New York – Major League Soccer has finally netted its new TV deals, agreeing to eight-year rights agreements with ESPN and Fox for English-language rights and Univision for Spanish-language.
The deal, which carries through 2022, is the same length as Fox's contract with FIFA to show the World Cup and many other international competitions. According to Sports Business Journal, ESPN and Fox will pay a combined $75 million a year, and Univision will pay $15 million a year. That adds up to $90 million a year for eight years, a total of $720 million.
ESPN and Fox have the rights to air Spanish-language versions on ESPN Deportes and Fox Deportes, respectively, for the games that air on the English channels. Univision’s deal for Spanish-language rights is separate.
The new deals were announced during a press conference on Monday afternoon. “We wanted partners that would align with out brand,” said MLS commissioner Dan Garber. “Partners that were committed to the domestic game and committed to supporting our league”
For the first time in MLS’ history, all three TV partners will feature an exclusive MLS Match of the Week. ESPN and Fox Sports 1 will air Sunday doubleheaders back-to-back at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. ET, while the Univision family of networks will televise a game of the week on Friday evenings—primarily on UniMás— and a wrap-up show on Sundays.
More than 125 MLS matches will be televised annually on the three networks.
MLS’ out-of-market package also gets wider distribution via ESPN3 and WatchESPN.
“We’ve already placed a big bet on the future with the World Cup and we believe this investment in MLS is an investment in, collectively, what we can do as a domestic league,” said Fox Sports president & COO Eric Shanks.
The new agreement, which ESPN president John Skipper hinted was coming a few weeks ago, maintains a soccer presence on the network as it hands off World Cup rights to Fox following this summer’s World Cup from Brazil. “We’re bullish on where this sport is going overall,” said Skipper.
Fox meanwhile, effectively takes over for NBC, returning to the league after three years. Univision will extend their relationship with MLS to 20 years over the life of the deal.
The new agreements include Men’s and Women’s national team matches, about 10 per year for ESPN and Fox Sports 1 (the two will split), while Univision will carry all USMNT matches in Spanish. “We believe the best way to support the USMNT is through a strong domestic league,” added Shanks.