The Business of the Draft and League Networks

Just some ramblings tonight.  On Monday night I was flipping the remote when I stumbled across the MLB First Year Player Draft on the MLB Network.  I’m certainly not a frequent viewer of the station, but as a Mets fan (and yes the Santana no-hitter was an enormous moment in my personal sports history), I happened to catch the portion of the broadcast leading up to the Mets’ first pick and I was struck by the low quality of the telecast. The NFL is the master of the draft spectacle and has created a three day extravaganza which draws ratings that smash any MLS telecast, but the MLB draft included limited graphics, borderline on-air talent and the whole set appeared to be fabricated in a basement.

The MLS draft has traditionally been broadcast on ESPN2 as part of the league’s primary television contract.  The coverage has expanded over the years and last year there were 2 hours of coverage which subsequently moved to ESPN3.com.   I continue to believe that televising the SuperDraft is exceptionally important for the league.  Commissioner Garber has long talked about creating special moments, and the memory of seeing top picks receiving their scarf and shaking Garber’s hand will burn into the brains of fans, journalists and youth players.

As I watched the MLB draft, I started to imagine the possibility of a Major League Soccer channel.  The other major American sports have devoted networks that are typically available on the higher sports tiers.  However, unlike those other leagues, MLS faces competition from Fox Soccer, Gol, the new Al Jazeera channels and other soccer networks. Is there room for an MLS focused channel?  Is there enough programming?  Is there enough interest?  Would MLS be best served by combining with one of the other networks?

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