This weekend we argued that Americans are finally beginning like soccer. Today, the US’s flagship domestic competition, Major League Soccer, inked its biggest ever deal for television rights.
The league announced today it has signed an eight-year deal with ESPN, Fox, and Univision to air shows for the next eight seasons. The Sports Business Journal reports that the combined average annual fee works out to about $90 million a season, five times the size of the $18 million the league gets currently. The new deal will see 125 matches broadcast annually, with set time slots on Friday and Sundays.
The huge increase arguably reflects both rising popularity among Americans of the “world game” (which, not that long ago, was derided as a “commie sport“), as well as the increasing reliance of traditional networks on live content to drive ratings.
A five-fold increase is nothing to sneeze at. But by way of comparison, American football’s main league, the NFL, reportedly gets about $3.1 billion a year from networks for its TV rights; Major League Baseball’s deal averages about $1.5 billion a year; the National Basketball Association reportedly gets $930 million; and the National Hockey League gets about $200 million a year from an exclusive deal with NBC.