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MLS And USSF Announce $90 Million Per Season TV Deal

Major League Soccer and the United States Soccer Federation are set to announce an eight-year contract with ESPN and FOX Sports today at 1pm ET. The multi-network contract is said to be valued at $75 million a year between both networks as well as an added $15 million from Univision for an exclusive Spanish-language deal. MLS will have games broadcast on a weekly basis both on Fridays and Sunday nights with double headers to be broadcast starting at 5pm on Sunday nights on ESPN and FOX Sports 1.

The deal gives ESPN and FOX Sports an exclusive deal with the MLS and the USMNT until 2022. The deal is said to outline both networks sharing the USMNT games. And between all three networks are scheduled to broadcast about 125 MLS games a season according to the New York Times. The most important part for MLS in this deal will be the game a week windows featured on all three networks thus establishing a familiar place for MLS fans to watch their teams each week on three separate channels.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber outline to the TV execs what the league wanted in their new media contracts according to Sports Business Daily. Garber outlined what the MLS wanted to see in coming seasons with growth potential and game times changing to better accommodate their audiences. “We have games this season on six different days with 21 different start times,” said Gary Stevenson, president and marketing director of MLS business ventures. “That needed to change. We also wanted our matches to be on TV when kids who play soccer could watch them.”

ESPN was interested in the rights but said that they were not interested in holding exclusive rights. Both MLS and ESPN thought that FOX would be a good partner for the deal. ESPN and FOX have worked together to broadcast games from the NCAA football conferences Big 12, Pacific 12 and the Big East.

Despite low ratings, both networks were comfortable with the large price tag, both seeing MLS as a place for large growth. MLS is set to launch new teams in New York and Orlando with future teams being created in Miami and Atlanta within the next few years.

David Beckham announcing a MLS team being brought to Miami.

Following the final contracts being signed, the league will be turning to the players to settle a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Their current C.B.A. expires this season and the large price tag and increased exposure will definitely be a factor in the new agreement.

I personally think this is a step in the right direction for MLS and their fans. A lot of casual fans view the World Cup due to there being a lag in other more popular American sports. And if MLS does a solid job of advertising its league this summer during and after the World Cup, this could attract some of the more casual fans to viewing games on a regular basis, which will only be helped next season by the start of the ESPN/FOX/Univision MLS deal.

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    May 12, 2014 at 9:05 pm

    A proud day for US SOCCER and MLS. Goods news for all fans here in the US. Yes for those who fear the rise of soccer in the US we do hear some negative comments. However the day has now come that USSOCCER/MLS is a major player in the TV sports market. Many of those who frequent this site and who produce its extraordinary content over the years have played their part. Thank you my fellow fans and occasional contributors.

    I witnessed something amazing at the Gold Cup Final in Chicago this last summer which I think says a lot about how this day came about. The crowd of about 50,000 plus a large number being of Latin American Heritage where all behind the US. I was so proud to see it in person. I have sat through more than one match in Soldiers Field where the fans of the USMNT where outnumbered 3 or 4 to 1 and felt like a visitor in my teams home field. While soccer in the US is still in the lowlands we can now see the mountain top.

    I say bring on Gus Johnson for as many games as possible!

    • Remy

      May 12, 2014 at 9:40 pm

      That is, however, bad news for the MLS haters on this forums. They hate MLS, the USMNT, American announcers, and anything that is not European. They are no better that the regular soccer haters out there.

    • Bo

      May 12, 2014 at 11:06 pm

      Like the rest and have experienced the that myself at a USMNT game. But no, no Gus… There are better American voices out there that are actually knowledgeable of the game and competition that aren’t being allowed too shine.

  2. nickp91

    May 12, 2014 at 8:01 pm

    I’m really hoping that the ESPN3 deal will be as good as MLS Live

  3. goatslookshifty

    May 12, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    MLS need to market their superstars better. Very few players have name recognition and unfortunately they are foreign players who left Europe for MLS. Who are the stars with the endorsements beside Clint Dempsey and his beef jerky? Sell the players and you might be able to sell the league.

  4. yespage

    May 12, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    Sunday Night at 5 PM?! Are they nuts or does this not continue into the fall? A game at 6:45 PM on Sunday can work in the evening, or maybe 11 AM on Sunday.

    Competing with the NFL is suicide.

    • Jeff

      May 12, 2014 at 5:41 pm

      They really are only competing with the NFL for their final two months. While it’s not ideal that the closing national matches are at that time, the consistency factor as to when/where games will air is more important

  5. Emmett

    May 12, 2014 at 1:36 pm

    You forgot the most important part: Every Saturday out-of-market game will be available to subscribers with ESPN on ESPN3/WatchESPN. Seems like they are following the NBC/EPL model.

    I like the Sunday night doubleheader, but they might have to change the name for a few matches in September/October since it’s Football Night in America on NBC, which is only the most watched primetime show on TV. Those ratings probably won’t be too good.

    • zero point one

      May 12, 2014 at 1:44 pm

      The ratings for Sunday Night MLS in the Autumn won’t matter. FOX knows that the ratings will be bad (i.e. 0.10%), but “bad” is still better than nonexistent (i.e. 0.005%). FS1 can only re-air UFC so many times…

  6. Remy

    May 12, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    And now the Eurosnobs will start making their customary negative comments about the MLS quality of play, which they fail to acknowledge the year to year improvement. They will mention the lack of relegation/promotion and all the other nonsense that will never work in the US.

    • Tim

      May 12, 2014 at 1:37 pm

      They are just mad there is not enough accents to cover MLS and it makes it “less authentic”. At the end of the day haters are going to hate but they are the ones who never get to see their team live and will more than likely never come around to american soccer or the US team even though they are Americans.

    • Bo

      May 12, 2014 at 1:45 pm

      MLS needs improvement. And each year it is improving. But don’t know why people need to hate on one league or another. It’s the top league in the USA for this sport. I can’t change myself what it needs to improve on or what it is but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t atleast support the growth of it and the USMNT in my country. It’s the same for every country. People that hate on it over and over aren’t going to like it if it does this or that anytime soon. that’s cool, it’s their choice. Personally I’d take any increase in soccer instead of terrible “eggball” and the most boring sport ever, baseball.

      • Kei

        May 12, 2014 at 1:58 pm

        Bo: Why is it that fans of American soccer are unable to defend the MLS (or even soccer itself) without ridiculing not only foreign leagues, but even other sports? They’re essentially doing the same thing the so-called Eurosnobs (and also soccer haters) are doing, which is thumbing their noses at a product that they perceive to be beneath them.

        • Bo

          May 12, 2014 at 2:15 pm

          Oh I’m not ridiculing foreign leagues. My weeks are filled with BPL, La Liga, Serie A, Ligue Un, Eredivisie, RPL, Bundesliga, Brasileiro Série A and MLS, Europa and Champions league. Plus international teams and tournaments from around the world. There shouldn’t be hate anyways, if we all love the sport we need to be united on supporting it’s growth even in tough times.

    • Kei

      May 12, 2014 at 1:50 pm

      19 teams as of 2014. Up to 23 teams by 2017. Any number of smaller markets (Minnesota, Indy, Sacto etc) making a put their teams into the league. USMNT taking a huge chunk of the $90m pie before the MLS even gets to touch it.

      Barrage of expansion teams + inevitable dilution of talent + smaller piece of the TV pie for each MLS teams (+ continued dominance of EPL/UCL) = ???

      The conclusion shouldn’t be too difficult to reach.

      • Remy

        May 12, 2014 at 2:01 pm

        So if MLS had only 2 teams the quality would be 20 times better? More teams, means more academies, more competition and a bigger talent pool.

        • Kei

          May 12, 2014 at 2:22 pm

          If it were that easy, then everybody would do it.

          J League started out only a few years before the MLS, with a pro/rel system in place which keeps the number of top flight teams at 18. It’s not an accident that both its quality of play, and the number of Euro exports, are higher than MLS.

          • Remy

            May 12, 2014 at 7:47 pm

            That was pretty obvious at the Confederations Cup where Japan beat the likes of, well, nobody.

  7. Chivas son siempre los reyes

    May 12, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    Do not forget the following:

    Univision is reportedly paying Chivas Guadalajara around $95 million/year for U.S. rights for Chivas home games and Chivas friendlies on U.S. soil.

    Chivas Guadalajara are still the king of soccer television in the U.S.

    Chivas make more money from U.S. TV than all 20 EPL clubs combined.

    Chivas make more money from U.S. TV than MLS and US Soccer combined.

    No matter how badly Chivas continue to play in recent years, Chivas remain the #1 soccer brand on U.S. TV regardless of language.

  8. yespage

    May 12, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    Who was competing to make the deal this high?

    • zero point one

      May 12, 2014 at 1:16 pm

      The implicit threat of SUM/MLS selling everything to Comcast/NBCUniversal is what drives “FOSPNUVN” to pay $90m/yr for a bunch of 0.1s.

      Comcast remains the beast of TV in the U.S., as Comcast is the only one to own broadcast stations, pay TV systems i.e. “the pipes” (something FOX foolishly gave up when it swapped DirecTV to Liberty Media), and pay TV channels.

  9. goatslookshifty

    May 12, 2014 at 1:04 pm

    At the end of NBCSN’s EPL season review yesterday, a voice-over said “Here, failure is not rewarded with draft picks. Relegation is the sum of all fears”
    Until MLS get on board the rest of the world as far as the league structure is concerned, I will continue to have no interest in this Americanized version of football.

    • AB

      May 12, 2014 at 1:54 pm

      No one cares. Watch what you dig.

    • CassanovaFrankenstein

      May 12, 2014 at 8:09 pm

      I hear your argument a lot in pubs and especially on here, but how soon would you propose your idea goes into effect? Also, you do know the United States covers a significant amount of land, right?

      Let’s say the Atlanta Silverbacks (not likely) get promoted to the MLS… How are they going to afford to travel to Seattle and/or NY in the same month (I am guessing a map doesn’t exist for you, but it is a great distance and cost a lot of dollars, pounds, whatever)? Even if they adopted your dream next year, you would find another reason to “have no interest in this Americanized version of football”

  10. Kei

    May 12, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    So the Don has already parlayed the expansion rush into a much larger TV deal? Kudos to him. Can’t imagine that new pot of gold will result in an improved quality on the pitch though, especially if the league keeps bloating the way it has.

    At the very least, MLS got theirs before the sports programming bubble burst.

    • zero point one

      May 12, 2014 at 1:27 pm

      The sports TV “bubble” will not burst.

      Why not?

      The likes of Google, Netflix, and Amazon haven’t gotten into sports TV yet.

      Not to mention that the leagues and the teams themselves carry the implicit threat of starting their own TV networks.

      The implicit threat of MLS/SUM teaming up with Comcast/NBCU and/or AT&T/DirecTV to start MLS TV is what will keep “FOSPNUVN” to keep paying MLS/SUM what amounts to “protection fees” each year.

  11. Bo

    May 12, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    I enjoy some MLS and glad to see it growing and getting towards a better schedule and hope it continues to grow. But gosh I’m so sad to see USMNT could be on FOX Sports. Ian Darke for my games, or Gus? yeah…. 🙁

    • Kei

      May 12, 2014 at 1:03 pm

      Gus Johnson is going to be one of the preeminent faces of American soccer, and it’s going to glorious and hilarious at the same time.

      Still find it incredible that Fox is forging on with that project.

  12. Cantona

    May 12, 2014 at 12:13 pm

    Wow, deal is larger than what NBC paid for the Premier league rights…

    Do they really think they can pull in premier league viewing numbers ?

    Hopefully Gus Johnson has found a home and stops commentating on Any European football. Let him cut his teeth on USA domestic football.


    • zero point one

      May 12, 2014 at 12:47 pm

      Desperate TV networks will do desperate things.

      1. Univision Deportes Network (UDN) would be a complete wasteland during early summer (late May – late July), when Liga MX is not in session, if UDN were not to have MLS during the summer months. (Univision netowrks will NOT have any FIFA events as of January 2015.) Furthermore, Univision needs to make sure that NBCUniversal does not have the inventory to start “Telemundo Deportes Network”. $15 million/year isn’t that steep a price to pay SUM/MLS when you consider that UDN eventually wants to charge $1/sub/month, which works out to around $1 billion/year assuming that UDN can eventually reach 85-90 million subs (Univision requires UDN to be distributed in expanded basic ENGLISH-language tiers.)

      2. FOX Sports 1 needs programming to fill early Sunday nights (7-9pm ET) from March through early November, when no college basketball is available. Just having WPT Alpha8 super high roller poker at 9pm ET (the same 9 faces buying in for $100K per tournament) isn’t enough for FS1, which is otherwise a complete wasteland on Sunday nights outside college basketball season.

      3. ESPN got what it wanted: more unique inventory for, and filler programming for ESPN2 on Sundays at 5pm ET. As bad as MLS ratings are (0.2 average on ESPN2 seemingly forever), MLS is still better than whatever alternatives are available.

      Still LOLOLOLOLOL at the $90m/yr figure for what amounts to a “Tier 3” sports TV product. That’s what happens when there are way too many networks chasing too few good products.

  13. zero point one

    May 12, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    Too many sports networks.

    Not enough tier one programming to go around.

    $90m/yr for 125 games with an 0.1 average rating.


  14. gregba

    May 12, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    i HATE that MLS logo

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