Top Stories

Report: MLS set to cash in on improved TV deal, though NBC Sports Group not involved



Major League Soccer is deep in discussions for a new national television deal, but they may be losing one of their partners.

According to a report in, NBC Sports Group has pulled out of the bidding for the next MLS national TV contract, ending their relationship with the league following the 2014 MLS season. According to a separate report, Fox Sports is set to replace NBC Sports as a national TV partner, joining ESPN in a deal that could pay MLS upwards of $70 million per season.

MLS has not officially commented on the reports or on their negotiations.

NBC Sports Group took over for Fox Sports in 2012 and showed a number of MLS matches on NBC Sports Network and even a few on NBC over the last two years. The network acquired the English Premier League rights starting in 2013, and tried to cross promote the programming but failed to earn an increase in viewership.

Both reports state that home U.S. Men’s National Team matches are part of the deal, though it’s unclear how they will be split up. In addition, both reports say that the proposed deal allows for both Fox Sports and ESPN to stream games live online.

An announcement of the deal could come as early as Jan. 16 at the NSCAA Convention and MLS SuperDraft, but the report in Sports Business Daily states that the deal is still a long way from being completed.

To put it in perspective, MLS currently earns a reported $18 million annually from their television deals with ESPN and NBC Sports. MLS saw a decrease in viewers over the course of the last season, with SBD reporting that viewership dropped 29 percent on ESPN’s network and a 12 percent decrease from a year ago on NBC Sports Network.


What do you think of this report? Stunned that MLS could earn up to $70 million per season? Will you miss NBC Sports Group?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. I’m excited! I couldn’t watch many of the games because i don’t have the NBCSN channel. But I do have fox sports! Get to watch a few more games!

  2. I wonder what the proposed marketing component of these bids look like. It’s important when considering the potential help to boosting ratings and drawing in more fans. I wonder if this includes a radio broadcasting deal through the espn stations? I know wfans new Yankee radio deal includes nycfc matches.

    • Yes, or against huge football games, like putting MLS Cup directly against the SEC Championship Game. One day soccer will be able to compete with football but that day isn’t here yet. And yes I know the overlap isn’t huge but it is there.

    • …..For the record…The San Antonio Scorpions traded for a player for lodging/accommodation costs for the opposing basically they got a player for $3000 bucks…This coming from the team who’s owner was screaming at the Cosmos for spending money on players….SMH

  3. Wait did somebody want NASL to be part of the league? (rel/pro) come on guys, didn’t one of their teams sold one of their players for a bag of chip? Cosmos, better join MLS soon otherwise they will have to pay $200 entrance fee!

  4. jeez i know tv rights have increased but as much as i’m rooting for mls the ratings are dreadful.. the usmnt did mls a huge favor by agreeing to combine rights… if they are getting 70 mil from espn and fox i’d imagine they would get around 15 million from spanish rights plus another 15 from canadian rights.. that’s 100 million in tv fees.. not bad at all…

  5. great…so now can we get something like a straight $16 mil hard cap instead of this low cap+DP rule?

    Let teams field balanced rosters. Lots of players in MLS are League 2 quality and don’t belong.

    The low cap+ DP rule is a salary cap structure that is not compatible with soccer. It’s compatible with the NBA.

  6. As a fan of the Fox Sports theme this is great As a fan of lower numbered channels this is terrible. As a fan of the Rob Stone walk and talk this is promising. As a fan of getting my soccer on as few channels as possible this is devastating.

    I am a man at war with myself.

  7. NBC has chosen the EPL over MLS. This tells us most American soccer fans want promotion/relegation, a single table, no playoffs, no enforced parity, Until MLS starts acting like a real soccer league, it will never get ratings.

    • That’s quite an analytical journey from A to B there. I can’t possibly see how anyone could find the slightest crack in your logic.

      • The only way they could possible do it anytime soon would be if they adopted how the J League does it. But NASL teams would have to earn membership first. So, it would have to be a long term plan. But the J League does have the best modern soccer pyramid in the world.

      • Yeah, I’m Man City, I just paid you $100 million to join your league. I love the idea that I could be playing in NASL or USL 1 next season. That’s a great idea.

    • “Wah Wah Wah! I want mls to be like other leagues… Complain complain…”
      MLS is “Americanized” because of playoffs? Last I checked the World Cup, and other FIFA competitions are playoff formatted…. And how disappointing is it when Barcelona or Man U clinch the top spot in their league with 4 games left of the season…. It’s so lame and a let down. Let Americans thrive on playing playoff format and get over trying to be like other leagues!

    • I agree Norman. I talk to a lot of soccer fans and I here this quite often.

      American soccer fans are being cultured into the game through the pro/rel model. We wan’t pro/rel.

      It coudln’t happen overnight though. It would take like 5-10 years to implement properly.

      • I think the only way a prom/de league would work is if we did a collaboration with the Mexican league and maybe Jamaica, Costa Rica, t and t, etc… But that would take fmf chunking its pride out the window and mls spending more $. (On a basic level)

      • and what happens when Columbus gets relegated? Would they declare bankruptcy and liquidate all assets before or after their first season in the second division?

      • you coudln’t have pro/rel until you had a 2nd division with 18 teams, 3/4 of which play in SSS in front of 12k fans average.

        In that case, NO Columbus would not liquidate. They’d try to get back up the following year.

      • After 20 years we have MLS teams that don’t average that much and several of our teams still lack SSS.
        That’s a lot more than a 10 year plan.

      • So Bayern winning the league iw a month to go is more exciting than a playoff format? Ridiculous. And last I checked the world cup and champions league are both playoff format. Boring? Most of the promoted teams in the epl are quickly fodder to go right back down. The only people interested in that are the local fans of those small teams. If there was any chance that a man u ur Liverpool, or Chelsea would b relegated that would be exciting. But there is zero chance of that.

      • Pro/rel is just not going to happen FO a very long time if ever. The economics just don’t make sense.

        Even in England there are crack appearing on its long term viability. You should read the articles coming out of Bolton on the huge gap, and it’s widening ever year, in finances between the championship and the prem.

        The drop is killing Bolton and the chances of going up are becoming remote despite the large drop payments.

    • +1 No one wants to watch Parity League Soccer. Pro/rel would be difficult but is doable. Leagues with pro/rel are just funner to watch. MLS needs to get with it.

      As far as playoffs. I see nothing wrong with a post-season tournament. But they need to raise the stature of the regular season trophy.

      • In such a big country American sports need a strong minor/feeder league to succeed. NFL and NBA have that in college sports which serve markets that don’t have pro teams. They then follow the pro league to see there homegrown players play professionally. How many Texas fans watch OKC to see Kevin Durant play. Soccer needs a strong minor league and the only way I see to achieve that is through pro/rel

      • No one wants to watch parity league soccer. I do. You can keep your leagues where only a few teams have a shot at winning. The minute we move to a system like that I cancel my season tickets.

      • And until MLS has pro/rel, I don’t really care to watch it. My city has a team in NASL and I have season tickets for that. No reason for me to care for MLS.

    • You sir are over thinking the room. The reason the NBA is the most watched basketball league, the reason the NHL is the most watched hockey league is because they have the best players period. I the EPL had league one talent guess who’s watching that nobody. Stop over thinking things and just look at the simple truths, everyone not just Americans want to watch the best. The EPL has super high ratings in countries with relegation, how do you explain that.

    • I’m guessing that if Man U, Liverpool, Man City, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Tottenham decided tomorrow to join MLS, fans would watch with or without promotion/relegation and playoffs.

    • Can’t believe this turned into a pro/rel debate. Especially since I’m pretty sure (though not certain) that the opening poster was being sarcastic.

  8. MLS needs a national broadcast platform. Can’t count the amount of times in the summer where a weeknight game was being played and it was not broadcast. Much more viewership potential on a Wednesday night than a Friday night. Hopefully we can get a large % of games broadcast nationally on ESPN or FS1 and FS2.

  9. I wish we could establish a recognized day and times for MLS broadcast.

    If you’re an NFL fan you know that Sunday at 1:30 and 4:00 Eastern you can see games.
    College fans know that Saturday means football (despite creeping towards thursdays and fridays)

    I’d love nearly every MLS game to be Saturdays.
    Maybe even some kind of Konferenz/Red Zone broadcast.

    • I agree that consistency would go a long way towards building support, but they also need the ability to flex games to accommodate high profile transfers mid season and end of season playoff implication games.

  10. Here’s what people have to understand. MLS had a choice, more money or better treatment. At this point MLS being treated well doesn’t matter because the ratings on NBC were still poor. Look at the new TV deal as the TV companies bank rolling MLS to get better players therefore giving them better ratings. With more money from the TV deal MLS teams can go out and get Bradleys and Defoes. So the networks are gambling that if they invest more so will MLS in players which will benefit them both.

  11. An 8 year TV deal at this point doesn’t make sense for the MLS unless they have some options to get out or add additional revenue. That is too long to be locked in with what is still not game changer revenue that can take the league to the next level. If they get $70 million a year for a 4 year TV deal go for it.

  12. I’m curious if the $70 million reported is for domestic English-language rights only. That would be truly astounding, since it wouldn’t include Spanish-language rights and international broadcast rights, which together at 19-20 million/year constitute slightly over 50% of TV revenues for MLS at the moment. But that article claims MLS will only “double” its rights fees, so I wonder if these rights are somehow packaged into the deal.

  13. I hope that this deals means some live games on free TV as well. If you want to grow your audience, you still have to go after those folks that don’t have cable. And you have to compete with other sports being show on other networks. MLS can totally compete with baseball — especially when the networks keep putting on games between only coastal teams that mean nothing to baseball fans in the rest of the country. FOX would be wise to telecast a game of the week on free TV — with that game moving around the country to both big and small markets.

    • Would love that to be Fox Soccer night in America on Friday night. If they had games starting at nine o’clock that would be awesome.

  14. Wow! All of a sudden MLS has turned into a shark–Referring to the recent deals for DPs over the past year and this TV deal…if true

  15. A few different thoughts on this.

    1) That’s an amazing amount of money for MLS! I’m ecstatic about that.

    2) I’ll be sad to see NBCSN go because they do a great job covering the league and the games.

    3) I think with Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, and Jermain Defoe joining the likes of Tim Cahill, Thierry Henry, Landon Donovan, etc. the league will be much more recognizable to casual fans and draw better number than it has in the past. ESPN and Fox Sports will cash in on that.

  16. The increase in money is nothing to laugh at. However, I’m disappointed NBC won’t be involved. I’ve been very impressed with their EPL and MLS coverage. NBC does a great job of cross promotion. Although with Fox having the 2018 and 22 World Cups, maybe they’ll put more effort into MLS. A 70 million bid suggests they will.

    • Agree with that!! NBCsn has put a tremendous amount of advertising dollars on it’s EPL rights and really tried to piggyback it’s MLS rights off the EPL budget, instead of giving the MLS its own advertising, and it didn’t work as well as expected. ESPN on the other hand, has barely spent any money on their MLS rights anyway so if they got a little increase in viewership, they were happy

      Fox, on the other hand has a new sports network and was hungrily looking for content.

      The 70M figure while promising, is far short of the 100+ that a lot of analysts feels the MLS needs to kick start a new era.

      If the USMNT does well in Brazil and advances out of the group stage, it will really boost MLS soccer. Unfortunately NBCsn does not believe it will and chose not to invest in it’s future.

      • You do now that this doesn’t include the Spanish rights? Nor does this include the Canadian rights. A Canadian deal that will likely increase, after the TFC moves.

      • In a world where NHL gets 200 mil annually for pulling in viewers that aren’t high enough to warrant that type of fee either. Networks want/need live sports programming and Fox Sports is in desperate need. Just hope they ramp up the production quality and have spin off shows like NBCSN! They’ve done a great job with MLS Insider and MLS36.

    • They should divide 60 million among the teams and raise the salary cap by 3 million dollars, the remaining 10 mill can go to the league. This will improve the quality of the product and there will be no argument that the teams will go belly up since the money comes from the TV deal.

      • I like this general idea, but your math isn’t quite right. $70M is the new deal… not $70M more. Its approximately $52M more than the $18M. Also, there will soon be 22-23 (or likely 24) teams.
        Still, I’d agree that upping the salary cap by $2M per year could be feasible.

Leave a Comment