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NBC agrees three-year deal with MLS for TV rights

Garber - Getty


45 Major League Soccer games and four US Men's National Team matches per season.

That's the television rights deal that NBC reached with the MLS today.  NBC outbid Fox Soccer Channel for the rights to the MLS package. FSC currently has the rights for the remainder of 2011.

NBC will televise two regular season MLS games, two playoff games and two appearances by the USMNT, while the NBC Sports Network (currently VERSUS) will broadcast 38 regular-season games, three playoff games and two USMNT matches. Each televised game with have a pre and post-game session.

MLS is one of the fastest growing leagues in the country, and the agreement marks the first time four MLS matches will be broadcast on English language channel television since 2002.  

MLS Commissioner and Soccer United Marketing CEO Don Garber and Jon Miller, the president of programming of NBC Sports and VERSUS, will be available during a press conference at Lincoln Financial Field at 7:30pm ET prior to the USMNT match against Mexico.

Mark Lazarus - NBC Sports Group Chairman

“Everyone at the NBC Sports Group is thrilled to begin this partnership with Major League Soccer,” said Lazarus. “MLS is a perfect fit for our new group, and we are uniquely positioned to help grow soccer in the United States with extensive coverage on NBC Sports Network, significant programming on the broadcast network and our growing digital platforms. Additionally, this agreement complements the partnerships that five of our regional sports networks have with their local MLS teams.”

Don Garber - MLS Commissioner and Soccer United Marketing CEO

“Our new partnership with the NBC Sports Group is a significant step forward for Major League Soccer and U.S. Soccer,” said MLS Commissioner and Soccer United Marketing CEO Don Garber.  “The NBC Sports Group is world-renowned for its award-winning coverage, superb broadcast quality and promotional expertise. We are excited to be part of NBC’s ambitious plans for soccer, and look forward to reaching a considerable audience on multiple platforms.”


What do you think of the agreement? Glad to have another channel to watch your MLS matches?  How fast is the sport of soccer rising in the United States?


  1. Interestingly, the way the deal is structured it expires at the same time as the ESPN/MLS deal ends. This could be a good move to create a bidding war between ESPN and NBC over rights in 2014. Of course MLS would have to show that it can get good ratings with Versus/NBC Sports in the meantime.

  2. Whether we want to admit it or not, Versus saved the NFL and boosted its ratings to the point that ESPN is positioning to get it back when the Versus contract runs out. They may not be everywhere, but they –along with NBC– will be good for MLS. Plus, from what I’ve read there are about 20-30 million more households that get Versus/NBC Sports than there are that get FSC.

  3. The original press release has the correct sentence, which was English language network television. Channels we can all get for free over the air rather than requiring a cable/satellite provider.

  4. AT&T UVerse just added FSC in HD this past week, after having carried FSC in SD since its inception.

    I’m sure there was a market/carriage conflict that resulted in the delay for rollout. Fox Soccer Channel is a great idea that’s executed so very poorly. Bad production, bad commentary, and an apparent disinterest in pushing its product in HD on every carrier (you can’t tell me the company that owns FOX News, FX, and a few other properties could bully FSC to be in HD as well…)

    Either way, VERSUS wanted MLS broadcasting for years… and now they got it. I would have loved to have more games on NBC nationally… but maybe it’ll happen soon enough.

  5. I would love to have Paul and Phil cross over from cycling to do some soccer as well. They probably know as much about the game as any American would.

  6. “the agreement marks the first time four MLS matches will be broadcast on English language channel television since 2002”

    what in the world was this sentence supposed to mean?? last time I watched an mls game on espn2, it was in english.

  7. My understanding is that Versus is carried by more cable providers than FSC, which, if true is good news. Plus, NBC in my opinion does a better job w/ sports programming than anyone, including ABC/ESPN.

  8. im telling you people can not read…..that is 4 games on national tv and the rest on versus which is fantastic for a first deal. Come the next tv deal, they will see how the 4 games did in ratings along with the playoff games and see if they want to add more…..this is a great deal all around for mls and the fans….dont see how anyone can complain.

  9. your an idiot. More people now have versus then fsc…and ever since versus landed the NHL it has gotten more popular. This is a fantastic move and deal for MLS and the fans. The game is finally growing to the point that we see some real progress and make no mistake about it, without TV deals no league in the world will grow.

  10. Versus does a good job with the NHL. If we get anywhere near that quality of coverage it is a great thing.

    I like it. This is a marked improvement over the last negotiations when the bidders were Fox and uh…Fox. I like that broadcasters are fighting for a piece of the MLS pie. Soccer America reported the numbers involved and it was a pretty hefty amount for a developing league like MLS. I hope in 2014 when all the TV deals run out, there is an even more intense bidding process and much MUCH higher rights fees.
    Looks like it’s going in the right direction.

  11. 32 teams in the league… depending on your market and including Thursday night games, and Sunday night football… you get to see 10-12 of them play each weekend. Less if one of your teams is featured on one of the nationally broadcast blocks.

    Also, the NFL is unlike soccer leagues around the world. Theoretically, any NFL team any given year can compete for the championship. We’ll be realistic and say 25 of 32 teams can actually compete any given year. In the EPL, there’s no way Blackburn or Stoke can ever expect to challenge for the title.

    So, if only being able to see ~33% of the teams play any given weekend and ~50% of the good ones, then yes… access is “amazing.”

    I’ll give you that the playoffs are easy access for everyone.

    I do have to say, though, that I’m hardly claiming nobody can see the NFL if they try. There is a reason, however, people flock to sports bars for the pay-per-view and the NFL Network exists.

  12. The NHL signed with Versus out of desperation. ESPN tried to lowball them, so they took a bad deal from an obscure network.

    Hockey is still recovering from the work stoppage. I will say, however, the Versus is a better network because of the new connections with Comcast/NBC. If MLS had more leverage, they could have demanded more games on NBC. Doesn’t seem to be a ton of first-rate sports action on Saturday afternoons (if you’re not watching European football or, what, golf? Maybe the odd baseball game?).

  13. NBC should buy out GolTV altogether…Hudson and his partner know the American game well…they could be the Madden/Summerall of NBC/MLS

  14. Ives, part your rationale in moving from ESPN to FSC was that you were impressed with the vision FSC had for soccer coverage in North America. Does this announcement change your thinking at all?

  15. Versus is standard on Comcast, FSC is extra. Versus is actually channel 7 for me, right next to the ESPNs and Comcast SportsNet. So it’s all good in DC at least.

  16. Perhaps you should actually, ya know, read the friggin’ article before deciding to post an uninformed post and confirm your stupidity. Just sayin’.

    As for the news, this is welcome. With NBC getting behind Versus (NBC Sports Network), this will no doubt raise the profile of the league on a national level. Well done, MLS!

  17. Seriously! What is with some of these people and that phrase? And this guy provides no explanation for why I am a “eurodouche” or whatever he wants to call me…

  18. Before it was Versus, it was the OLN (The Outdoor Life network) giving you a steady diet of fishing, hunting, hiking, and the occasional Mountain Bike adventure. The then programming chief of the channel then took a chance and bought (for a song) the US rights for the Tour de France BEFORE Lance Armstrong became a legend and won seven tours. The revenue from those seven years when their ratings went through the roof, allowed them to buy the rights to the NHL (for a song) who were then “crippled” by the strike season. For a while OLN/Versus was the only nation-wide channel carrying NHL games. Then came the name change to Versus and more mainstream sports programming before a protracted battle with Comcast who wanted more money or off basic cable and basic satellite. Versus won! After the Comcast/NBC merger, NBC bought Versus to add some mainstream sports programming opposite of and in competition to; the local Fox Sports affiliates and the 800 lb gorilla in the room the Disney/ABC/ESPN networks.

    Before the NBC buyout, it was known that Versus was preparing for a bid for some kind of Soccer rights. With NBC backing, we see the fruits of this.

    The old OLN/Versus people were crazy like a fox and created a great revenue stream with the odd event like the TdF and the “cast-off” NHL. This is their niche, they find good and interesting sports programming, but it for a (comparative) song and market, market, market and make money.

    There is no doubt to me they will be good to the MLS.

  19. Too bad Gus Johnson is contracted to CBS. I’d love to see him as the third commentator in a play-by-play-analyst / ex-player-color-commentator / guy-yelling-random-stuff-when-something-happens combo. It’d be as close to the iconic Latin ‘Gooooooaaaaall!’ call we can get without it being tacky.

  20. seriously its getting out of hand with that stuff.. but personally i would like a non-english broadcaster.. American would be best but an Scottish accent would be interesting

  21. I assume the two playoff games are the new ‘wild card’/play-in games for the lowest ranked teams that still qualify. ESPN should still cover the same amount of post season games, essentially everything after the wild card game through to the the final.

  22. in addition too.. while ESPN is the best place for it, they present the games terribly .. too bad for FSC but the reason that they have low ratings is that its not included in tv packages, not the games!

    MLS and USSF games on NBC and VS is awesome!

  23. And Gol TV becomes more and more marginalized. NBC needs to pay the big bucks to Ray Hudson to get him out of his South Florida comfort zone. The man is the soccer’s version of John Madden. Give him a platform where the casual fan hears his commentary and the sport will grow leaps and bounds just like when Madden entered the commentary booth for the NFL.


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