ESPN Major League Soccer
|ESPN Major League Soccer|
|Starring||Various personalities (see below)|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Running time||2 or 2.5 hours|
|Original network||ESPN, ESPN2, & ESPN Deportes|
|Original release||1996 – Present|
ESPN Major League Soccer is a promotion of Major League Soccer on ESPN and ESPN2, with simulcasts on ESPNHD and ESPN2HD. Major League Soccer on ESPN2 debuted in 1996, the league's first season, and is guaranteed to stay on the network till at least 2022. From 1996 to 2006, the weekly soccer match on ESPN2 was called MLS Soccer Saturday, but in the new contract, that was replaced by MLS Primetime Thursday. For the 2009 season and beyond, the Thursday telecast was replaced by a variety of primtime games on Wednesdays through Saturdays. Beginning in 2009, as part of ESPN's far-reaching strategy of moving sports programming to ESPN, all matches - including MLS Cup - are now aired on either ESPN or ESPN2.
On August 4, 2006, ESPN reached a comprehensive multimedia agreement with Soccer United Marketing (SUM) for the rights to Major League Soccer through 2014. As part of the eight-year agreement, ESPN2 will televise 26 regular-season and three playoff MLS matches each year, all in primetime on Thursdays.
Highlights of the agreement include:
- ESPN2 will televise 26 regular-season MLS matches, primarily on Thursday nights.
- ESPN2 will televise three MLS playoff matches.
- ABC will televise one regular-season MLS match, the MLS All-Star Game, and MLS Cup. (replaced by ESPN in 2009)
- Televised coverage of the first round of the MLS Draft.
- MLS telecasts can be re-aired in full or abbreviated versions on any ESPN media platforms
- Extensive footage rights for all ESPN media platforms such as SportsCenter, ESPNEWS, ESPN Motion, ESPN360, etc.
- ESPN will also produce and be solely responsible for the content, whereas, they had not been able to do that in the past.
Also in 2007, ESPN2's coverage of the MLS included new on-screen scoreboards, similar to those used on other sports telecasts. In 2008, another new score graphic was debuted, this time in the upper left hand corner of the screen.
ESPN will join forces with Fox Sports and Univision to broadcast over 100 MLS games (combined), live and exclusive, from 2015 and 2022 in its new media rights deal. ESPN has been involved with the league since its inception in 1996.
In addition, ESPN2 has numerous production enhancements to the telecasts. They include:
- SkyCam: A common element during ESPN's NFL and MLB telecasts, SkyCam will return after making its debut in 2005 on select ABC and ESPN2 telecasts. The device provides an aerial view of the field, giving the viewer a unique angle to appreciate the development and speed of match action.
- MLS Wired: Telecasts feature use of the unobtrusive microphones, worn by select coaches and players, to capture some of the compelling in-game interactions and conversations.
- HD: Beginning in 2007, all games aired in high-definition.
ESPN has been accused of putting more emphasis on overall negativity and the more violent aspect of MLS games (such as two confrontations, two challenges and a player nursing a bloody head in its first six shots) in "Greatest Highlights of the Month" segment for their intermission reports.
- Kennedy, Paul (9 May 2011). "ESPN's 'highlights' disrespect MLS". Soccer America Daily. Retrieved 9 May 2011.