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MLS boxes itself in with media rights deal

In the NEW episode, number 1407, Christopher Harris is joined by co-host Kartik Krishnaiyer to discuss several topics:

• Can MLS find a way to hit their $300 million per year target for media rights?
• HBO Max makes a big move
• Politicians are considering a big change that will impact European soccer
• And your questions in the Listener Mailbag segment.

Plus we answer your questions in the Listener Mailbag segment.

Listen to the show via the player above or via this link.

Launched in 2006, the World Soccer Talk Podcast is the longest running podcast on the planet. Every week, we share the latest news about watching soccer on television and streaming, in addition to discussing what we like and dislike, and featuring your questions and feedback in our Listener Mailbag segment.

HEAR MORE: Listen to our archive featuring hundreds of soccer interviews

Send in your questions, comments and feedback via e-mail, via Twitter (@worldsoccertalk) or Facebook. We’ll read them out on-air in the next episode.

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  1. Kyle

    April 2, 2022 at 3:52 pm

    Assuming the MLS tv deal does not go through with ESPN, where do you guys seeing Taylor Twellman’s best fit going forward whether it is as a broadcaster or a tv analyst?

  2. Roberto

    March 29, 2022 at 4:51 pm

    @Greg; The owners of the Sounders, my old home town are fairly nice. In general there are very few billionaires that are good people.

  3. Turfit

    March 29, 2022 at 9:45 am

    Went to a Dallas Stars Hockey game last week and was able to get tickets in the nose-bleed section for $10 each. Dallas Stars is averaging 17,804 people per game which puts them 8th the in NHL for average attendance.
    Cheapest FC Dallas ticket I was able to find online is $30. With an average attendance of 14,926 which is 20th in MLS, maybe cheaper pricing would be better.

  4. locofooty

    March 29, 2022 at 9:38 am

    Charlotte’s owners pulled a first one and became the first MLS team to sell season tickets as PSL’s like the NFL. The tickets are way more expensive. They got criticized for the move, but business as usual. Atlanta United does not have PSL’s as Arthur Blank thankfully decided to keep that separate between the Falcons and Atl. Utd.

    • greg

      March 29, 2022 at 12:37 pm

      The owner is a hedge fund manager. Seems like a piece of work…from Wiki…he’s worth $11 billion. All he cares about is wealth extraction and keeping it for himself.

      “In January 2018, Tepper praised President Trump’s corporate tax cuts, saying that the bull market still had room to grow and denying it was overvalued. “World growth is higher,” Tepper said. “There’s no inflation. The market coming into this year doesn’t look rich; in fact, it looks almost as cheap as coming into last year.”[20]

      Tepper keeps a pair of brass testicles in a prominent spot on his desk, a present from former employees. He rubs them for luck during the trading day to get a laugh out of colleagues.[21] ”

      And of course moved from NJ to FL to escape taxes and loves charter schools. Eff this guy.

      • locofooty

        March 29, 2022 at 4:37 pm

        Yeap, in it for the real estate most than likely.

  5. Roberto

    March 28, 2022 at 2:59 pm

    @Greg; Charlotte has too many rich bankers, others in financial services (tax avoidance) and Tech. Co.s. Their last couple of games had about 30,000+. It sure helped that they have a good core of players and an outstanding coach. Did not check to see if packages are less. I bet for sure the price per game via season tickets are less. I bet Atlanta is also high. A person needs to live in a working class city!

  6. Roberto

    March 28, 2022 at 2:58 pm

    @Greg; Charlotte has too many rich bankers, other is financial services (tax avoidance) and Tech. Co.s. Their last couple of games had about 30,000+. It sure helped that they have a good core of players and an outstanding coach. Did not check to see if packages are less. I bet for sure the price per game via season tickets are less. I bet Atlanta is also high. A person needs to live in a working class city!

  7. greg

    March 28, 2022 at 2:12 pm

    Good discussion as always…a few reactions…

    re: MLS going to Amazon, a potential extra fee for it, and general costs of soccer viewing…

    I wrote in the thread on costs that you can’t just take soccer viewing in isolation. Depending on the household and what every person wants, you might have to subscribe to a bundling service. So the cost needs to be amortized out over all tv watching, not just soccer. And you have to factor in ISP costs. Can’t stream without an internet connection.

    Amazon might be great in terms of delivering all matches and they already have a subscriber base of 150 million +/1. But how many people would pay anything more than around $50 for an MLS sub? Might be enough if RSN coverage goes away. The original MLS cable subscription package (what was it called?) numbers might hold a clue. You have to factor all necessary tv costs into what the price tolerance might be for an extra fee.

    Amazon has the profit margin to not charge and extra fee. And they could make back some money by sub licensing to local stations for local coverage, cable networks for say a weekly national match, co-presenting the playoffs, especially the final. And it’s not like they can’t sell in-game score-bug ads, half-time ads, etc…

    FWIW, in France it’s about 50 euro for the season, about 5.99 euro per month. That’s likely a good starting point for a US surcharge.

    It’s shocking how expensive the Charlotte tickets were. Do you know if they do dynamic pricing, so some matches, especially early on while initial interest is higher will be more expensive? Growing a fan base means hooking people in early, and lower costs are the best way. If I lived in Charlotte and saw those prices I’d stop caring at all about going to see it live. But if the price were reasonable for single-game tickets that would keep me coming back.

    You briefly touched on it, but the limited number of viable expansion slots in MLS should be a concern. Right now it’s almost a ponzi operation, where they need regular infusions of new franchise fees to stay in the black. And as has been discussed, the league is too big as is. Hard to get to know any teams in depth, quality of play suffers when you dilute talent…

    re: permanent daylight savings time. The idea is ridiculous. Even in summer there would be plenty of daylight at night without it. Time zones are already aligned with when the sun is expected to rise, for optimal circadian rhythm for waking up. Earlier darkness isn’t bad, helps with melatonin production.

    But also? It’s was tried and failed in 1974. If anything the switch, as you said, should be aligned world-wide, and should be later in the spring and earlier in fall to avoid disruption in the mornings…the abrupt change to darkness when waking is worse than suddenly earlier darkness at night, and earlier in the year the change to darker evenings will come after most of the evening rush-hour. So likely fewer traffic accident issues on both ends of the commute.

  8. JP

    March 27, 2022 at 11:06 am

    Great pod as usual, few disagreements

    Did you both call MLS a top 5 league or did I misunderstand?
    EPL, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A, Ligue 1, Eredivisie…that’s 6 even before debating Belgium (Buchanon left MLS’s Revs for Club Brugge so must be a step up right?), Liga MX, English Championship, Argentina and Brazil etc

    Still don’t think the delinking of USMNT/USWNT rights from MLS is the cause for lack of interest or them not meeting the 300 million a year goal (we’ll see soon what the number is). Even if it’s in the 100-200 million a year range shows broadcasters see more value in MLS than USMNT/USWNT friendlies and some qualifiers (200 million over 8 years)

    I used to enjoy the few weeks a year we became an hour closer to European time. Now that I’m working home prefer the normal 6 hour difference (east coast) so 2nd half doesn’t coincide with meal prep

  9. Roberto

    March 26, 2022 at 8:47 am

    If the MLS is to expand it’s viewers they need to keep their young star players. Those with academies have to get their development money back by holding on to players for 2-5 years. Then if the players still want to go to Europe their value would have increased and then the return would be larger. By staying with the club people would have more stars to bring them to stadiums and hopefully watch on TV.

  10. Ra

    March 25, 2022 at 10:15 pm

    MLS 5-6th best league in the world? Lol…
    No, I don’t think MLS would be a worldwide hit. EU and SA look down on it by first-hand account, and those are the 2 major consumer markets for soccer…

  11. Mercator

    March 25, 2022 at 9:52 pm

    I still think MLS should be able to get 300m from someone. The ratings have never been great. I get the latest numbers are particularly poor but its really nothing new and so I don’t think the calculus has really changed. MLS has a ton of games, potential english and spanish markets, you can probably bully them to put a minimal number of games on TV. Maybe they won’t get 300m but I think broadcasters would be foolish, it’s a small price to pay to essentially get everything from a top 5 US sports league. There are no similar opportunities elsewhere. Amazon just may be interested – they only go for “deals” and if MLS is under 250m I think thats just the sort of deal they may look for. Are international rights included? For a company like Amazon (or Apple), if they can roll out MLS rights globally I think thats a huge deal, a ton of football on at a time when there isn’t a ton of football on. I would prefer it to be fully streaming so Amazon, Apple, ESPN+ would all be great. I don’t think it matters its not on TV – MLS games on TV are not going to drive viewers (as the latest numbers show). Make sure the US qualifies for the World Cup, put that on broadcast TV, and then people will happy tune into MLS on streaming.

    Id pay $15 for peacock if it had all the games. I’d pay an additional $5 for all games 4k. That’s the usual $4.99 a month with $10 a month EPL add on, and then a $5 for 4k add-on. They would need to actually commit to a pre, post and halftime show though, and for the non-main games the halftime should go to the studio, not the world stream replays.

  12. dave

    March 25, 2022 at 5:47 pm

    Enjoyable discussion – a lot of good content. A few reactions:
    * You hypothesize a cost of ~$100/year for every EPL game on Peacock. How many people care enough about EPL to pay $100? Even 2 million incremental sign-ups would only drive $200 million per year. Add some advertising revenue, but that still seems likely to lock in very negative ROI very early in a new deal. ESPN can claim a strategic objective of Hispanic growth to justify high pay for La Liga. Comcast can claim a strategic objective of maintaining linear and pay TV to justify high pay for EPL. But if Comcast put all of EPL on Peacock, how could they justify poor ROI?
    * Enjoyed your discussion of ESPN+ and Spanish MLS rights. I have been intrigued by how many FA Cup games are available in Spanish on ESPN+. Your insights about ESPN+ priorities improved my understanding of this.
    * Did I hear correctly that NWSL produces games for CBS? I have credited CBS for a fine job covering NWSL, but perhaps credit belongs with NWSL. Or did I misunderstand?
    * You theorize MLS may be hurting due to the rights split from US Soccer. I am skeptical. If US Soccer rights are such a big draw for English bidders, why did US Soccer accept a rather modest offer for their English rights? If stand-alone US Soccer English rights are worth $30 million per year, they seem unlikely to be a main cause of MLS rights reputedly falling far short of $300 million per year expectations.

  13. Cpcva

    March 25, 2022 at 4:45 pm

    ÑASL went out of business in part from no tv coverage

    • Footballer

      April 8, 2022 at 1:25 am

      1970’s vs 2020+. Enough said.

  14. David

    March 25, 2022 at 4:00 pm

    MLS producing games and streaming, some with basic subscription, some with a MLS channel subscription on Amazon or Apple seems like a natural. More people probably have Prime than cable at this point.

    • dave

      March 25, 2022 at 6:16 pm

      @David, per “More people probably have Prime than cable at this point”, the latest data I saw had Prime at ~150 million US subscribers and growing. Pay/cable TV has roughly half as many subscribers and aspires more to stanch the bleeding.
      Ratios likely vary by subgroup and there may be a different average users per subscription for Prime and cable. While I have no hard data, I suspect all else equal a sports fan is far more likely to pay for linear TV than a non-sports-fan.

  15. trip

    March 25, 2022 at 1:21 pm

    Possible to get at transcript to these recordings? I think you’ll find a lot of people also clicking on the transcript to hear what you have to say!

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