Monday, July 31, 2006

MLS and Fox Soccer Channel reach a $20m deal

Fox Soccer Channel (FSC) has signed a deal with MLS's commercial arm Soccer United Marketing (SUM) to broadcast matches through 2010.

"We are delighted to extend our partnership with Major League Soccer and the U.S. Soccer Federation," said David Sternberg, executive vice president and general manager of FSC. "With the growth of MLS, surging rates of participation and record-setting audiences for the recently concluded 2006 FIFA World Cup, interest in soccer in this country is at an all-time high, and this landmark deal will solidify FSCs status as the sport's pre-eminent U.S. television provider. We will give our viewers the most cutting-edge, in-depth and knowledgeable coverage of MLS and U.S. Soccer matches that they have ever seen."

The deal is worth $20-million and along with MLS matches includes U.S. men’s and women’s national teams (two games apiece), international friendly matches and the U.S. Open Cup.

It is rumored that a deal with ABC/ESPN will be announced soon worth $7-8 million a year. With the FSC money and money from HDNet and Univision, MLS will bring in about $15-million a year from their television deals.

This money could completely change the shape of the MLS. Hopefully they will place a nice amount of it into the pay for players.

Anyway, FSC will air 13 regular season and 3 playoff matches this year. For 2007-2010, they will air 28 Saturday night games.

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5 Comments:

Blogger Pitch to Pub said...

Mike, I forwarded your post here to some soccer buddies as work, and one responded questioning your statement; "This money could completely change the shape of the MLS." I think he assumed you were thinking extremely big with your statement, and that this additional TV revenue might help the MLS compete on an even level with Europe for international soccer talent. I believe your statement is far more realistic given where the MLS is.

I would interpret your statement to mean that the league is gaining some stability with this deal, which could lead to more long term corp sponsorship (ie. more revenues), perhaps a change in the salary cap structure to a more capitalistic model, and that it could perhaps add more leverage to the case for municipalities building dedicated soccer only venues.

Would you be willing to clarify how you vision this TV deal altering the state of the MLS?

Thanks!

11:05 AM  
Blogger Mike H said...

Thanks for the comment. I don't think this will bring the MLS on level with Europe, instead, I think it will, as you said, add to the stability of the league.

After more then 10-years, the league still has the image of a 'fly by night' operation. However, when you have people paying a good amount of money to air your matches, it gives you credibility. They can use this credibility to help get better players and bigger sponsors.

In addition, with networks paying for the rights, they are going to promote the product. This means commercials advertising the league (I can't remember the last time I saw a commercial advertising a MLS match on ESPN outside of during a MLS match) and maybe they will even talk about it on Sports Center and other such shows.

The more people are talking about MLS, the greater the chance a casual soccer fan might tune in to see what is happening.

The MLS is still a long way off from the top leagues of Europe, but I think this could be a nice step in that direction.

Mike H

1:12 PM  
Blogger The Manly Ferry said...

Interesting line of thinking. Personally, I have drawn greater relief from the stadiums. They may not have cured all ills (see Bridgeview, Chicago; attendance), but there's just something more assuring about a building going up than a five-year television contract, no matter how nice it is. So, yeah, interesting line of thinking. I'm certainly not saying it's an incorrect line, but have to confess you see more in it than I do.

Still, very happy to see the deal go through. It definitely can't hurt. And, assuming my marriage survives the strain, it's more soccer on the TV for me. What's not to like?

2:52 PM  
Blogger Mike H said...

Manly,

I think stadiums play a big roll in it as well, but what hope do teams have of filling those stadiums if the league is not on TV? People need to see it to know it is there. Hopefully the TV deal will allow for more advertising of the league and for better production values, thus adding fans.

As with the stadiums, a TV deal does not cure everything, but it does help move things in the right direction.

Let's hope this move helps the league, but not, as you state, at the expense of your (or my) marriage.

8:38 PM  
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12:26 AM  

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