Football in the US is facing a unique opportunity to grow in the country now due to the proliferation of multiple media platforms for distribution, Concacaf’s chief commercial officer Heidi Pellerano told delegates here at Sportel Miami.
Pellerano said: “A few weeks ago here in Miami we hosted the Super Bowl and all the pageantry there was for the 100th anniversary of the National Football League. Right now, Major League Soccer is in the middle of its pageantry for its 25-year anniversary.
“The biggest challenge until now has been the lack of distribution and that 75-year advantage the NFL has had because you’re constantly competing for that prime time. Now with the proliferation of media, if you’re a fan of the sport, you can start at 9am and finish at 9pm watching every possible league around the world, youth competitions, etc.
“Now there’s the opportunity for everybody to have their place through more niche platforms as well as social media platforms.”
Several major US broadcasters have made substantial commitments to football properties in recent years. This has seen the likes of ESPN and Fox Sports invest heavily in the domestic MLS league until 2022, CBS and Univision acquiring the rights to the Uefa Champions League and NBC acquire the English Premier League until 2022.
At the start of the year, Concacaf signed a multi-year English-language rights deal with US pay-television broadcaster Fox Sports. That contract includes rights to the 2021 and 2023 Gold Cups as well as US men’s and women’s Olympic qualifiers and the Concacaf Champions League. OneSoccer, Mediapro’s OTT sports streaming service in neighbouring Canada, recently acquired exclusive rights to the 2021 and 2023 editions of the Gold Cup in a wide-ranging deal, supplanting incumbent rights-holder TSN in the process.
Fox Sports Latin America holds multi-platform rights in Mexico and South America to Concacaf’s club competitions until the end of the 2021-22 season.
Pellerano was joined on the panel by José Rocha, vice-president of programming and production at pay-television broadcaster DirecTV.
He noted: “I think there are generational challenges. You have American football, college football throughout the week. Even if you have full stadiums with great attendance, it’s hard to find a timeslot for people to concentrate on that specific match.
“We also need to look at how kids are consuming soccer; both in how they train and how they get into the short-form content. Perhaps they’re satisfied with watching highlights of their favourite player or a specific team?
“There are difficulties both with the market itself and the way we are trying to communicate the sport with a generation that is shifting its viewership.”