FOX and ESPN Could Land 8-Year USMNT-MLS TV Deal For Half A Billion

FOX and ESPN are close to securing a landmark 8-year deal to acquire US media rights to the US Men’s National Team and Major League Soccer games, generating a whopping $560M in revenue between the two US soccer bodies, according to an industry publication.

The parties are in advanced negotiations, but a deal is expected to be signed and announced next week at the MLS Draft in Philadelphia.

As part of the 8-year deal, FOX and ESPN would share rights to the US Men’s National Team home games as well as all MLS games for 2015-2022, which would include both TV and Internet rights. The deal, according to Sports Business Daily, could average $70million a year.

Currently, US media rights for USMNT-MLS coverage generates approximately $27million a year — spread between ESPN, NBC and Univision.

In comparison, NBC Sports Group paid approximately $250million for the US media rights to Premier League 2013-2016 seasons, averaging $83million a year.

TV ratings for MLS, which are worse than the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), have been dismal. 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.

However, MLS benefits greatly from having its US media rights packaged with the TV and Internet rights for the US Men’s National Team, which delivers significantly greater TV ratings and interest among soccer fans nationwide.

NBC, meanwhile, released a statement about pulling out of the bidding process for MLS-USMNT rights, saying “We’ve enjoyed our partnership with MLS. Don Garber and his team are building something very positive, and we wish them well.”

NBCSN’s 37 games averaged 112,000 viewers during the 2013 MLS season.

15 thoughts on “FOX and ESPN Could Land 8-Year USMNT-MLS TV Deal For Half A Billion”

  1. So this would work out to ~$1MM/year trickling down to each MLS club’s payroll?

    My knee jerk reaction is that isn’t much money, but it is probably a 20-50% increase in payroll for each club and that should translate into a better caliber of player than they currently have.

      1. That’s kinda my point. Given MLS’s prudence, they won’t raise the cap unless there is revenue there to cover the new expenses. With the new CBA coming up in next year or so, I’m sure that will be an issue.

  2. That’s a pretty poor return for an 8-year deal. Surely they’d be better doing it in 3-year periods to see how the land lies? Say theres an incremental increase in popularity further down the line but they can’t capitalise on it because they’re already tied down to an 8-year deal that doesn’t exactly pay out mega bucks.

    If the Premier League issue their tender 6 months early as planned, I reckon we’ll see those rights go for at least £3.6billion – that’s £1.2billion per season from UK TV rights alone. Seems absurd in comparison that MLS would go for as little as $70million per season.

    1. For MLS, it’s a big improvement. It wasn’t that long ago when MLS was paying FOX Soccer (not the other way round) to show MLS on television. But in reality, FOX and ESPN are really after the rights to the USMNT games. The MLS games are a bonus. The US Men’s National Team is America’s “club” team that features a passionate fan base. But I agree Paul, 8 years is a long deal and USMNT-MLS could be leaving money on the table by signing such a long deal. A lot can happen between now and 2022.

      1. No doubt that the USMNT is driving the bus but let’s thank them for it. US Soccer clearly has the best interest of MLS and soccer in America in mind. Really a great thing!

  3. This deal gives MLS security for almost a decade and since ratings are still low overall this makes perfect sense.

    It’s good US Soccer and MLS are in it together, although I’m sure there might be people in both organizations weren’t an item together.

    Will Fox be able to deliver anything close to what NBC has done in terms of coverage? Jury is still out on that one.

  4. Fox’s previous agreement with MLS ended after the 2011 season. Since then, two events have transpired to make MLS more attractive to Fox. It has acquired the FIFA rights — including the 2018 and 2022 World Cups — and it has launched its new networks Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2 to go up in competition with the ESPN networks. MLS would give Fox a vehicle to promote its World Cup coverage and Fox would get live programming for its new networks

  5. It will be interesting how all the games will be distributed between ESPN and FOX. I’ve been saying for a few years that Direct Kick PPV and MLS Match Day should go the way of the dodo bird and that a broadcaster should pick up all of the TV and Online rights. The NHL should do the same thing when their rights are up. Make every game available to anyone with a digital cable package or broadband and let fans decide which games they want to watch and what teams/players to follow.

  6. MLS should’ve awarded the contract regardless of the money to NBC where the league gets the most exposure and promotion. ESPN has done absolutely nothing to suggest it will consider MLS anything other than filler programming that gets stuck in the hopeless time slot going up against Sunday Night Football. MLS will most likely get the same treatment on Fox where it takes a backseat to other major sports and gets relegated to FS2 which is currently available in less than 40 million households. The additional revenue from this deal will certainly help MLS attract a few more aging stars to the league, but they won’t improve the TV ratings in any significant way. I just think MLS will come to regret this decision in the long run.

  7. I think it is a safe move for all parties. MLS has an increase in revenue secured for 8 years, despite falling ratings. Both Fox and ESPN know soccer is the game of the young and popularity will only increase during that time.

    But success of this all depends on the US national team. The US Nation team and the US has never had a superstar player.

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