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, the league's primary and longest-serving national television partner, signed with MLS in 1994 two years before the league's debut. Today matches are primarily televised on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes in Spanish. The league also has rights agreements with NBC, NBC Sports Network, and Univision's Galavisión (Spanish) in the U.S. along with TSN/TSN2 and RDS (French) in Canada. According to SportsBusiness Daily, MLS is currently making $27 million annually from its American rights packages while ratings have been volatile.
Current national broadcasting contracts 
United States 
- ESPNDeportes will transmit all 20 ESPN and ESPN2 games and will additionally transmit 1 original broadcast.
||Annual rights fee
||This section requires expansion. (February 2012)
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.
On August 7, 2006, MLS and ESPN announced their latest contract giving the league its first rights-fee agreement estimated to be worth $7-8 million annually. Guaranteeing MLS a place on ESPN networks through 2014, the 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. However after two years of low ratings, network executives decided to transfer all ABC games to ESPN and replace the regular Thursday night telecast with a "game of the week" on either Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, or Saturday nights. The move was made 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 1-year extension to televise up to 31 regular-season games and three playoff games. The deal was worth around $7 million.
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 
MLS broadcasts 
See also 
- ^ "ESPN acquires rights to Major League Soccer". OurSports Central. 6 August 2006. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
- ^ a b "ESPN booting MLS from its Thursday slot". SportsBusiness Journal. 19 January 2009. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
- ^ a b "NBC Signs Three-Year Deal With MLS For Fox Soccer's Television Package". SportsBusiness Daily. 10 August 2011. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
- ^ "Univision Signs Eight-Year Agreement To Broadcast MLS Games". SportsBusiness Daily. 26 September 2006. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
- ^ "ESPN networks to air 21 regular-season matches in 2012". MLSSoccer.com. 5 January 2012. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
- ^ "NBC networks to air 41 regular-season matches in 2012". MLSSoccer.com. 5 January 2012. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
- ^ "Galavision to air 27 MLS matches in 2012". MLSSoccer.com. 5 January 2012. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
- ^ http://www.sportsbusinessdaily.com/Daily/Issues/2006/09/Issue-11/Sports-Media/Univision-Signs-Eight-Year-Agreement-To-Broadcast-MLS-Games.aspx Univision Signs Eight-Year Agreement To Broadcast MLS Games
- ^ "TSN BECOMES OFFICIAL BROADCASTER OF MLS IN CANADA". TSN. 14 February 2011. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
- ^ "U.S. Pro League Moves Along By Signing a Television Deal". The New York Times. 16 March 1994. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
- ^ "ESPN, MLS Reach Eight-Year TV Deal That Includes Rights Fees". SportsBusiness Daily. 7 August 2006. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
- ^ "MLS extends TV deal with Fox Soccer Channel for one year". Usatoday.Com. 2011-02-18. Retrieved 2012-03-26.
- ^ "MLS And FOX Soccer Channel Agree On One-Year Contract Extension". Goal.com. 2011-02-18. Retrieved 2012-03-26.
- ^ "Fox Soccer Channel Finalizes Deal With MLS, Reportedly Worth $6.25 Million A Year". SBNation.com. 2011-02-18. Retrieved 2012-03-26.
- ^ 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