By Paul Kennedy
Trying to capitalize on the popularity of the NFL Red Zone, the game-day channel that provides back-and-forth coverage of all the Sunday afternoon football during the fall, NBC Sports Network will on Saturday air "MLS Breakaway," a two-and-a-half studio show covering four MLS games at the same time on Rivalry Week. It will part of an unprecedented 10 hours of continuous MLS coverage on NBC and NBC Sports Network.
The team of Arlo White, Kyle Martino and Russ Thaler will call the New York Red Bulls' home opener against D.C. United on NBC at 12:30 p.m. ET and then head to the new NBC Sports Group International Broadcast Center in Stamford, Conn., to host "MLS Breakaway," beginning at 5:30 p.m. ET.
The studio show explains a few unusual start times (all ET) for the four games they'll cover: Montreal-Toronto FC (4 p.m.), Philadelphia-New England (5 p.m.); Columbus-San Jose (5:30 p.m.); and Real Salt Lake-Colorado (6 p.m.).
“Our goal is to be the destination for soccer fans, and MLS Rivalry Saturday provides a perfect vehicle for them to enjoy the games they love,” Pierre Moossa, Coordinating Producer for NBC Sports Group’s soccer coverage, said in a statement. “During MLS Breakaway, Arlo, Kyle and Russ will guide viewers through all the exciting soccer action and provide a balance between all four games.”
Before and after "MLS Breakaway," NBC Sports Network will air two full games of its own: Sporting Kansas City-Chicago (3 p.m. ET) and Seattle-Portland (8 p.m. ET).
VIEWING NOTE. The Red Bulls-D.C. game will not be available to New York's viewers on local affiliate WNBC due to its commitment to cover the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. New York viewers will be able to watch the game on NBC Sports Network and Cozi TV, a new national network developed by the NBC-owned television stations division of NBCUniversal, as well as on NBC Sports Live Extra, the live streaming platform.
ESPN2 RATINGS UPDATE. Sunday night's San Jose-New York game averaged 179,000 viewers on ESPN2 (h/t @Ourand_SBJ). ESPN2's only MLS broadcast that kicked off at least that late on a Sunday night last year was the Chivas USA-LA Galaxy SuperClasico (11 p.m. ET start) that averaged 163,000 viewers.
HANDLER ON REDDIT. Howard Handler, MLS's chief marketing officer, will be the subject of an AMA Q&A on the MLS section of Reddit, the social news and entertainment site on Thursday from 5-6 p.m. ET. Handler, who oversees marketing, strategy, communications, digital, events and club services for MLS, joined the league in January 2012. If you're not familiar with Reddit's AMA, it stands for "ask me anything."
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