Major League Soccer (MLS) is gathering all of its media resources, local and national, ahead of a comprehensive rights push in 2022.
According to the Sports Business Journal (SBJ), the US and Canada’s top soccer league has told all of its clubs to ensure none of its local rights agreements go beyond 2022, the year when MLS’ national and international TV deals expire.
ESPN, Fox Sports and Univision currently hold MLS rights in an eight-year agreement that began in 2015 and pays a reported figure in the region of US$90 million per year. By way of comparison the NFL, which does massively outreach the MLS in TV ratings, receives US$255 million annually.
Locally, although every deal apparently generates positive revenue, there are some clubs in MLS that do not receive a rights fee.
The largest standalone deal in MLS is between the LA Galaxy and Time Warner Cable – a ten-year, US$55 million contract signed in 2012. LAFC’s three-year local English-language rights deal with YouTubeTV, signed in 2018, is valued at more than US$6 million per year but also includes main kit sponsorship.
That pales in comparison to Major League Baseball’s (MLB) Los Angeles Dodgers, who get US$2 million per game.
The new wholesale media strategy is designed to give MLS the strongest possible package of broadcast options to take to market, with the league apparently seeking to fund the next wave of growth and investment across the organisation and its clubs.
“Media rights and content are the most significant assets that we and any other league have,” Seth Bacon, MLS senior vice president of media, told the SBJ.
“It’s the natural course of business in the industry that we’re in to think about the next deal as soon as you sign any deal, as well as how do you position yourself to take the most advantage of the rights that you have.”