The Sports Business Journal is reporting that Major League Soccer has started negotiating its next television deal with current partners ESPN and NBC Sports. SBJ is reporting that both networks are in exclusive negotiating windows to re-up their deals before the league’s rights are open to all bidders. Recall that MLS intentionally set its deals to expire at the end of the 2014 season in order to capitalize on the buzz surrounding the World Cup next Summer. However, the exclusive window provides ESPN and NBC an opportunity to parlay their current relationship into something longer term.
Although ratings are down on both networks, the SBJ article suggests that NBC is working hard to keep MLS and that the league is seeking to grab deals worth close to $50 million per year (well above the current $18 million per year for English rights). As the article correctly points out, “hese negotiations are unique in that they involve two properties — MLS and U.S. Soccer — being sold as one package. Both properties are managed by Soccer United Marketing, MLS’s marketing arm. By tying them together, the popular U.S. men’s national team matches can bring a much higher rights fee than MLS games could on their own.”
In other business news, the presumed next Mayor of New York City Bill de Blasio continues to come out against a stadium in Flushing for NYCFC. Although a stadium in Queens had been a priority outgoing Michael Bloomberg, the proposal may run into a brick wall in the form of de Blasio. Per the New York Times, “[h]e argued that the city had already ceded too much parkland to what he termed “corporate entities,” and called the stadium idea a “bad deal for New Yorkers.””
One final note. With the World Cup Qualifiers on the near horizon, ESPN announced that the Friday night match between the USA & Jamaica will be televised on ESPN at 6:30. That will follow a swath of mid-week MLS games on Wednesday night that will have significant playoff implications.