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MLS and NBC strike historic deal
by Paul Kennedy, August 10th, 2011 2:26PM

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TAGS:  men's national team, mls, soccer business, television

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[TELEVISION WATCH] MLS reached a three-year agreement with NBC and NBC Sports Group to show 45 MLS games and four U.S. men’s national team games on NBC and NBC Sports Network (currently VERSUS) each season, beginning in 2012.

NBC will broadcast two regular-season MLS games, two playoff games and two U.S. men's games, marking the first time four MLS matches will be broadcast on English-language network television since 2002. The NBC Sports Network will televise 38 regular-season games, three playoff games and two U.S. Men’s National Team matches. All telecasts on NBC and NBC Sports Network will consist of pre-game and post-game coverage.

Sources told Sports Business Daily the agreement is worth $10 million a year.

"Everyone at the NBC Sports Group is thrilled to begin this partnership with Major League Soccer," said Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBC Sports Group. "MLS is a perfect fit for our new group, and we are uniquely positioned to help grow soccer in the United States with extensive coverage on NBC Sports Network, significant programming on the broadcast network and our growing digital platforms. Additionally, this agreement complements the partnerships that five of our regional sports networks have with their local MLS teams."

The agreement will mark to end of MLS's coverage on Fox Soccer Channel.

Their agreement expired after the end of the 2010 season but was extended for one year following protracted negotiations that failed to net a long-term agreement.

MLS will benefit from having its 2012 television partners in place ahead of time so it can plan the 2012 season -- that wasn't the case this year -- and the three-year term means all current MLS TV deals will expire at the end of the 2014 season.

MLS also has agreements with ESPN and Univision.



0 comments
  1. David Sirias
    commented on: August 10, 2011 at 4:43 p.m.
    I have serious problems with Garber and the playoff system But all credit due on this one. Garber knows that NBC sport channel is in a lot more households than FSC. He knows that MLS is treated like an ugly step sibling on FSC. He also knows that NBC has telemundo, and the whole enchilada goes up to bid around the time of WC '14. If MLS plays semi attractive soccer the next few years and keeps the viewership on an upward trajectory, Garber knows that bidding for tv rights will be ginormous relatively speaking because the bidding will have world cup rights at stake.

  1. Kent James
    commented on: August 10, 2011 at 5:09 p.m.
    David, you make some very good points, but I'm concerned about the less prominent games in the package (38+2). It seems like between ESPN and FSC, currently there are a lot of MLS games available. The new deal seems like most of the games will be on Versus, which seems like a less prominent channel than either ESPN or FSC (but maybe I'm wrong; in our area, it carries predominantly cycling and hockey). Since most of the games will be on that channel, I hope this will not reduce access for the casual fan. Or will ESPN and FSC continue to show games (part of the deals that expire at the end of the 2014 season), and the games on Versus will be additional games (in which case there is no downside)? Additionally, the nice thing about having games on ESPN, is that I would guess sportscenter would be more likely to promote games on ESPN, and soccer needs the "street cred" with other athletes that is provided by coverage on Sportscenter. I hope the switch to NBC does not diminish coverage (which has grown in recent years).

  1. David Sirias
    commented on: August 10, 2011 at 5:24 p.m.
    Versus will become the NBC Sports Channel It's already in the works. Their main property is the NHL and they pour lots of money into production. Hockey fans are delighted with the coverage. Likewise MLS will be treated with the respect it deserves at NBCSC for many reasons besides those I discussed above. Nothing changes at ESPN. You will still see those ESPN games as well. FSC will ( have to) evolve into full tilt, hopefully better, Euro-soccer to survive. Which is fine. There is an audience for that too. My only concern is all the hockey on NBCSC--almost every night in the spring. MLS must have ( or better have) negotiated a weekly soccer block of time on NBCSC Which night (or nights) of the week is unknown as far as all the repoting I have read.

  1. Roger Sokol
    commented on: August 10, 2011 at 6:33 p.m.
    Kudos to MLS for getting this deal. It may not be an earth shattering amount, but it certainly signals the continued growth and progress by the league. Now, there are 3 networks bidding for MLS games which ultimately means bigger TV deals. That NBC would make the offer also speaks to improving TV viewership for MLS. Fox Soccer Channel, though an essential for hard core soccer fans, isn't available to everyone. In most cases, it's in an add on (at a cost) sports package. Some cable/satellite systems do not offer it at all. Most casual fans won't pay the extra amount to get it unless the package has other sports the subscriber wants. So NBCSN should give greater access to the league for the general public.

  1. Amos Annan
    commented on: August 11, 2011 at 3:09 a.m.
    Seems like a huge step forward to me. Hope it is successful. Also, I believe I represent a large number of people who have shifted away from baseball and football to watching soccer on TV. Many like me that grew to love the sport by coaching their kids.

  1. I w Nowozeniuk
    commented on: August 13, 2011 at 5:11 p.m.
    Great for soccer exposure and its supporters...one big problem, the video telecasts of soccer games have no rhyme or reason when it comes to cameo closeups of everything that has nothing to do with the game in progress, i.e. mention a players name and the camera zooms on him for 5-8 seconds and the action of played disappears only to watch a player's face or back...the scope of the game is a wide angle lense to see the intrinsic flow of the players and the ball, not to constantly isolate a player with the ball...too many cameras on the pitch destroy the essence of the game...just as one too many commentators have to much to say about nothing.


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