FOX Sports have acquired MLS TV rights beginning with the 2023 season, according to the New York Post.
Reporter Andrew Marchand says that ESPN will no longer broadcast MLS games. Instead, FOX Sports have renewed its deal with Major League Soccer, and is set to broadcast a select number of games on television each year. Earlier this year, FOX Sports reportedly offered MLS $7 million per season for TV rights.
With every single MLS game streaming exclusively via Apple’s MLS Season Pass from 2023 through 2032, FOX’s deal with MLS is an interesting one. Largely, it’ll help MLS continue to be showcased on television.
Despite the MLS-FOX deal, the domestic league will find itself with fewer games on television before since ESPN are out. Meanwhile, Spanish-language rights are up in the air with TelevisaUnivision not in any rush to sign a deal, if at all.
MLS’ deal with Apple didn’t incentivize FOX or ESPN
In June 2022, when Major League Soccer’s deal with Apple was announced, it gave both ESPN and FOX Sports very little incentive to bid on MLS TV rights. After all, why broadcast non-exclusive MLS games on TV that indirectly help sell subscriptions to Apple’s MLS Season Pass?
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The New York Post summed it up best:
“Sources said MLS had a standoff with FOX and ESPN. Both networks balked at paying much of anything for the games. In the original bidding, neither network was anywhere near the price compared to Apple’s guarantee of $250 million per season. ESPN finally walked away from negotiations, leaving FOX as the lone bidder and willing to take the programming.”
Now with ESPN reportedly out and FOX in for MLS, there’s another issuing confronting Major League Soccer. That is, FOX Sports’ poor MLS TV viewing numbers. During 2022, MLS games across FOX, FS1 and FOX Deportes declined 6% compared to the previous year. Viewership averaged 198,000 per game.
Given FOX’s underwhelming coverage of the 2022 World Cup, both MLS and FOX have a lot of work ahead of the 2023 season.
However, it’s quite possible that FOX Sports may be an unintended benefactor of the new deal particularly if MLS signs someone such as Lionel Messi. That one signing alone would result in a major TV ratings bonanza.
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