Business Off The Pitch: Breakdown of Major League Soccer's Broadcast Partners

The announcement of the deal with NBC will televise allow more matches to be televised nationally in 2012.
The announcement of NBC as Major League Soccer’s newest broadcasting partner advances the league’s effort in providing national coverage of its matches to fans across the United States.

As 2012 will undoubtedly see an extended regular season with the introduction of Montreal as the league’s 19th club, the league will again have experience difficulties during its preparation of the season’s fixtures. An additional 36 matches may be played throughout the regular season, with each team adding two games to its schedule.

Major League Soccer and NBC announced its three-year media rights agreement earlier this month. Forty-five MLS games will be televised live across both NBC and NBC Sports Network each season through 2014. Each season, NBC will broadcast two regular-season MLS games and two playoff games, marking the first time four MLS matches will be broadcast on English-language network television since 2002. The NBC Sports Network, formerly known as Versus, will televise 38 regular-season games and three playoff games.

The matches broadcast by NBC and NBC Sports Network are in addition to the existing partnerships with five Comcast SportsNets in the California, Chicago, Mid-Atlantic, New England and Philadelphia regions.

It was Major League Soccer’s partnership with ESPN which has paved the way for other networks to compete with others for deals with MLS. An increase in viewers and ratings, as well as an improvement in the quality of broadcasts, became the responsibility of the network, not Major League Soccer.   

The networks will be responsible for producing, programming and promoting their MLS property. The deal with ESPN, allowing MLS to receive rights fees for the first time ever, extends through the 2014 season.

Beyond the northern borders of the United States, TSN is responsible for much of the broadcasting for the two Canadian-based clubs - Toronto FC and the Vancouver Whitecaps. The six-year deal includes 24 regular season games to be broadcast throughout 2011, each involving at least one of the two Canadian-based MLS clubs, plus the MLS All-Star Game, the playoffs and the MLS Cup.

French-language broadcasting rights in Canada are owned by RDS, TSN’s sister network, as part of the deal in anticipation of next year, when the Montreal Impact debut.

Univision Communications Inc. announced an eight-year agreement that will see Spanish-language networks Univision, TeleFutura and Galavisión cover Major League Soccer games. Twenty-five MLS matches will be broadcast annually through 2014. Univision previously secured the broadcasting rights from 1996 to 1999.

Despite Fox Soccer Channel’s bid to retain broadcast rights and extend its current one-year deal with MLS for the 2011 season, NBC will assume the matches. The NBC package was more attractive to the league and provided wider exposure through the main network and NBC Sports Network. Fox Soccer Channel currently owns the English rights to 31 regular season matches, and will broadcast three playoff matches, including a conference final as a part of the agreement.

All future 342 games of the 2012 regular season, the MLS SuperDraft, MLS All-Star Game, playoffs and MLS Cup will be available between national broadcast partners ABC/ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, NBC, NBC Sports Network, Univisión networks TeleFutura and Galavisión, and DIRECTV’s Direct Kick package.

Update: Sports media company MP & Silva acquired the rights to broadcast Major League Soccer internationally in 2008. The deal provides the exclusive rights to all MLS competitions and events through 2013. ESPN previously had owned the league's international broadcasting rights. Additionally, MLS partnered with LIVESPORT.TV in order to stream matches internationally via the Internet.

Christopher Savino is a columnist for Goal.com. His feature, "Business Off The Pitch" appears every Monday. Contact Chris at csavino@businessofsoccer.com with questions, comments and concerns or follow him on