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Which broadcaster is the best fit for MLS rights in the U.S.?

best fit for MLS rights

Opinions differ on which provider best fits the MLS rights in the United States. With soccer coverage at an all-time high in the country, fans of the sport have options and examples to choose from.

Starting just with MLS, the current deal allots games on ESPN, FOX, Univision, related sports channels to those and local providers. Therefore, we can see how different coverage looks. ESPN and Univision are certainly in the running for the next batch of MLS rights on U.S. TV. We could also see something such as HBO Max or Apple TV+, who currently don’t broadcast any soccer, throw their hats in the ring.

It could also be a different new player. Turner Sports and fuboTV are all among the possibilities. Each of these providers allows for a different fit for MLS rights in the U.S., for better or for worse.

At the end of the day, MLS Commissioner Don Garber will likely seek out the biggest payday. As of now, MLS trails the Premier League and LaLiga in terms of annual revenue for U.S. TV and streaming rights.

Which provider or channel best fits the MLS rights in the U.S.?

Everyone has an opinion. Some people love the coverage on NBC with Rebecca Lowe and the commentator crew. Other people prefer the way CBS does it with Serie A and the Champions League.

The MLS TV rights and what we see on screen starting in 2023 will be different from those.

On the heels of its first-ever CONCACAF Champions League, Major League Soccer is working on its biggest TV deal ever. But out of all of the different broadcasters in the United States, which one is the best fit for MLS?

The challenges are many. First, MLS has a huge amount of games. Its inventory amasses is that there is no one broadcaster who is the best fit. Reason being is that each of the broadcasters have their own inherent weaknesses.

Leading candidates for MLS rights

Let’s review the best candidates, including their strengths and weaknesses:

TelevisaUnivision: The home of Spanish-language soccer in the United States features Univision, TUDN, UniMas and Galavision. Altogether, Univision owns the market. What’s missing is the English-language component. Without it, it can’t be the be-all and end-all of MLS rights.

ESPN: Just like Univision, ESPN is a formidable broadcaster that has a huge footprint across English-language television and streaming. However, ESPN Deportes is nowhere near the strength or reach of Univision. So while ESPN does have English-language and Spanish-language options, it’s primarily seen as a destination for the English side.

Taken together, it’s no wonder that Univision and ESPN are current media partners for MLS, along with FOX Sports. Unfortunately, reports are that FOX Sports are passing on the deal. So that means an opportunity for the following broadcasters who are new to MLS:

Turner Sports: Now that Turner Sports has been gobbled up by the Warner Bros Discovery merger, the media giant is looking for rights for its new streaming service. It’s quite possible that Warner Bros/Discovery will combine most of its major properties into HBO Max. If so, MLS is an ideal opportunity to gain a large amount of inventory. Remember, the new rights deal begins in 2023, so the timing could be ideal for both parties. Turner Sports is missing the Spanish-language component, but Univision would be MLS’s fit there.

Apple TV+: Last but not least, given that Paramount+ and Peacock aren’t interested in MLS, Apple TV+ could be MLS’s savior. Apple’s streaming service has already acquired rights to select baseball games. Soccer fits in well with Apple’s target demographic (i.e. households who are more affluent than average). No Spanish-language component is available, which is why Univision is almost guaranteed the Spanish-language rights at this point.

In the coming weeks, we shall find out who has acquired the rights to MLS. Time is running out, so come on MLS, make a decision.

Additional reporting by Christopher Harris

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Buckles

    May 6, 2022 at 12:53 pm

    I’ve always thought Turner would be a good partner for MLS. They have done a great job with hockey so far. But MLS needs an OTA partner as well. Maybe ESPN/ABC can do a deal with Turner like they do with NHL and NBA.

    • KW

      May 6, 2022 at 3:11 pm

      Turner’s parent WarnerBros Discovery does own half of the CW network along with CBS. I do agree that for a league that wants to get a bigger audience, they should offer some games for free on OTA and a free streaming provider.

      • BronzeCheetah

        May 19, 2022 at 12:01 pm

        CW is on its last legs. Both WB Discovery and Paramount want out of CW.

  2. Cpcva

    May 6, 2022 at 12:50 pm

    HBO and the others have no ota TV connection only ESPN with ABC

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