Major League Soccer’s landmark TV deal has finally arrived.
After months of negotiations, the league and the U.S. Soccer federation announced a big-money broadcast-rights deal with ESPN, Fox and Univision. The eight-year agreement will run through 2022 and will bring areported $720 million
to the league.
It’s a tremendous step forward for the still-growing league, and also for U.S. soccer to extend national-team broadcast rights through the next two World Cup cycles.
The combined deal will see MLS rights balloon from $23 million under the current deal with ESPN, NBC and Univision (which ends this year) to at least $90 million per year.According to Sports Business Daily
, ESPN and Fox will pay $75 million per year for English-language rights to MLS and U.S. soccer matches. Univision will pay $15 million per year for Spanish-language rights.
Television ratings for MLS games remain low, but ESPN and Fox are banking on the continued growth of the league. Next year, MLS will increase to 21 teams with New York City FC and Orlando City joining as expansion franchises. Additional franchises in Miami and Atlanta are coming in the next few years.
“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.”
This is a partnership that will elevate “the domestic game to new heights” and will be the most comprehensive broadcast rights package in U.S. soccer history, he said in a news conference Monday afternoon.
Starting in 2015, ESPN and Fox will become equal partners. Both stations will offer an MLS Match of the Week on Sunday (at least 34 matches each), giving fans a destination viewing day and time for each network — a doubleheader with matches starting at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. primarily on ESPN 2 and Fox Sports 1. Fox, airing in the 6 p.m. slot, will return to calling its matchSoccer Night in America
The MLS Cup and All-Star Game will alternate between ESPN and Fox on a year-by-year basis.
Univision will broadcast at least 34 regular-season games on Friday nights at 6 or 10 p.m. on UniMas. An English-language commentary feed will be available.
All three networks will share U.S. soccer matches, and ESPN and Fox will evenly split the matches. Univision will carry all U.S. men’s matches and will commit to airing at least four U.S. women’s games.
More than 125 league matches will air nationally between the three networks. The deal allows local broadcast partners to retain Saturday night matches. Currently, Sporting Kansas City’s broadcast partner is KMCI (Channel 38)
Major League Soccer’s out-of-market package, MLS Live and MLS Direct Kick,will become available to wider audiences via ESPN3 and WatchESPN
. The service is available to fans with a video or Internet subscription to an affiliated provider. The service will be available to users of Google Play, Apple TV, Roku and other over-the-top services.
Fox and Univision will also broadcast its matches on all platforms and devices.
All three networks currently offer soccer programming. ESPN shows MLS games and will broadcast the World Cup later this summer. Fox offers the UEFA Champions League, the next women’s World Cup in 2015 and takes over the World Cup in 2018. Univision currently broadcasts Major League Soccer.