MLS unveils new long-term rights deals

US pay-television broadcasters ESPN, Fox Sports and Univision Deportes have acquired rights for Major League Soccer, North America’s top football league, and the US men’s and women’s national teams.

The new deals will run for eight years, from 2015 to 2022, and were agreed with MLS and the US Soccer governing body.

The agreements will give each of the broadcasters a dedicated ‘game of the week’ in the schedule, with Spanish-language service Univision showing 34 regular-season games per year on Friday evenings, primarily on the UniMás channel, before ESPN and Fox Sports 1 broadcast back-to-back MLS matches every Sunday at 5pm and 7pm ET, respectively.

ESPN and Fox Sports will show a minimum of 34 Sunday regular-season games per season each on an exclusive basis, primarily on ESPN2 and Fox Sports 1, and will share MLS Cup Playoff coverage, with MLS Cup programming alternating between the broadcasters from year to year. The MLS All-Star Game will also alternate each year between ESPN and Fox Sports 1, with both broadcasters splitting coverage of all US national team matches. ESPN’s multi-screen service, ESPN3, and online service WatchESPN has secured MLS’s out-of-market package, which will feature more than 200 games per year on Saturdays.

The MLS’s exclusive regular-season coverage on Univision will include between five and seven consecutive Friday evening double-headers in May and June, with an audio option to watch games in English for every game on the broadcaster. Univision will show two MLS Cup Playoff matches per season on an exclusive basis and will show exclusive Spanish-language coverage of the MLS All-Star Game and MLS Cup. The broadcaster will also show a Sunday MLS round-up programme and a condensed game of the week plus two hours of support programming surrounding its Friday evening coverage. Univision will show all US men’s national team matches and a minimum of four women’s national team matches every year.

The agreements include radio and digital rights for ESPN and Fox Sports, and digital rights only for Univision