Photo by Bill Barrett/ISIPhotos.com
By DAN KARELL
Figuring out when to watch MLS on TV just got a whole lot easier.
MLS and U.S. Soccer announced on Monday an eight-year deal with ESPN, FOX Sports, and Univision Deportes that includes, a set-time national game-of-the-week broadcast on each network, rights to future U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Team games, and the distribution of out of market MLS games through ESPN3 and WatchESPN.
The deal is reportedly worth $90 million per year, five times the average yearly revenue for MLS from their current TV deal.
For the first time in league history, ESPN, FOX Sports, and Univision will each televise their own “Game of the Week” at a set time.
ESPN and FOX Sports will share the English-language MLS national TV coverage, televising a Sunday night double-header every week of the season. ESPN (or ESPN2) will televise the first match at 5:00 p.m. ET followed by the second match on FOX Sports 1 at 7:00 p.m. ET. Univision will continue to hold the league’s spanish-language coverage and will televise, likely through UniMas, a Friday night game-of-the-week solely at either 7:00 p.m. ET or 11:00 p.m. ET.
All three networks will televise a minimum of 34-games per season.
The landmark agreement also includes the media rights to the USMNT and USWNT. FOX Sports and ESPN will evenly share the English-language coverage of “approximately ten matches per year” while Univision and their networks will be the home to Spanish-language USMNT and USWNT coverage. Univision will broadcast every USMNT game per year and a minimum of four USWNT matches per year.
Finally, the new deal will see the distribution of MLS out-of-market matches go through ESPN as opposed to the league itself. While MLS Live and MLS Direct Kick will disappear next season, all out-of-market games will be available through ESPN3 and WatchESPN. The out-of-market games will also be available through iTunes, Google Play, Apple TV, Roku, and other viewing options.
Here are the main highlights from the deal:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Caitlin Murray contributed to this report.