While the rights holders were not much of a surprise after NBC announced weeks ago it was pulling out of the negotiations, there are several notable aspects to the deal announced Monday.
First is a Univision game of the week Fridays and second is a Sunday weekly doubleheader shared by ESPN and Fox at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Pacific.
“We’ve never had (broadcast) consistency on any night of the week,” said MLS Commish Don Garber about the regular weekly programming he hopes will drive ratings.
More than 125 nationally televised games will be shown on the three networks every season. FOX Sports 1 and ESPN will divide MLS playoff games, while MLS Cup and the MLS All-Star games will alternate each year between the two channels.
“We’re buying pork bellies,” said ESPN head honcho John Skipper, who said he believes the “ascendant sport” will see its lagging TV ratings grow in the future along with its live crowds.
From the press release:
Major League Soccer’s out-of-market package, currently serviced through the MLS Live and MLS Direct Kick packages, will be available to a wider audience via ESPN3, ESPN’s live multiscreen 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. Featuring more than 200 MLS matches each year, the MLS out-of-market package will also be available via over-the-top services such as Google Play, iTunes Apple TV, Roku and others.
With national television broadcasts anchored on Fridays and Sundays, MLS clubs will have exclusivity on Saturdays, allowing for additional flexibility to schedule games. All of the Saturday MLS matches will be available via the new out-of-market package on ESPN3 and WatchESPN.
All three networks will televise both U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Team matches. ESPN and FOX Sports 1 will split the English-language Men’s National Team broadcast package of approximately 10 games per year, and will share the schedule of Women’s National Team games. Univision Deportes is the exclusive Spanish language home of U.S. Soccer, broadcasting all of the U.S. Men’s National Team games, and a minimum of four Women’s National Team matches each year during the term.