MLS Signs Historic Broadcast Deal

Posted on May 12, 2014 by Jim Williams

D.C. United and the rest of Major League Soccer got an early Christmas gift May 12. The league signed a record-breaking television and digital rights deal with ESPN, Fox and Univision for a reported $90 million per year during the next eight years. The deal will begin in 2015 and expire in 2022, giving MLS its strongest media package in the league's history. 

D.C. United spokesman Craig Stouffer said the deal was good news for the team.

"We're excited about what the deal means for Major League Soccer's exposure and the growth of the league's brand," Stouffer said. "All these positives affect D.C. United and every other team in the league."

The landmark deal means that for the first time in the league's history, MLS will have three networks providing it with a Match of the Week. The financial breakdown, according to SportsBusiness Daily, will be $75 million per year, coming from the combined English language rights fees paid for by ESPN and Fox Sports. Meanwhile, MLS will get an additional $15 million per year from its Spanish language partner Univision. 

The bottom line is the deal means more money for each franchise to invest in player development and acquisition. 

"The commitment from our television partners in terms of structure, length and magnitude is unprecedented," MLS commissioner Don Garber said in a statement, "and these new partnerships are another strong indicator of the league's continued growth and the overall fan interest in our sport."

Something new to the deal is that Fox Sports 1 will split the English-language U.S. men's national soccer team broadcast package of approximately 10 games per year, and divide equally the schedule of U.S. women's national soccer team games with ESPN. 

The new deal gives Univision, ESPN and Fox the rights to a minimum of 34 regular-season games each. Univision will air its games as part of a weekly Friday night MLS Game of the Week package.

ESPN and Fox will air their broadcasts as part of a two-network doubleheader, with both games being telecast on Sundays.

ESPN will have the 5 p.m. slot, and its 34 game packages will be called "MLS Game of the Week."

Fox Sports 1 will air its 34 regular-season games in prime time at 7 p.m. ESPN is calling the package "Soccer Night In America."  

Fox Sports 1 and ESPN2 will alternate the airings of the AT&T MLS All-Star Game and the MLS Cup game each year. Both networks will be given the opportunity to televise the MLS SuperDraft and other marquee MLS events. 

ESPN3/WatchESPN acquired out-of-market rights to more than 200 MLS matches per season. Also, Fox Sports 2 Go will be offering a broadband package of games, pushing the number of MLS telecasts to about 300. That means more MLS soccer can be seen than ever before via broadband on computers, tablets and smartphones. 

Both ESPN Radio and Fox Sports Radio will broadcast MLS matches, playoffs, the championships and other special league events. 

The Univison deal calls for the network to broadcast a minimum of 34 regular-season games, on an exclusive basis, either at 7 p.m. or 11 p.m. EST Fridays, primarily on UniMás. Univision Deportes Network, Univision's 24-hour sports network, will also broadcast 5-7 consecutive Friday doubleheaders in May and June, which will be surrounded by two hours of MLS ancillary programming.

Univision will handle all of the Spanish language broadcasts of the MLS SuperDraft, the All-Star Game, the playoffs and the MLS Cup. Also, it will air all U.S. men's national team matches and at least four U.S. women's national team matches annually.

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