Major League Soccer on television
Major League Soccer on television has been broadcast live in the U.S. nationally since the league's inception in 1996 and in Canada since 2007. ESPN signed with MLS in two years before the league's 1994 debut. Today matches are primarily televised on NBCSN and NBC. The league also has rights agreements with ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes (Spanish), and Univision's Galavisión (Spanish) in the U.S. along with TSN/TSN2 (English) and RDS (French) in Canada. According to SportsBusiness Daily and other sources, MLS is currently making $27 million annually from its American rights packages[not in citation given] while ratings have been volatile.
Current national broadcasting contracts
|Network||Current contract||Annual rights fee||Regular-season
|MP & Silva (Int'l broadcast)||2008-2014||$10 million|||
|Univision Deportes Network||2013-2014||TBA||23||Spanish|
- ESPNDeportes will transmit all 20 ESPN and ESPN2 games, and will additionally transmit 1 original broadcast.
|Network||Current contract||Annual rights fee||Regular-season games||Playoff games||Language||Ref|
Ratings and viewers
|Year||Channel||Telecasts||Viewers (Ratings)||Channel||Telecasts||Viewers (Ratings)|
|English Language||Spanish Language|
|2006 ||ESPN2||21||263,000 (0.2)|
|2007 ||ESPN2||25||289,000 (0.2)|
|2008 ||ESPN2||26||253,000 (0.2)|
|Fox Soccer*||30,000 (0.1)||Telefutura||26||254,000|
|2012 ||ESPN / ESPN2||20||311,000||Univision & Telefutura|
|2013||ESPN / ESPN2||20||220,000|
|2014||ESPN / ESPN2||20|
- The increased numbers of viewers in 2007 coincided with the arrival of David Beckham to MLS.
- Although the viewing numbers on ESPN2 declined by 36,000 from 2007 to 2008, ESPN began simulcasting MLS games on ESPN Deportes in 2008, attracting an average of 40,000 viewers.
- Fox Soccer began getting ratings in October 2008. The Fox Soccer numbers for 2008 represent only the last four matches of the season. Viewership numbers prior to October 2008 are unavailable.
On March 15, 1994, Major League Soccer with ESPN and ABC Sports announced the league's first television rights deal without any players, coaches, or teams in place. The three-year agreement committed 10 games on ESPN, 25 on ESPN2, and the MLS Cup on ABC. The deal gave MLS no rights fees but split advertising revenue between the league and networks.
In 2003, Fox Soccer Channel also became an English-language TV partner to MLS.
In August 2006, MLS and ESPN announced an eight-year contract spanning 2007–2014 giving the league its first rights-fee agreement worth $8 million annually. This deal gave league a regular primetime slot on Thursdays, televised coverage of the first round of the MLS SuperDraft, and an expanded presence on other ESPN properties such as ESPN360 (now ESPN3) and Mobile ESPN. The agreement also placed each season’s opening match, All-Star Game, and MLS Cup on ABC.
The 2007 season was the first in the league's history in which every regular season match was telecast live. The league mandated that every league game receive television coverage either nationally or locally in one or both teams' cities for broadcast on its Direct Kick package, which broadcasts out-of-market matches.
However after two years of low ratings, network executives decided to transfer all ABC games to ESPN. The MLS Cup had been broadcast on ABC each year from 1996 to 2008, but with ratings declining from 1.4 in 1996 and 1997 to 0.6 in 2008, the MLS Cup was moved to ESPN beginning in 2009. The network also replaced the regular Thursday night telecast with a "game of the week" on either Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, or Saturday nights, to give MLS games better lead-in programming and more flexibility to air better matchups.
In 2011, Fox Soccer Channel and MLS agreed to a one-year extension to televise up to 31 regular-season games and three playoff games. The deal was worth around $7 million. MLS Wrap was a MLS highlight show that aired on Fox Soccer Channel. Sean Wheelock often hosted with analyst John Harkes.
The 2012 season saw a broadcasting change, with MLS moving its English language broadcast partners from ESPN and Fox Soccer to ESPN and NBC Sports. MLS benefitted from the change in that NBC Sports is shown in approximately twice as many homes as Fox Soccer (77 million vs. 39 million). NBC Sports broadcast 44 matches and NBC broadcast 5 matches. The average audience for NBC and NBCSN's games combined in 2012 was 122 percent higher than the average audience for FSC's games in 2011. ESPN ratings also increased in 2012 from the prior year, as a number of MLS games were shown on ESPN in 2012 instead of primarily on ESPN2 as in the past.
Previous national broadcasting networks
- ESPN Major League Soccer
- MLS ExtraTime
- MLS Game of the Week
- MLS on NBC
- MLS Primetime Thursday
- MLS Soccer Saturday
- MLS Wrap
- Soccer Night in America
- MLS 36
- MLS Breakaway
- MLS Insider
- List of current Major League Soccer commentators
- Sports broadcasting contracts in the United States
- English football on television
- NFL on television
- Major League Baseball television contracts
- "ESPN acquires rights to Major League Soccer". OurSports Central. August 6, 2006. Retrieved February 22, 2012.
- "Univision Signs Eight-Year Agreement To Broadcast MLS Games". SportsBusiness Daily. September 26, 2006. Retrieved February 22, 2012.
- Soccerist, The (January 8, 2013). "A breakdown of TV viewership-worse than we thought". The Soccerist. Retrieved September 16, 2013.
- "ESPN networks to air 21 regular-season matches in 2012". MLSSoccer.com. January 5, 2012. Retrieved February 22, 2012.
- "MP & Silva".
- "MP & Silva extends MLS deal - Sports Broadcast news - Soccer North America". SportsPro Media. Retrieved September 16, 2013.
- "NBC Signs Three-Year Deal With MLS For Fox Soccer's Television Package". SportsBusiness Daily. August 10, 2011. Retrieved February 22, 2012.
- "NBC networks to air 41 regular-season matches in 2012". MLSSoccer.com. January 5, 2012. Retrieved February 22, 2012.
- "Galavision to air 27 MLS matches in 2012". MLSSoccer.com. January 5, 2012. Retrieved February 22, 2012.
- "TSN BECOMES OFFICIAL BROADCASTER OF MLS IN CANADA". TSN. February 14, 2011. Retrieved February 22, 2012.
- Sports Business Daily, MLS attendance, TV viewership numbers slip, Nov 3, 2008, http://www.sportsbusinessdaily.com/Journal/Issues/2008/11/20081103/This-Weeks-News/MLS-Attendance-TV-Viewership-Numbers-Slip.aspx
- World Soccer Talk, MLS TV Ratings Continue Decline, Nov 9, 2008, http://worldsoccertalk.com/2008/11/09/mls-tv-ratings-continue-decline/
- Sports Business Daily, MLS Regular-Season Audience Up Across ESPN/ESPN2, Fox Soccer, Oct 26, 2011, http://www.sportsbusinessdaily.com/Daily/Issues/2011/10/26/Research-and-Ratings/MLS-TV.aspx
- World Soccer Talk, MLS 2010 Season Viewership Down 12% on ESPN2, Oct 31, 2010, http://worldsoccertalk.com/2010/10/31/mls-2010-season-viewership-down-12-on-espn2/10493/
- Sports Business Daily, MLS Has Best Regular-Season Audience Yet On ESPN/ESPN2; NBCSN Off To Good Start, Nov 28, 2012, http://www.sportsbusinessdaily.com/Daily/Issues/2012/11/28/Media/MLS.aspx
- TV Media Insights, Major League Soccer TV Ratings in 2012, http://www.tvmediainsights.com/highlights/9844/major-league-soccer-tv-ratings-in-2012/
- Sports Business, Journal, Attendance strong, but MLS sees TV dip, 4 November 2013, http://www.sportsbusinessdaily.com/Journal/Issues/2013/11/04/Leagues-and-Governing-Bodies/MLS.aspx
- "U.S. Pro League Moves Along By Signing a Television Deal". The New York Times. March 16, 1994. Retrieved February 22, 2012.
- Sports Business Daily, ESPN kicks up efforts to bolster MLS ratings, March 4, 2008, http://m.sportsbusinessdaily.com/Journal/Issues/2008/03/20080324/SBJ-In-Depth/ESPN-Kicks-Up-Efforts-To-Bolster-MLS-Ratings.aspx
- "ESPN, MLS Reach Eight-Year TV Deal That Includes Rights Fees". SportsBusiness Daily. August 7, 2006. Retrieved February 22, 2012.
- Sports Media Watch, Record Low Rating For 2010 MLS Cup, Nov 24, 2010, http://www.sportsmediawatch.com/2010/11/record-low-rating-for-2010-mls-cup/
- "ESPN booting MLS from its Thursday slot". SportsBusiness Journal. January 19, 2009. Retrieved February 22, 2012.
- "MLS extends TV deal with Fox Soccer Channel for one year". Usatoday.Com. February 18, 2011. Retrieved March 26, 2012.
- "MLS And FOX Soccer Channel Agree On One-Year Contract Extension". Goal.com. February 18, 2011. Retrieved March 26, 2012.
- "Fox Soccer Channel Finalizes Deal With MLS, Reportedly Worth $6.25 Million A Year". SBNation.com. February 18, 2011. Retrieved March 26, 2012.
- Philly.com, Analyzing NBC's ratings in its first season of broadcasting Major League Soccer, Nov 29, 2012, http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/thegoalkeeper/Analyzing-NBCs-ratings-in-its-first-season-of-broadcasting-Major-League-Soccer.html
- Sports Business, Journal, TV ratings for MLS up across the board, Nov 29, 2012, http://aol.sportingnews.com/soccer/story/2012-11-29/tv-ratings-for-mls-up-across-the-board