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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