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May 12, 2014 at 9:58 AM

MLS, U.S. Soccer sign TV and media rights deal with ESPN, FOX, Univision Deportes

There was big news on the business front Monday as MLS and U.S. Soccer and signed an eight-year TV and media rights deal with ESPN, FOX Sports and Univision Deportes, an agreement through the end of 2022.

Posted below are the details from the MLS news release:

*     *     *

For the first time in Major League Soccer’s history, all three television partners will feature an exclusive MLS Match of the Week, providing soccer fans throughout the country with a destination day and time for each network.  The Univision family of networks will televise a game of the week on Friday evenings — primarily on UniMás — and a wrap-up show on Sundays.  The Friday night match on the Univision family of networks will be the first time a Spanish-language television network will have its own exclusive night with a major professional sports league based in the United States.

Soccer fans will be able to enjoy a doubleheader of MLS action every Sunday, as ESPN and FOX Sports 1 will televise back-to-back MLS matches on Sundays at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. ET, respectively.  More than 125 MLS matches will be televised annually on the three networks.

The new agreements also will include extensive marketing and promotional support from all network partners, including dedicated campaign support and cross-promotion across all three networks for upcoming MLS and U.S. Soccer matches. In addition, ESPN, FOX Sports and Univision Deportes will develop multi-platform initiatives to build the profile of MLS and U.S. Soccer players, including tune-in campaigns, digital content and shoulder programming, social media marketing and integration of MLS and U.S. Soccer stars in network programs such as the ESPYS and Premio Lo Nuestro.

ESPN has broadcast MLS matches since the league’s inception in 1996, and the new agreement will extend ESPN’s partnership with the league to 27 seasons.  Fox Sports returns to MLS after previously broadcasting the league’s games from 2003 to 2011.  Univision’s new agreement with MLS will extend the relationship between the nation’s top Spanish-language network and the league to 20 seasons. 

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.

ESPN Networks

  • Minimum of 34 regular season games, on an exclusive basis, on Sundays at 5 p.m. ET primarily on ESPN2.
  • ESPN and FOX Sports will share MLS Cup Playoff matches outside of the two Univision games.
  • MLS Cup will alternate each year between ESPN and FOX Sports 1.
  • The AT&T MLS All-Star Game will alternate each year between ESPN and FOX Sports 1.
  • ESPN and FOX Sports will split all U.S. Soccer matches.
  • ESPN3 will carry the matches in MLS’ out-of-market package.
  • ESPN Radio and ESPN Deportes Radio networks have the rights to broadcast MLS matches.
  • ESPN obtains digital rights across all platforms and devices for the games it televises.

FOX Sports

  • Minimum of 34 regular season games, on an exclusive basis, on Sundays at 7 p.m. ET primarily on FOX Sports 1.
  • FOX Sports 1 and ESPN will split MLS Cup Playoff matches outside of the two Univision games.
  • MLS Cup will alternate each year between FOX Sports 1 and ESPN.
  • The AT&T MLS All-Star Game will alternate each year between FOX Sports 1 and ESPN.
  • FOX Sports obtains digital rights across all platforms and devices for the games it televises, including its FOX Sports GO mobile app and FOXSportsGO.com for desktops.
  • FOX Sports obtain digital highlight rights for MLS’s out-of-market package via FOX Sports digital platforms.
  • ESPN and FOX Sports 1 will split all U.S. Soccer matches.
  • FOX Sports Radio network has the opportunity to broadcast MLS matches.

Univision

  • Minimum of 34 regular season games, on an exclusive basis, on Friday evenings usually at 7 p.m. ET or 11 p.m. ET, primarily on UniMás.
  • Two MLS Cup Playoff matches per season, on an exclusive basis, during the knockout round.
  • The AT&T MLS All-Star Game and MLS Cup, exclusively in Spanish on Univision.
  • All U.S. Soccer Men’s National Team matches, including a minimum of four U.S. Women’s National Team matches each year over the term.
  • Exclusive MLS matches on the Univision networks will include Second Audio Program (SAP), providing viewers the option of watching games in English.  English audio also will be available for matches televised on Univision’s digital platforms.
  • Univision Deportes Network (UDN), Univision’s 24-hour sports network, will feature 5-7 consecutive Friday doubleheaders in May and June that will be surrounded by two hours of MLS ancillary programming.
  • UDN will televise a weekly Sunday MLS wrap-up program and a condensed MLS match of the week.
  • Univision obtains digital rights across all platforms and mobile devices for the games it televises.

*     *     *

Here are some quotes from the news release:

MLS commissioner Don Garber: “We are honored to partner with ESPN, FOX and Univision to form the most comprehensive U.S. media rights partnership in the history of soccer in our country. 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.”

U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati: “We are extremely pleased to have extended our partnerships with ESPN, FOX Sports and Univision. The commitment made by our television partners to broadcast such a wide range and quantity of games demonstrates the growing demand for soccer in our country and provides a platform for our growing fan base to follow the game both for club and country.”

ESPN, Inc. President and Disney Media Networks Co-Chairman John Skipper: “ESPN remains firmly committed to world-class soccer and this agreement underscores our belief that this is an ascendant sports property. We are proud to continue our longstanding relationship with MLS and U.S. Soccer, and the broad media rights we have acquired, including enhanced digital rights, will benefit all our platforms.”

FOX Sports president, COO and executive producer Eric Shanks: “This groundbreaking deal represents a giant leap forward in the exposure for, and the commitment to, soccer in the U.S.  Not only are we making a significant financial commitment, but we also plan to mobilize FOX’s substantial promotional resources to raise awareness and grow the fan base for our nation’s premier soccer league and its national teams.”

Univision Deportes President Juan Carlos Rodriguez: “Soccer is the No. 1 sport for Hispanic Americans and we are proud to continue our longstanding partnership with both MLS and U.S. Soccer. We are excited to bring the Hispanic audience together around this passionate sport.  I am optimistic that our comprehensive partnership will accelerate the growth of soccer even further over the next decade.”

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