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MLS games won’t be same without local broadcasters

MLS local broadcasters

Most fans are excited about Major League Soccer and Apple announcing their new streaming rights deal. After all, more sports are moving to streaming. However, that does not please everyone. The switch to Apple is the death knell to MLS on regional sports networks. In my opinion, MLS broadcasts won’t be same without local broadcasters.

Beginning in the 2023 season, every MLS game is available via a paid streaming service through the Apple TV app. For MLS, the partnership is worth $2.5 billion. Nevertheless, the deal means that local MLS fans lose their hometown voices. For instance, that means no more Dave Johnson (DC United), Brad Feldman (New England Revolution), Joe Tutino (LA Galaxy), J.P. DellaCamera and Danny Higginbotham (Philadelphia Union) and Steve Cangialosi (New York Red Bulls), among others. The future of these men on MLS broadcasting is up in the air. They may need to call it quits or find work elsewhere.

Instead, MLS is producing the games. In the end, we may lose the familiar voice of the commentator and co-commentator we’re used to. In addition, as we reported in April, the production is centralizing in one location nationally. That means for many of the games, the commentator is calling the game off a monitor from a remote location.

Positives and negatives of MLS ending local broadcasts

By MLS killing the local broadcast deals and Apple broadcasting games exclusively to a global audience, MLS fans lose the familiarity and expertise of a hometown announcer who has grown up with your club. These are the people you have a connection with, who have called games on your television screens for several seasons.

These are the men and women you welcomed into your homes via local regional sports networks. Accordingly, you may have grown up watching games on NBC Sports Regional Networks, Bally Sports, or local broadcast channels (some over-the-air). You tuned in to get their thoughts — whether they’re positive or negative. With the Apple TV deal, you get broadcasters hired by MLS where you may not always hear their honest opinions.

MLS may argue that you can listen to your club’s local radio broadcast in the MLS streaming service. But it is not the same and a poor substitute for what we are accustomed to ever since the league began in 1996.

Looking to the future of MLS broadcasts

Personally, I’m disappointed for the new broadcast team of Eric Krakauer and Lloyd Sam, who have both done a tremendous job in their first season at Charlotte FC. Similarly, English announcers such as Tony Husband in Nashville, Callum Williams in Minnesota and Richard Fleming in Denver have all excelled. Hopefully MLS makes the correct decision by hiring them for 2023 and beyond.

While there are negatives about the MLS media rights deal with Apple, it will now be on MLS’ broadcast center to ensure they send a clear signal to all who subscribe to the paid streaming service. Hopefully, the fans will be watching their league games without a glitch.

Looking ahead, this season will be the last one that we can enjoy local broadcasters on a regional sports network. At least we have a few months to enjoy it while it lasts.

Photo credit: Getty Images via Mark Brown / Contributor

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23 Comments

23 Comments

  1. Indomitable Lion

    June 26, 2022 at 12:14 pm

    For the last 2 Years I’ve had no access to Atlanta United because of Bally Sports dropping themselves out of the Streaming Market and I’m not getting Cable. So losing Local Broadcasts doesn’t effect me at all

    • TheOriginalTom

      June 28, 2022 at 12:58 pm

      I finally dropped cable because Xfinity was not carrying our local sports network (Altitude), thus I could not watch the Rapids. It is a problem for growing the fan base I think. And I agree, we will miss local announcers. Hopefully the local Radio announcers option works smoothly.

  2. TheOriginalTom

    June 24, 2022 at 3:39 pm

    Good point by Daniel Feuerstein. I’ll be interested to see how the radio audio announcer option works. I also worry about attracting casual fans, those who might have the local sports network on for something else. But the world is changing, people are unplugging, so maybe MLS is making the right move.

  3. ZuDfunck

    June 23, 2022 at 7:32 pm

    Any truth to the rumor that the announcer will be Siri?

    • locofooty

      June 24, 2022 at 9:15 am

      lmao

  4. NaBUru38

    June 22, 2022 at 4:21 pm

    Apple TV could easily include the radio broadcasts as alternate sound feeds.

    • locofooty

      June 24, 2022 at 9:19 am

      They will. That will be the local broadcast alternative. They’ve mentioned pre-half-post shows produced with a local feel for some matches. Does that mean two feeds of shows, local and away?

  5. Dan

    June 22, 2022 at 1:54 pm

    It depends on the market and what each team does. In Seattle, the local radio broadcast is the same as the TV broadcast. Keith Costigan, Kasey Keller, Steve Zakuani.

    So if they don’t change up the broadcast, I can select the Sounders radio feed and it will be exactly the same. Even better, because Sounders fans usually have to put up with the other teams’ local broadcasts when watching from out-of-market on ESPN+ and previously MLS Live.

    That said, will the Sounders and other teams invest in their radio broadcasts under this new deal. The reality is that the radio was fine on the cheap by utilizing a simulcast, so now it’s a matter of deciding to continue investing in the local broadcast team when it’s only on radio.

    Personally, I think Apple should use national teams exclusively for the bigger games they showcase but default to fans’ choice of local broadcasts for all other matches. So it would be a lot like it is now.

  6. Maggie A Lupton

    June 22, 2022 at 8:26 am

    Living in Austin most of the Austin FC games are blocked for me by local bars wanting to show them.
    As a 70yr old, this disgusts me that this is allowed.
    Will this change when Apple take over ?

    • Christopher Harris

      June 22, 2022 at 9:00 am

      With the new deal, blackouts will be a thing of the past starting in 2023.

      • Maggie A Lupton

        June 22, 2022 at 10:10 pm

        Thank you 🤞

  7. Mercator

    June 21, 2022 at 5:40 pm

    Yea, MLS won’t be the same without local broadcasts – it will be significantly better. The local broadcasts are a joke and I get it in some markets you have good commentators, I love our main local commentator and he is one of the biggest voices for the game in my city. But the rest of it is terrible – low quality, low or non-existent accessibility, ridiculous prices for some of these RSNs. Most people watch despite the crummy local broadcasts, not because of them. Apple will probably pick up a number of the good local commentators anyway, and frankly they will probably be much better when they can properly and fairly call matches instead of acting like homers and pretending the local team isn’t awful.

  8. Raksiam

    June 21, 2022 at 5:11 pm

    A lot of them have been calling off monitors for a long time. It’s certainly not ideal.

    I’m not sure if fewer homers will be good or not, but I suspect it will be better. Let’s face it, a lot of those guys are pretty annoying. I’ve been watching Dave Johnson since the beginning. He’s been DC United’s only constant. But I don’t know that people who aren’t DC fans will care. I don’t think we need all of these British accents either. It will be interesting to see who they hire, but my guess is that some of the voices we’re used to will still be around.

    Some standards in production will be a good thing. And the prospect of better picture quality is certainly good. Given how bad ratings are for the national broadcasts I can’t imagine that anyone is watching the locals. MLS is lucky to be getting this contract. I wonder what the subscription numbers will end up looking like.

  9. Five Stripes

    June 21, 2022 at 2:26 pm

    As an Atlanta United fan, I’m not that sad about this. Kevin Egan is very knowledgeable; Mo Edu and Jillian Sakovits aren’t so great and, as far as I know, do not even live in Atlanta and are mostly employed by Fox Sports and MLS respectively. They probably fly in for matches. We won’t miss having actual hometown talent, since we don’t really have it now. Egan also does WWE events, so good on him for finding another income source. Maybe he saw the writing on the wall.

  10. Zaeem Khan

    June 21, 2022 at 11:32 am

    Ray Hudson will be missed. He is color analyst for Inter Miami on local TV. I hope Phil Schoen and Ray Hudson are reunited on Apple Plus

  11. JP

    June 20, 2022 at 1:27 pm

    NFL and college football already have this sort of model with no local broadcast teams. Obviously MLS can’t be compared, but with them moving to an exclusive Wednesday/Saturday match day it just might work. Having a set day (and times) for matches gives it a national feel instead of being dispersed. With the whip around show in conjunction, that is definitely what Apple and MLS are going for. “Homer” broadcast teams have no place in that model, no matter how pleasing to fans it can be at times. NFL “homer” calls are for radio.

    • Buckles

      June 20, 2022 at 8:18 pm

      Good point about the National feel. However, I will still miss Joe Tolleson and Ian Joy who do a GREAT job on NYCFC broadcasts on YES. But I won’t miss the poor broadcast quality which sometimes looks like it’s in 720p. Both YES and MSG have a budget feel to them. Cangelosi is great also. I hope Apple gives the broadcasts a more premium look. They should since you are going to pay some money for it.

    • Turfit

      June 23, 2022 at 1:04 pm

      All the NFL owners and old NFL commissioner is doing their best to make MLS just like the NFL and with no Sunday matches there is no competition with NFL. If it works with the NFL it must also works for MLS.

  12. Casey McShane

    June 20, 2022 at 1:07 pm

    The quality of play in MLS has kept me away for years. I do follow my local team, the Seattle Sounders, and watch almost all their games on TV. I won’t pay extra money for another streaming service just to watch one team. I’m disappointed because I had just decided to watch more MLS games over the summer, while UEFA leagues are on break, and to get to know some other teams. I doubt that I’m the only one who already pays for 3 or more streaming services just to watch the best in world football. I have Xfinity and won’t pay for FUBO or Apple cable services.

    • TheOriginalTom

      June 24, 2022 at 3:36 pm

      I dropped Xfinity and have not missed it. 3 or 4 streaming services still much cheaper than cable. Of course, I’ll see how I do with college football.

  13. Rich

    June 20, 2022 at 12:30 pm

    Where was it reported that MLS will move to a solo commentator?

    • Christopher Harris

      June 20, 2022 at 12:37 pm

      The games will have a commentator along with a co-commentator. The article has been corrected.

  14. David+K.

    June 20, 2022 at 12:15 pm

    Hopefully some of the talent that works regionally will be folded into the national productions. Single commentator off a monitor is disappointing. I much prefer more than one person on commentary.

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