By, Kyle Gibson
Major League Soccer increased its foothold in the national television market Monday by signing an eight year deal with ESPN, Fox Sports and Univision. The deal included rights for those networks to exclusively broadcast US men’s national team games. Here are your humble blogger’s thoughts on the most important parts of the deal.
1) Networks are finally putting a ring on the finger– As part of the deal, the networks will broadcast a minimum of 34 regular season games. That is so much more than the current deal. If the MLS wants to grow on a national TV scale, it’s important to have games on national tv. If that sounds simplistic, it is, but that amount of games hasn’t been guaranteed in recent memory. In a sense, it forces the networks into a solid commitment. There is no more simply throwing MLS on to fill time.
2) Weekly time-slots should create stability- As a fan, it was always frustrating to have to go MLS hunting each week. If NBCSN or ESPN even had a game on, it would be at a strange time. One week, it would be Saturday at 11 pm, the next Sunday at 6:30 and the next on Thursday at 8:00. MLS had long wanted a weekly slot, which is now something this deal provides. Univision or Unimas will broadcast a game every Friday at 7 pm or 11 pm Eastern. Sunday becomes MLS day for ESPN and Fox as ESPN will start at 5 and Fox Sports 1 or 2 will air a game at 7. There will also be cross-promotion from all networks, similar to what ESPN and TNT have done with the NBA this season.
3) A tie-in with the US Men’s National Team- Yesterday’s press conference also announced USMNT exclusivity for all networks involved. The national team has had more success attracting viewers than the MLS, mainly because of the run in World Cup 2010. The MLS could gain notoriety for being featured along with the US team. After all, yesterday’s preliminary World Cup roster included 15 MLS stars. That’s half the roster. The networks could play up USMNT ties during promos, letting fans know their national heroes play in the domestic league. The US team is a rising star that already shines bright.
All in all, hats of to Don Garber, the MLS commish. His league finally got the TV deal it deserves.