NBC No Longer In The Running For MLS TV Rights, Says Report

NBC Sports Group is no longer in the running to acquire the next round of MLS TV rights, which will begin with next season. According to a report tonight in Goal.com, sources are saying that the finishing touches are being made to the MLS rights deal, but NBC Sports is out.

The winning bidder of the MLS TV deal is expected to be announced next week at the MLS Draft. FOX is the favorite to acquire the rights in a deal that could include ESPN. Sources to World Soccer Talk revealed that FOX and ESPN were in discussions about sharing the rights in some capacity, which could include FOX sub-licensing some UEFA Champions League games to ESPN in return for FOX getting more MLS or USMNT games. However, nothing had been finalized as of press time.

Since 2012, NBC Sports has televised MLS games on NBC Sports Network (now NBCSN) as well as a small number of games on NBC. After acquiring the rights to the American top flight league, NBC significantly improved the production value and presentation of the league, including having talent do studio shows and commentate games on-site, in addition to producing additional programming.

Despite all of NBC’s efforts to elevate the presentation of MLS to US audiences, the TV ratings were dismal due to little interest in the league due to a combination of factors — poor quality of play, lack of authenticity and little relevance to soccer fans.

For the 2013 MLS regular season, MLS TV ratings on NBC were down 8% compared to the previous year, while they were down 29% for ESPN.

The 2014 MLS season will be the final year of NBC’s relationship with MLS.

Meanwhile, FOX is focused on acquiring more soccer TV programming with World Cup 2018 in mind. FOX already has UEFA Champions League and FA Cup rights as well as World Cup 2018 and 2022, and has acquired Bundesliga rights (beginning 2015) and European Championship 2016 qualifiers.

51 thoughts on “NBC No Longer In The Running For MLS TV Rights, Says Report”

  1. IMO, Fox winning the rights cannot be a victory for American football fans. Their failure of having EPL rights recently is increasingly worrisome, and their CL coverage is nothing to write home about. They constantly are trying to dumb down tactics and water down the game. Disappointing.

  2. Its mad that a Country as big & competitive in sports as the USA is, hasnt got a super power of a league by now. Here’s a sport that really has a genuine World Cup where they can really be the best but theyre league is still way behind the top countries.. I know its one of the most popular sports among young people now and eventually theyll catch up but it still looks reasonably far off… Still tho its only a matter of time before football is the number one sport in America IMO.

    1. …its only a matter of time before football is the number one sport in America IMO

      Never going to happen. Take it from a former middle school soccer coach. The best athletes in school always want to play U.S. football in the fall, since they’re all positive they are going to play in the NFL.

      Soccer in the U.S. will never get beyond being a second tier sport. Just the way it is.

      1. I think the goal shouldn’t be to be the biggest sport, just to have it included as the “big 5”. That would be a win.

      2. Maybe youre right Guy but eventually I think football will take over simply because its the best sport in the world, the most popular and also the most addictive. Once it gets hold of the nation then thats it. For me its inevitable and just a matter of time but in fairness you obviously have experience of been there and clearly know your stuff

        1. I certainly wouldn’t mind it taking over, but just think there are too many impediments.

          Soccer has been the next great sport in the U.S. since my son was 6….He’s now 40.

      3. While I am far less bullish than, I genuinely think that soccer has and will continue to penetrate American society. While it may take a generation or more to transpire, I can envision a scenario where it a dominant sport in America. Soccer will never pass American football in popularity or relevance as it it currently constructed, that is a given. However, brain injuries are and will continue to cause a constant upheaval in how American football is played. It may be unrecognizable in 20 years. Hockey is mainly regional, baseball and basketball have reached a saturation point in terms of popularity.

    2. MLS will become a hot property overnight if

      a) USA gets out of the group stages in brazil 14

      b) USA does better than the 2002 squad.

  3. MLS’s primary issue (as I see it) is that one gets to rarely see its best teams play on television (without the MLS Live package). There’s such a glut of Portland-Seattle and Philadelphia-DC matches on broadcast television that the league’s best franchises in terms of skill (Real Salt Lake, Sporting Kansas City, Montreal Impact) rarely appear on television. Hell, most of the other clubs (like Vancouver, whom I support) aren’t featured at all.

    Furthermore, without some schedule changes, nobody will even get to see Toronto FC–with the exciting additions of Jermaine Defoe and Michael Bradley–*at all* on broadcast television unless they’re willing to tune into UniMas on September 21 (and that game is versus CHIVAS!).

    What MLS needs is an investment in its success like NBC gave the Premier League. Part of that will depend on MLS doing better with scheduling itself (which is another matter). But without getting its best teams on air to a national audience more frequently (and thus drawing more interest), it’s going to continue to flounder. After all, ratings likely decreased this season as a result of having to watch a terrible DC United club on television all of the freakin’ time.

  4. You’re always so quick to hate on American soccer on this site. Get the reports correct first. NBC wanted to renew but fox made a better offer.

    1. Tom, I’m reporting the news, and the facts in the story are correct. Where do I say in the story that NBC didn’t want to renew?

      1. You never said NBC didn’t want to renew. You also never said that they did want to renew. Instead it is tacitly implied and misleading.

        As for “I’m reporting the news, and the facts in the story are correct.” Much of the story isn’t reporting facts, the three links (all to the same post) are editorial, not fact.

        You make the statement “the TV ratings were dismal due to little interest in the league due to a combination of factors — poor quality of play, lack of authenticity and little relevance to soccer fans”. Do you believe the EPL suffers from poor quality of play, lack of authenticity and little relevance to soccer fans? The EPL ratings are a step above dismal, but are still poor. More people watched the 49rs vs Packers game this weekend than total viewership of the EPL, FA cup, and Capitol One cup combined this year.

        The article could have said the price has placed NBC out of contention, and indications are Fox is picking up the coverage. But instead it was turned into an editorial about how bad the MLS is. Soccer is on the right track to continue to gain popularity, but it certainly doesn’t help when outlets that are representing it take every opportunity to domestic league in its own country.

        1. The headline says that NBC is no longer in the running, hence they once were, but they’re not any longer.

          Yes, the news story also includes links to an opinion piece of mine. But the facts contained within the article above are true. And comparing soccer ratings to NFL is ridiculous.

          1. It’s not ridiculous…people tend to forget the irrelevancy that soccer is in the main US sports landscape. Other sports get millions of tv viewers and even the EPL that is apparently so superior to all can’t break a million. Articles like this shows me how far we really have to go. Soccer will never be mainstrem here as long as the most supported league is in another country.

            1. If you compare anything to the NFL, the numbers will look tiny.

              Having said that, remarks like “people tend to forget the irrelevancy that soccer is in the main US sports landscape” and “soccer will never be mainstream” in the US are a myth. Soccer’s biggest sporting event, the World Cup, gets millions of TV viewers. The 2010 World Cup game between USA-Ghana got 19.4 million viewers in the US. The 2010 World Cup had 24.3 million viewers (15.45million on ABC). In regards to EPL ratings, they’ve broken the million barrier. The record EPL game on US TV was 1.67 million.

              How does the 24.3 million number for the 2010 World Cup 2010 final compare to mainstream US sports?

              The 24.3 million viewers marks the fourth-largest audience for any sporting event in 2010 (excludes NFL and primetime Olympic telecasts). Only the USA/Canada Olympic Hockey Gold Medal Game (27.600 mil), Game 7 of the Celtics/Lakers NBA Finals (28.203 mil) and the BCS National Championship Game (30.776 mil) drew more viewers.

              The combined audience drew more viewers than every single Major League Baseball game since 2004 and every single college basketball game since 1999.

          2. There are two things to consider when suggesting that MLS will never be as large as the NFL:

            1. The NFL is a multiethnic nation with a growing Latino population–with whom soccer is increasingly popular. Right now, because Mexicans have televised access to their (far superior) Liga MX, Latino MLS fandom is probably not where it will be. In time, however, this will change.

            2. The NFL may bring about its own undoing.

          3. MLS ratings are continually compared to EPL ratings… To the most popular league in the world. The average difference is about 200,000 viewers, and the narrative is always the MLS ratings are dismal, and the EPL ratings are strong. The comparison illustrates that neither are good, and dwarfed by orders of magnitude by other sports.

            The way the ratings get better, is we grow more fans. As a soccer fan, I take it as a responsibility to try and spread the beautiful game to other sports fans. I’ve bought tickets for friends to go to MLS or international friendlies to try and influence who I can. I enjoy the site for the most part (outside of much of the overplayed anti-US soccer), it is one of the few places that has content on multiple leagues and national teams. You have an amazing platform, but when it comes to domestic leagues, the only articles or negative in connotation. There are many fans of this site who haven’t watched an MLS games in years, but continue to parrot the MLS is garbage shtick without giving it a chance. There are still teams in MLS that are tactically like a U17 squad or only focus on athletism or longball. But for many that is no longer the case. That helps perpetuate the view on the MLS, and why so many comments even mention how the MLS has regressed. You will never see an article saying that in 2010 not a single international player from MLS played in the World Cup. This year there will be 17. And they are not just players from CONCACAF, but CONMEBOL and CAF as well. There is little mention other than from some of the commenters about how younger homegrown coaches like Caleb Porter and Jason Kreis are actually playing a fluid, creative soccer.

            1. KapUSMC, I value your input but I don’t view my opinions as anti-US soccer. I view them as being critical instead of the “MLS Fan Boy” writing that can be found elsewhere. My words may appear to be harsh to some, but I’m just speaking my mind. I used to be a MLS season ticket holder and I got engaged during half-time of a MLS game, which is one of my fondest memories of my life. But the team was taken away from me, and that was almost 13 years ago, so going from the highs of watching MLS locally to having no MLS team within 1,000 miles of my home for 12+ years is going to leave a bitter taste in my mouth. Do I want MLS to thrive? Absolutely.

              One more thing. Saying that the only articles that are published on this site about MLS are negative in connotation is not true. You can go through them at http://worldsoccertalk.com/category/leagues-major-league-soccer/

          4. Just looking through the first two pages the only article I would say is flattering is the RSL v Portland preview. I also knew your past history with MLS from other articles, and part of me can’t help but wonder if you had been in LA instead of Miami if your view on MLS currently would be different. I think we can all agree that MLS may not have dealt with Florida very well.

        2. Yes, every time I read an article on this site, it has something negative to say about MLS. It feels like if MLS folds, the mission of the Euro Snobs and of this site will be completed. But that failure would also mean the failure of soccer in the US. Where would the players for the national team come from? The answer is nowhere. It is really a self-fulfilling prophesy.

      2. No offense, but your bias is flowing free and unimpeded with lines like this:

        “the TV ratings were dismal due to little interest in the league due to a combination of factors — poor quality of play, lack of authenticity and little relevance to soccer fans.”

        Really? Those are the reasons? LOL.

  5. It will be interesting to see what FOX does different this time around if they get MLS back. I just hope the matches are on Saturday evenings and not bouncing around between days and early start times. For some reason I miss the USL matches on Friday nights.

  6. Ah, MLS fans.

    Let’s just agree to disagree, guys.

    The ratings would seem to support what the Gaffer is saying. And I think that’s all he’s saying here.

  7. all I can say is .. please please please put Gus Johnson as the lead announcer for the MLS and keep him away from European football.

    Lets all HOPE!


  8. I’d rather Fox show MLS games than nobody. Let’s wait and see what their coverage is like before slagging it off.

    It’s been done to death here (and elsewhere) but there is something not quite right with the format of the MLS. Big Soccer fans (who don’t have a local MLS team) find it hard to get into.

    Personally I think it is the salary cap that hinders it. Even if only 1 team was taken over by billionaires who started buying world class players (they’d come if the money was right) then at least we’d all have a team to hate…

  9. When are MLS fans going to realize that soccer is not the issue here, it’s MLS not drawing soccer fans. The ratings are horrible and NBC not renewing its contract with MLS is a warning signal for the league. Like it or not, TV is far more important than average attendance figures. MLS is a sinking ship.

    1. Sinking ship, get real. It’s a niche league like the NHL is a niche league. Stop trying to make it something it’s not and then crow about some failure to meet artificially inflated criteria.

      If you really want to get to the meat of the matter, EPL ratings on NBC still slog way behind NFL telecasts. Deathknell for the EPL’s viability in the States? Of course not. But we’re not grading the same sports on the same frame of reference. Stop doing that with the MLS.

  10. Terrible decision to dump NBC in favor of Fox. MLS has enjoyed lots of exposure and the benefit of cross-promotion with the EPL on NBCSN. On FS1, MLS is certain to take a backseat to other major sports especially during the college football season and get tossed around through different time slots or simply relegated to FS2 in much the same way MLS is treated on ESPN. Not to mention the dumbed down presentation and poor production (Expect a heavy dose of Eric Wynalda). What Fox is really after are the USMNT qualifiers that are coupled with the MLS rights; MLS is just an afterthought.

    The only justification for this decision would be that Fox paid a lot more money than NBC, but we’re talking about MLS here. How much more could Fox possibly have paid? 5 million? 10 million? These are chump change not worth giving up the exposure, promotion, and commitment that MLS would’ve received from NBC.

    1. It has? I don’t remember any real and substantive cross promotion whatsoever. In fact, NBCSN largely forgot about the MLS when the PL came aboard.

    1. That “football that actually matters” doesn’t even have good airtime on NBC. I’ve seen substantially less of the EPL this year than last.

      VERY few EPL games are shown on NBC (the free over the air channel). NBC Sports channel, which shows most of the games, isn’t accessible to everyone (you have to buy a special sports cable package, and be in the right location in the U.S., and be a cable member for a minimum of 2 years, and sell your soul to Satan, etc.). And if you try a NBC owned Spanish language channel (mun2), they can’t even guarantee at least one game every weekend.

      NBC hasn’t handled the EPL well at all. For this reason, I’m glad they’re losing the rights to the MLS. The MLS needs a network that will air games consistently week after week in both English and Spanish. It’s a HUGE mistake to think Spanish-speakers in the U.S. don’t want access to ANY football league available (American, English, German, and all others).

      1. “NBC hasn’t handled the EPL well at all”

        For your own sake I hope you are joking. Every game live on TV = best in the world. I’d say that is pretty damn good actually…

        1. That’s my point though. Every game ISN’T on tv, at least not where I live. If their coverage was the same throughout the country, I would had a different opinion. So no, I’m not joking when I say that NBC hasn’t handled the EPL well.

          1. Kenya, you do realize that if you get NBC Sports, you also get NBC Sports Extra for free with most cable systems, right? This enables you to watch any EPL game whenever you’d like.

            If your cable provider doesn’t allow it, then I’d consider writing in and encouraging others to do so.

    2. MLS is the crap that made possible for Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Geoff Cameron, Brad Guzan, Tim Howard, Graham Zusi, Landon Donovan, Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler, Kei Kamara, Roger Espinoza and so on be what they are.

  11. MLS happens to be in the right place at the right time. Fox is scrambling for events to its stations and has a need for soccer specific programming prior to the World Cup in 2018. ESPN knows the soccer market continues to grow and needs more soccer events to complement what it has and fill its various time slots.

    Hats off to US Soccer that knows the USMNT is a hot property and that the future success of the USMNT is aided by a strong MLS. Lets not judge the coverage by what went on before. The market is different and the presentation will be different. People need to stop complaining about the Fox presentation. Fox has its style they may not like it but it is designed for a certain audience and it works for them. I happen to like NBC and ESPN better but that does not mean it’s bad!

  12. Bummer, thought NBC had the best production of the games out of any network.

    But at least MLS is domestic so Fox can at least have their own announcers there, so it should be a little different from their CL and FA Cup broadcasts that join announcers AFTER the kickoff so you miss the intro.

  13. I don’t think the nbc production was to much different from fox, MLS has to figure out how to pull Better tv ratings period.. in order to do that they need more self promotion need more marketing need to show themselves more

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