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Bookend nights key to MLS in new deal
by Paul Kennedy, May 12th, 2014 1:32PM
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TAGS:  mls, soccer business, television

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[SOCCER ON THE AIR] The key aspects of the eight-year media rights deal that MLS and U.S. Soccer signed with ESPN, Fox and Univision give MLS three dedicated windows on weekends and give ESPN out-of-market rights to other MLS matches to air online at ESPN3. Sporting Business Daily reported the collective rights paid by the three networks will be $90 million.

The eight-year agreement begins in 2015 and goes through the end of 2022, and all three networks will show a minimum of 34 MLS regular-season games in their time frames. They will give MLS its most consistent presence on national televison and bookend its weekend action. Previous efforts at Games of the Year fizzled out.

MLS Weekend TV:
Friday: Univision (primarily UniMas), 7 or 11 p.m. ET
Sunday: ESPN (primarily ESPN2), 5 p.m. ET
Sunday: Fox Sports (primarily Fox Sports 1), 7 p.m. ET

Major League Soccer’s out-of-market package, currently serviced through the MLS Live and MLS Direct Kick packages, will be available on ESPN3, ESPN’s live multichannel sports network currently in more than 92 million homes, and WatchESPN, available to fans who receive their video or Internet subscription from an affiliated provider. It will also be available via over-the-top services such as Google Play, iTunes Apple TV, Roku and others.

ESPN and Fox Sports will alternate coverage of MLS Cup and the MLS All-Star Game. Univision will continue with exclusive Spanish-language rights to the events.

ESPN has been an MLS broadcaster since the league's launch in 1996. Fox Sports returns to MLS after a three-year absence. Univision’s new agreement with MLS will extend its relationship between the Spanish-language network to 20 seasons.

“We are honored to partner with ESPN, FOX and Univision to form the most comprehensive U.S. media rights partnership in the history of soccer in our country,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber in a statement.  “The commitment from our television partners in terms of structure, length and magnitude is unprecedented, and these new partnerships are another strong indicator of the League’s continued growth and the overall fan interest in our sport.”

ESPN Networks:
-- Minimum of 34 regular season games, on an exclusive basis, on Sundays at 5 p.m. ET primarily on ESPN2.
-- Split with FOX Sports playoff matches outside of the two Univision games.
-- MLS Cup will alternate each year between ESPN and FOX Sports 1.
-- The AT&T MLS All-Star Game will alternate each year between ESPN and FOX Sports 1.
-- ESPN and FOX Sports will split all U.S. Soccer matches.
-- ESPN3 will carry the matches in MLS’ out-of-market package.
-- ESPN Radio and ESPN Deportes Radio networks have the rights to broadcast MLS matches.
-- ESPN obtains digital rights across all platforms and devices for the games it televises.

Fox Sports:
-- Minimum of 34 regular season games, on an exclusive basis, on Sundays at 7 p.m. ET primarily on Fox Sports 1.
-- Split with ESPN playoff matches outside of the two Univision games.
-- MLS Cup will alternate each year between Fox Sports 1 and ESPN.
-- The AT&T MLS All-Star Game will alternate each year between FOX Sports 1 and ESPN.
-- FOX Sports obtains digital rights across all platforms and devices for the games it televises, including its FOX Sports GO mobile app and FOXSportsGO.com for desktops.
-- FOX Sports obtain digital highlight rights for MLS’s out-of-market package via FOX Sports digital platforms.
-- ESPN and FOX Sports 1 will split all U.S. Soccer matches.

Univision:
-- Minimum of 34 regular-season games, on an exclusive basis, on Friday evenings usually at 7 p.m. ET or 11 p.m. ET, primarily on UniMas.
-- Two playoff matches per season, on an exclusive basis, during the knockout round.
-- The AT&T MLS All-Star Game and MLS Cup, exclusively in Spanish on Univision.
-- All U.S. men’s national team matches, plus a minimum of four U.S. women’s National Team matches each year.
-- Exclusive MLS matches on the Univision networks will include Second Audio Program (SAP), providing viewers the option of watching games in English.  English audio also will be available for matches televised on Univision’s digital platforms.
-- UDN, Univision’s 24-hour sports network, will feature 5-7 consecutive Friday doubleheaders in May and June that will be surrounded by two hours of MLS ancillary programming.
-- UDN will televise a weekly Sunday MLS wrap-up program and a condensed MLS match of the week.
-- Univision obtains digital rights across all platforms and mobile devices for the games it televises.


3 comments
  1. Glenn Maddock
    commented on: May 12, 2014 at 7 p.m.
    I'm very disappointed NBCSN lost out. They've had the best MLS coverage of them all. ESPN was weak in the past and Fox & Univision were terrible and low-budget. They all need to raise their game to equal what NBCSN did.
  1. Zoe Willet
    commented on: May 19, 2014 at 1:44 a.m.
    Only 2 games per week in English? What a rip! Why no Saturday games? That's when most of the games are played. I don't think you're going to raise soccer's popularity like that.
  1. Joey Tremone
    commented on: May 19, 2014 at 8:42 p.m.
    "Why no Saturday games? That's when most of the games are played." --Well, you answered your own question, didn't you? Why would they put a game on TV when the people who are interested are at other games?

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