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Charlotte FC president confident of record-breaking MLS TV deal

record-breaking MLS TV deal

(Photo by Jeff Halstead/Icon Sportswire)

The bar is set. In its last TV deal, Major League Soccer secured a $90 million a year deal. Of that, $30 million/year reportedly goes to US Soccer for the rights to both the U.S. men and women’s national team games. Now the league is on the precipice of a record-breaking MLS TV deal that will begin in 2023.

With the U.S. rights to the Premier League wrapped up, discussions between MLS and broadcasters are continuing. Beginning next season, NBC will pay more than $430 million per year as the exclusive broadcaster in the United States. The question is, how much can MLS generate for its own rights deal.

Looking ahead to a record-breaking MLS TV deal

Speaking exclusively to World Soccer Talk, Charlotte FC President Nick Kelly is confident that MLS will break the $90million record.

“We look at everything [MLS executives] Don Garber, Seth Bacon and Gary Stevenson have put together in terms of preparing MLS to take the best product available to the market. [MLS is] going out there with international rights, domestic rights and even local TV rights all together.

“The expectations are high. I would probably assume that everybody across the entire league — the players, the owners, the coaches and certainly the front office in New York — believes that there will be considerable growth.”

We asked Kelly if there is a particular broadcaster who would be a best fit for the rights. While not mentioning a specific name, Kelly did say:

“The big thing that we are pushing collectively as a league is that whoever comes on board they do everything within their power to promote MLS. We need a partner who comes on and really wants to help us use the next four years prior to the World Cup in 2026 to grow the sport. That’s almost as important as the financial investment.

“We need somebody who sees [MLS] as a key pillar in their content platform.”

Other positive indicators

Part of MLS’ strategy to generate more for TV rights is adding teams across the country. For example, Charlotte FC will be MLS team number 28, playing its first home game on March 5, 2022 against LA Galaxy.

As a result, MLS executives are bullish about the increased value of MLS rights. The outlook continues to remain positive. Competition for MLS rights is greater. Plus many broadcasters will want the appeal of domestic games in the lead-up to World Cup 2026. In conclusion, it is a can’t miss opportunity for the right partner at the right time.

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  1. dave

    November 26, 2021 at 4:09 pm

    Thank you for the preview. Makes sense that MLS hope to mirror other leagues that recently secured double or triple their previous US rights deals.
    Is there a good source for MLS revenue breakdowns (gate, national broadcast, local broadcast, sponsorship, merchandising, etc.)? Even if it triples, national broadcast seems like a small slice of MLS revenues:
    * National broadcast (existing deal) – $60 million (net of national team) for ~30 teams is around $2 million per MLS team
    * Gate – average 20k fans per game (pre-pandemic) at $25-$50 per fan over 17 home games is around $10-$15 million per MLS team
    * Local rights, sponsorship, merchandising – $??? is there data on this? I have read that MLS teams average ~$40 million annual revenue, though how much is opaque such as flows from SUM or non-sustainable such as counting expansion fees as revenue?
    Gate meaningfully higher than national broadcast suggests relatively greater interest in “the local team”. This is directionally consistent with the point @greg makes. A bottom-up local strategy seems to work for MLB and NHL

  2. Fechin

    November 24, 2021 at 2:17 pm

    I wish NBC will get the rights to MLS they can broadcast Friday and Saturday late night games that can be filled up and midweek games as well. But it won’t happen

  3. greg

    November 24, 2021 at 11:06 am

    What @Ricky says is interesting, in that it gets to my point that MLS is primarily, like baseball, a local league & should work to maximize that. People want to be able to see their local teams. Make it easier, MLS. Don’t assume people in Orlando or Philadelphia care as much about Portland or Minneapolis as they do their own teams and closest rivals.

  4. Ricky

    November 24, 2021 at 9:04 am

    I’m just hopeful the new TV deal allows me to watch my local teams away games. The blackout rule is terrible especially considering sometimes the local broadcaster is an obscure channel that half the time plays baseball instead of the soccer match on TV.

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