Possibly one of the biggest moments in Major League Soccer is about to occur. MLS and US Soccer have announced a massive media rights deal that will bring in new revenue for the next eight years.
The new eight-year deal with ESPN, Fox and Univision, estimated at a price tag of $90 million per year according to the Sports Business Journal gives the league a more consistent and streamlined schedule moving forward.
ESPN and Fox will share the English-language rights to MLS and U.S. Soccer matches over the next eight years. The combined average rights fee of $90 million per year represents a stark increase from the $18 million annual average the league receives in its current deals with ESPN, NBC and Univision.
More consistent timeslots
The new deals include the rights to U.S. men's national team matches and call for consistent days and times in the national programming of MLS match telecasts, something the league has never had before. Univision will have exclusive MLS broadcasts on Fridays, while ESPN and Fox Sports 1 will present games back-to-back on Sundays.
Both Fox and ESPN2 will broadcast 34 regular season games, at the 5pm ET (ESPN2) and 7pm ET (Fox Sports 1). The two will share playoff matches outside of two that will air on Univision. Both networks will also alternate in the broadcasting of both MLS Cup and MLS All-Star games each year.
More than 125 MLS matches will be televised annually on the three networks.
What it means on digital
The 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.
What it means for FC Dallas
Locally speaking, FCD will still continue to have their local broadcasts. But it will be interesting to see what the ESPN side of things mean for these broadcasts. Will they require a little more production? Time will tell on these answers but I think in terms of a local broadcasts, not a lot will change for FCD fans.
What it means elsewhere
I'm sure more folks will dive into things but out in front for me that price tag has to mean that player salaries and the salary cap in general have to increase in the coming years. Between this money for TV and the upcoming expansion fees for new clubs, there is no excuse for players not to be paid better.
If you ask me, players may have the upper hand in the CBA discussions coming up after today's news.
Also, this length of a deal is big too. The next eight years mean the league has to continue to grow in a big way as they'll be up against other leagues once again for TV deals once this time period is up. But that may be a topic for another day.
What do you make of this news? Disappointed to see MLS Live be taken away in terms of streaming purposes? Excited for the league given the number paid by these networks?