Why MLS TV Coverage Relegated To NBC Is A Promotion To Me

So this is what it means to get relegated from a soccer channel to a nationally televised channel along with their soon to be re-named sports network? So this is how it feels when one of the three national broadcasters in the United States decides to promote our country’s first division league during an NFL pre-season game?

It also means twice as many households that receive Versus (soon to be NBC Sports Network in January of 2012) and not enough for FOX Soccer and FOX Soccer Plus. While most of the games will be on cable, at least two regular season games and two playoff games will be on the NBC national channel.

How many soccer games have been on the FOX national channel either in MLS, the English Premiership, the Italian Serie A, or the Australian A-League? The correct answer to that question is absolutely zero. Only the final of the UEFA Champions League gets that honor (twice) and so far the production hasn’t been up to snuff.

I find it interesting how some of our readers have commented that FOX Soccer wouldn’t pay the $20 million ransom to MLS for the rights to televise the games. To be honest, it sounded like more of a test to see whether FOX would be loyal to its American soccer league. But as we have seen, it seems to be that FOX likes to work on the cheap.

If you read the article by The Gaffer on EPL Talk, you can tell he is fed up with FOX Soccer’s revamped broadband service as the system has either refused to accept passwords or crashed entirely from the paying customers that FOX Soccer so desperately needs. The gods of English Premiership viewing channel just pushes a few buttons, moved the satellite in a certain position and bam, instant joy.

For Major League Soccer this move was necessary. The sport has done well in the growth of players, stadiums and bringing in some of the best names in the world. But there are certain things that haven’t been growing and one of them has been the promotion of the games in the USA.

If it’s not the regional sports networks of FOX Sports Net, Comcast Sportsnet, or Madison Square Garden Network promoting from within, then the national look has been lacking. This is why NBC offered their services and said they want to grow the game.

This introductory contract of three years is the start of something wonderful. This is the fresh start that Major League Soccer needed to make a mark on the national stage. At the same time NBC has become a willing partner to make this growth special.

Personally I have always felt that NBC provides the best coverage for the professional and collegiate sports leagues throughout their history from Major League Baseball, NFL, NBA, NHL, Notre Dame football, tennis, golf, and very soon Major League Soccer.

So I believe they will make sure that the right people will be picked for their studio show and their broadcast team at the games. But I have to say that if this is what it means to get relegated from a soccer channel that doesn’t care about MLS, then to me it’s a promotion like no other.

37 thoughts on “Why MLS TV Coverage Relegated To NBC Is A Promotion To Me”

  1. Amen. I going to keep saying this but Eurosnobs are the reason casual sports fans don’t like soccer, not the sport itself. Being on NBC will draw the casual fan and grow the sport while Faux Soccer Channel can cater to it’s Europhiles.

    1. are you serious? i am amazed by your ignorance. whenever i hear someone dislike soccer they dont say “oh that sport is full of eurosnobs talking down on mls” i hear “thats a sissy sport”. obviously we think otherwise but you blaming “euro snobs” for causal fans not liking soccer is the sorriest excuse i have ever heard.

      1. I believe you misunderstood his statements. It’s the soccer snobs, who usually are Eurosnobs which harm soccer as much as the haters. It is usually the Eurosnob who thinks he is above criticism because he discovered Arsenal and suddenly believes Radio Head is the greatest band ever, all while abroad.

        They then poo-poo other sports and their domestic league because of this mentality.

        1. Do these “eurosnobs” really exist, or is it some collective paranoid fantasy shared among people on websites like this?

          The reason I ask is that from the Radiohead comment, you seem to have a complete character sketch of this “eurosnob bogeyman” character all planned out in your head.

          For what it’s worth, the link between Radiohead and football is amusing, because in the UK there is no positive correlation between the two…if anything it’s a negative correlation: people who like Radiohead are more likely to dislike football (and vice versa). I’m probably part of the small Venn diagram sector who likes both (haven’t listened to them in years though).

          1. I’ve spoken with several people that I would consider eurosnobs. One guy, a coworker, that really sticks out to me says he follows the Prem, but not (local) RSL, because he tried watching an MLS game once back in 1999(ish) and it was horrible. He hasn’t any interest in seeing a game, on tv or in person, because “MLS just doesn’t have the quality.”
            OK, he’s a lost cause, so I try talking about a recent arsenal game. He doesn’t seem very informed and, after blank stares to several of my statements, tells me that he just watches the highlights. Whaaaa?!?
            That’s right, this guy can’t even be bothered to watch an entire EPL game, and yet refuses to watch MLS because he knows it’s bad. THAT’S a “eurosnob”.

          2. Yes. They watch only EPL and Champions League and read some blogs, which they then regurgitate the same crap as fact. That EPL is the best league in the world, that MLS sucks even though they don’t watch it, that pro/rel is perfect, that everything EPL does is perfect, and a bunch of other uninformed crap, even about other European leagues like Serie A because some blog told them what to think. I’m not even sure eurosnob is right. EPL snobs is more accurate because they all claim it to be the best league ever like it is some fact when it is just an opinion. They hate MLS now and they will hate it if it becomes an EPL copycat because it is not EPL. So, EPL snob might be more accurate.

          3. Just re-interates what I have always said. Most Euro-idiots ARE the casual fans.
            Jump on the bandwagon of the winning team, would jump off if they started to play in the lower levels because they need to watch “a quality league”

            Would NEVER go to a high school, college, USL, etc game, even a MLS game is beneath them.

            CASUAL FAN. Way more of a casual fan than a soccer mom who barely knows what off-sides is, with season tickets to the Sounders game. WAY MORE.

          4. There’s an old joke from a TV show about how a kid went to study abroad in London and came back loving Radiohead and cheering for Arsenal. Given this joke was from the early 2000’s back when Arsenal was top, so I can see it.

            And you’re the only person making it into a boogeyman, all to create a nice strawman.

      2. One thing interrupting the growth of our sport here is the mistaken belief that because our league isn’t at the level of the Premiership, or Bundesleague, that it’s not worth watching. People will watch the sport, the effort is to convert soccer fans in the US, to US soccer fans.

      1. Actually Edgar, DC United & the Los Angeles Galaxy won the CONCACAF Champions Cup. This tournament didn’t have a group stage and there was no spot to play in the FIFA Club World Cup.

        This is a different tournament as it’s now a Champions League.

        1. Meh, it’s really the same tournament though, just in a different format. Otherwise it’s like saying the each World Cup that adopted a new format (and there have been several) is a totally different tournament. In which case, we couldn’t say (for example) “Italy have won 4 World Cups”, because each of their victories came in differently formatted tournaments.

          Likewise, the UEFA Champions League is never really regarded as a totally different tournament to the preceding formats/titles of the European Cup.

    1. another moron that bought into the whole RSL bullsh*t. LA and DC have been doing this way before, they are the real powers and legendary teams of MLS

  2. The one big worry I have now is whether NBC will continue the practice of squeezing in commercial breaks during the action. It wouldn’t be the worst thing but would be very annoying. However, being that the games will be on a cable channel, they should just have continuous coverage, selling the halftime to a big time sponsor in exchange for reduced adrates for other sports programming. One idea would be to buy up the space on all the sideline boards, then sell them to sponsors. Ads would change at the 15:, 30:, 45:, 60:, and 75: marks. That way you’d squeeze in revenues that wouldn’t be available, otherwise. However, I don’t know if that would work, depending on how much of a say MLS has on the ad boards.

    Also, we have a bigger fish to fry with the soccer-haters. Eurosnobs can be annoying with their elitism but haters have always been hatin’ since before we even became aware of sports outside this country.

    1. To tlas: If you worried about NBC breaking away from the action and going to a commercial break, I don’t believe that practice will make a return.

      If they are going to promote the NHL, NFL, Golf, Tennis & Notre Dame during a lull in the action then you will see something at the bottom of the screen during a quick crowd shot or when they are setting up a goal kick.

      1. Yeah, I’ve kind of thought soccer broadcasts could take a page out of baseball broadcasts.

        When there’s a lull in the action during a baseball game (like between pitches), you might have the announcer squeeze in a few ads with a graphic superimposed. Could do something similar when setting up for a free kick or when a player is down and getting the magic spray.

        You could sell sponsorships for particular things, like “This corner kick brought to you by Home Depot. For everything you need to build that corner nook, it’s Home Depot.” or something like that. Just a few seconds as the corner taker surveys his options.

  3. I’m looking forward to this but I figure any NBC national match will feature a club from LA or NY. So it will be about promoting the two biggest markets and those over 30 European has-beens employed at said club. But I suppose it’s a necessary evil to expose the casual sporting fan and other viewers to the league and sport.

  4. Amazing article Daniel. Moving to NBC is about bringing in more casual American fans by increasing exposure. Trolls will be trolls though.

  5. MLS ratings on Fox or even ESPN have been abysmal. Fox soccer will do just fine without MLS. Don’t get me wrong, I wish NBC and MLS the best, but don’t blame Fox for not wasting money on a league that few want to watch. The numbers over the years have proven it.

      1. Not that the ratings would be THAT much better, but Fox Soccer did not do much to help its MLS ratings. Promos – yes. Real studio show, with decent graphics and production – ok this year, nonexistent in prior years. But why no 1/2 hour MLS weekly preview/review/magazine type show? Why not talk about MLS for more than 10 minutes of the 5 hours of weekly Fox Soccer Report? (Of course those 10 minutes of coverage are usually very poor – other than the game previews by Bobby McMahon – what I understand of them at least.) And don’t even bother looking for a lot of MLS news on the FoxSoccer website.

        ESPN is the same way. How can they expect their legion of sports watchers to tune in for a weekly MLS matchup if ESPN itself says MLS is not important by giving it zero coverage in 487 hours of weekly Sportscenter?

        Based on what I’ve heard about NBC’s NHL coverage, I think we will see top quality coverage on the web, a weekly tv show, and better game coverage. Combined with being a free channel (I pay $3 a month for a sports package that includes FSC) in 2X more homes than FSC, I think MLS’s TV ratings will grow and current fans will be very happy with the switch.

  6. Daniel, I think your opinion here is on the money. I enjoy FOX Soccer for the most part, primarily since it’s the only consistent provider of football content in our country. I do think that, as a country, we’ve been conditioned to certain standards based on coverage of other sports…mostly NFL and College Football. FOX Soccer’s coverage doesn’t even come close to those broadcasts…but maybe that’s indicative of the nature of the sport in this country.

    While I think it’s unfortunate that FOX Soccer’s investment in the MLS promos, studio, logo, etc. has been forced as short-termed, you can’t blame MLS for running. I think it is a little disingenuous to say “MLS on NBC” because there are a small percentage of MLS matches on NBC, the rest are on Versus/NBC Sports. You know there would be people fussing if FOX decided to use the slogan, “The UEFA Champions League on FOX.” In the end, though, more people will have access to a weekly game, and thus it’s beneficial.

  7. MLS-boys,

    You act as if MLS was only shown on Fox Soccer. Lets not forget that MLS is shown on ESPN & ESPN 2. Lets not forget that MLS Cup got crushed v. Women’s Volleyball when the Cup Final was shown on ESPN. Let’s not forget that MLS Cup was once shown on ABC. Lets not forget that EPL is eating MLS’ lunch.

    I admire you guys trying to polish up this turd but MLS is joining the ranks of the fabulous NHL, Bull Riding and Tour De France.

    1. Robert,

      The NHL brought in $3 billion in revenues this past season, and viewership was way up, particularly for the playoffs. You may not like it because you’re from sunny SoCal, but a lot of people in this country obviously enjoy and watch the sport.

      Personally, I’ll be happy to see cross-promotion of my two favorite sports.

      I think MLS will get a bump from expanded coverage through NBC and its affiliates. I don’t have my head in the sand – MLS needs some fixes and the quality of play must get better – but I can’t see this partnership with NBC as anything but positive.

      1. MLS will not get a bump from this deal. MLS is shown on ESPN and the ratings are just as bad as with FOX. I’m not a MLS hater. I actually pay for mlstv or what ever its named, but I rarely watch it. I prefer EPL, La liga, Champions, and Mexican Primera. MLS will continue to grow but will do so very slowly.

    2. Oh Robert, if MLS had the NHL’s revenues, it would be one of the top soccer leagues in the world. So that is your insult? You are such a funny little man.

      As for the foreign EPL eating MLS’s lunch in ratings, The EPL has limited potential here since it is not an American league and therefore American networks like ESPN can’t get it to air in the best time slots . ESPN has to air it in odd hours where its rating potential is very limited. Tape delay is not the answer.

      On the other hand MLS has unlimited potential since it is a growing “American” league that is partnered with a large U.S. television network. The EPL is eating no ones lunch here. FMF is the only really watched soccer league in the U.S. and MLS is winning respect by beating Mexican teams. MLS as “our” top flight league will continue to grow.

      I find it hilarious this MLS/NBC partnership bothers you.

      1. Agree with most of your statement. Two caveats:

        EPL actually has pretty substantial growth potential. A lot of Americans (myself included) who have just gotten into soccer the past few decade or so watch EPL because it’s got English-speaking announcers and the quality of play and tradition is unparalleled. It’s the same reason that the NFL – even at bizarro time slots – was always more popular and more watched than the NFL Europe.

        Mexican fans really don’t care that much about CCL. They care about the Copa Libertadores and the FMF league title. They take CCL about as seriously as EPL teams take the League Cup. Getting beaten by MLS teams in the tourney isn’t going to really bother them until if and when it becomes a regular thing for a couple of years. And even then, MLS is going to have to a much, much better job of reaching out to them if it wants to earn their respect.

        Those two things don’t mean that MLS is bad or that MLS isn’t going to be a success. I’m ecstatic about the possibilities of this partnership with NBC and NBCSports. They just mean you might need to check your boosterism a little bit.

      2. NFL period is not that popular overseas in the grand scheme of things because it has limited growth potential. You just ended your own argument. Also, EPL is also watched around the world fir the same reason NBA and NHL are popular. They are the biggest leagues for their sport in the world. MLS will never be that. I definitely wouldn’t say that EPL deserves that title either. It is just the most accessible, but at least for me it is not the best foreign soccer I can watch by a long shot. MLS can still grow, improve in quality, and fit in with our sports culture just fine.

      3. Best time slots for English Premiership because it’s foreign? It’s because England is five hours ahead. Live matches are shown at “odd hours” in the US due to this. A Manchester United match will always dwarf MLS ratings… until the MLS can fully establish itself as a quality TV product. I’m hopeful it will happen one day but we’re probably twenty years off.

        1. You sure that is true Giggs ?
          The Man U ESPN ratings against relagation teams 8-20 had to be crushed by Seattle-LA season starting kick off game also on ESPN.
          I would assume the July 4th game beat it too.

    3. don’t forget Pac-12 Football, Mountain West, Open Wheel Racing, Sunday Night Football, Notre Dame Football, The Olympics, the triple crown, French Open, and Rugby World Cup.

  8. I don’t have cable tv, so this was big news for me! My family pays $78 a month for basic cable and internet for the house. We’ve avoided expanded cable for fear of getting hooked on too much television. We are a Spanish speaking family, so we do get plenty of Soccer on the Spanish stations, though some of them are not HD.

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