Monday was a huge day for soccer in the US as Major League Soccer and US Soccer signed a landmark eight year TV deal with ESPN, FOX Sports and Univision Deportes that is worth a reported a $90 million a year. That figure is five times the amount of MLS’s current media deals, but it’s unclear how the league and federation will split the revenue.
“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,” commissioner Don Garber said in a press release. U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati made similar comments.
“We’re thrilled with the deal,” ESPN chief John Skipper said. “You will see ESPN turn to a real emphasis on the domestic game in the next eight years. We think this is the right time to drive it through.
“You’ll see us engaged in a whole new way with MLS.”
The new deal marks a return for dedicated broadcasting windows on each network. Univisión, primarily through new channel UniMás, will broadcast at 7 or 11 p.m. ET on Fridays. ESPN and Fox Sports 1 will go back-to-back on Sunday matches at 5 and 7 p.m. ET, respectively. (Canadian channel TSN, partly owned by ESPN, has a deal that runs through 2016.)
All three networks have committed to showing a minimum of 34 regular-season games in their dedicated windows. As the only Spanish-language network in the deal, Univisión receives exclusive access to the MLS All-Star Game, MLS Cup final and all United States men’s national team games. ESPN and Fox will alternate airing the All-Star Game and playoff final, and they will share national team matches
This is a huge agreement for Major League Soccer. The biggest leagues in the world get that way due to TV and media revenue. The new deal should mean that MLS clubs get at least $3m a year now in national TV revenue, an amount that should increase the salary cap by a couple of million dollars a year.
For MLS to continue to grow, it needs a national platform to showcase its games, which this deal gives it, plus better players, which the increased salary cap should allow them to get and keep.