegedly, they offered more money last time but SUM turned them down because they wanted a counterbalancing commitment to promote MLS, which ESPN/ABC gave them. Now, that issue seems put to rest… Could it mean a World Cup 2018 on NBC & NBC Sports?

    1. Definitely means NBC can bid on WC rights now. FIFA wants networks that show a commitment to domestic league soccer to bid on the WC. Issue is, NBC just paid around $4.5B for the 2014-2020 Olympics, will they have the money to dish out for WC as well?

      1. Comcast does. They want to turn NBC Sports into the dominant brand over ESPN. Owning the two most important events in global sports would be a way to do that.

      2. They can, but I don’t think it’s a smart play, at least not right now. Versus/NBCSN needs major leagues (which the NHL is not) if it wants to play with ESPN, not two weeks every two years (Olympics) or a month every four years (World Cup). I do think NBCSN could get more of a rub from the World Cup than the Olympics, but get the NFL or MLB first.

        1. NBC already has the pick of the best NFL game of the week every Sunday night as well as the final rounds of most of the great golf tourneys. And the Olympics are a massive month long event every two years (Winter and Summer, remember?). Same thing if they made a bid for the M and W WC. They may be thinking it’s cheaper to attempt to turn MLS into a top tier sports league than to bid on MLB, NBA, or additional NFL games. For every sport other than football, you have to make enormous time commitments and you also have to watch your rights package get diluted by all the local carriage agreements. NBC already has a solid package of sports events. You throw in the World Cup and they would without a doubt have a better bundle than ESPN. The trick for them is building those events off each other in the way that ESPN does with their programming.

          1. Games on the NBC broadcast network only serve as a promotional platform for the cable network. You need to give people who aren’t already NHL or MLS fans a reason to watch that network, and you need to give them a reason that isn’t fleeting, which means making those “enormous time commitments”. Neither the Olympics nor the World Cup will do that – they will only provide a month’s worth of programming each over a four-year span, which isn’t enough to keep people coming back throughout those four years.

  15. Wow I just realized that soccer is now the sport on the most channels for pro sports in the usa.(not counting college sports). You got Espn, espn2, espn deportes, abc,fox soccer, fox, fx, fox deportes, nbc, versus (nbcsports), gol tv, fox soccer plus, univision, telefutura, telemundo, galavision.

  16. I’m sure this will turn out great for MLS…


    So far we know absolutely nothing about the Versus deal. Fox Soccer has shown great commitment to MLS for the last seven years or so. Even at the start, at least they were giving us an extra game per week. Even when Todd Grisham was not so hot, at least ONE channel gave us 30 minutes pre and post show. Now, this season, the coverage has improved to the point where Soccer Night in America is THE SINGLE GREATEST COVERAGE OF American soccer ever. EVER. 30 minutes before with two men knowledgable about the sport in America. Pre-game interviews. Then, we got great live coverage of a game with J.P. Dellacamara, the single best American soccer p-b-p guy ever, ably teamed up with Martino, who is at the very least in the top three color guys any US soccer broadcast has had, and he’s improving. Then we get 30 minutes post game complete with interviews.

    Nobody has ever given MLS coverage like that before. Now it’s gone, and people on here are praising Versus before we even have one iota of info on who’s calling the games, or what the coverage will actually look like.

    Yes, NBC is exciting news for sure. But what concrete evidence do we have that they know how to cover soccer? The fact that they do good with the NHL? That means sh*t to me.

    I for one am not going to jump for joy just yet on this. Yes, the NBC channel is a great step forward. But until I see them providing the great coverage that Fox Soccer Night in America did, I’m not going to be too excited.

  17. Also word on the street hear in L.A is that with AEG getting that NFL stadium in downtown that is also going to be soccer specific similar to Quest field in Seattle with the Galaxy playing there and Chivas USA keeping the Home Depot Center….CHEERS TO MLS

  18. I liked having MLS on the same channel as other soccer- EPL and Champion’s League, but that is not a big deal. On the plus side, this will give me a chance to drop digital cable for a few months next summer and come back in the fall as a “new” customer and get a better deal.

    The thing I want most for the MLS is a good weekend rap up/highlights show. I know highlights are available on the MLS website, but there is nothing like the passive nature of TV. I’d watch or record a Sunday or Monday night show every week because usually I watch (or speed through) the Rapids game and not much else.

    1. They will have your data on record and view you as a returning customer so you won;t be able to get any deals unless someone else in the household opens their own account because anything under your name and credit they got in their system.

  19. I really hope that NBC Sport Network makes a serious run at FSC by adding more soccer league like the Scottish Premier League along with the Bundesliga and the Mexican Primera Division.

  20. Oh well. I just dropped my Directv account. Couldn’t justify $60+ a
    month for commercial filled channels. Hope NBC gives us some good
    broadcast games.

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