[SOCCER ON THE AIR] MLS and U.S. Soccer will hold a news conference on Monday afternoon at the Arena in New York at which they are expected to announce a new broadcast rights deal that will take effect in 2015.
In January, Soccer Business Journal reported that MLS and U.S. Soccer was in advanced negotiations with ESPN and Fox for a rights deal covering MLS and the U.S. national teams for $70 million per year for at least eight years.
On Saturday, Philly.com's Jonathan Tannenwald reported that ESPN and Fox will hold the English-language rights while Univision will retain the Spanish-language rights.
The New York Times reported on Sunday night that the deal will include weekly broadcast windows for MLS games on Friday night (primarily on UniMas) and Sunday night (games on ESPN and Fox Sports 1 at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. ET). It also suggested that the rights fees for MLS and the national team games could be more than the $70 million per year reported by the Soccer Business Journal.
English-Language Rights Holders:
FOX:MLS (2015-22), World Cup (2018/22), Women's World Cup (2015/2019), German Bundesliga (beginning in 2015-16).
ESPN:MLS (2014-22), World Cup 2014, Euro 2016.
NBC: MLS 2014, English Premier League.
BEIN SPORTS:Spanish La Liga, Italian Serie A, French Ligue 1.
GOLTV:German Bundesliga (2014-15).
Fox was an MLS rights holder through the 2011 season, but NBC replaced it for the last three seasons. What has since changed is that Fox has acquired the FIFA rights to the next two World Cups. The new agreement with MLS and U.S. Soccer is expected to go through 2022, covering the next two World Cups in Russia and Qatar.
Fox has also since dropped Fox Soccer Channel on which MLS appeared and launched Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2 in competition with ESPN and ESPN2. Ratings on Fox Sports 2 have been dismal. Audiences for midweek Concacaf Champions League matches on Fox have always been low despite their prime-time starts, but the five matches involving MLS teams in averaged less than 14,000 viewers a game with as low as 6,000 viewers for the San Jose-Toluca match and 4,000 viewers for Cruz Azul-Sporting Kansas City.
NBC, which just finished its first season of English Premier League coverage, announced in January that it had pulled out of negotiations for the MLS and U.S. Soccer broadcast rights.
The irony is that NBCSN is averaging 214,000 viewers per game through seven games -- more than double the average at the same point in 2013 and 2014.
One of the keys to the new broadcast deal concerns streaming rights to MLS games not picked up on national television and currently carried by MLS Direct Kick package and MLS Live online. Streaming rights are becoming increasingly valuable to networks, especially as they seek younger viewers who do not subscribe to cable or watch most of their programming on devices other than televisions.