MLS, US Soccer strike content pact with Bleacher Report

Major League Soccer and the United States Soccer Federation have agreed to a content deal with sports-focused digital media platform Bleacher Report, with MLS stating the contract will grant the Turner-owned company a “voice in the conversation” in its upcoming rights talks.

The deal will run through 2022 and has been brokered by Soccer United Marketing, the commercial rights manager for MLS and US Soccer.

As part of the agreement, Bleacher Report – through its soccer-focused service B/R Football – will develop soccer content and highlights, distributed directly to fans via its B/R mobile app and social channels. Content features will include top plays from MLS and US men’s and women’s national team matches.

New content began appearing earlier this summer across B/R platforms and will increase in frequency as the MLS regular season reaches its conclusion this fall with matches in home markets. Bleacher Report will also partner with MLS and U.S. Soccer on custom content initiatives, including specialty programming and access to an extensive MLS and US Soccer highlights library.

“B/R Football is the No. 1 digital media destination for young soccer fans and this new partnership provides a deeper library of soccer content that our fans crave,” said Raphael Poplock, Bleacher Report senior vice president of new business development. “It will also offer an increased presence for top MLS and U.S. Soccer content with one of the most engaged audiences in the sport, while leveraging our innovative sales solutions to most effectively connect with them.”

MLS and US Soccer are currently coming towards the end of long-term broadcast rights deals signed in May 2014. At the time, US pay-television broadcasters ESPN, Fox Sports and Univision Deportes acquired rights for MLS and the men’s and women’s national teams for eight years, from 2015 to 2022.

“We will go first to ESPN, Fox and Univision with our live rights, but this deal definitely opens the door for Bleacher Report to have a voice in the conversation,” Seth Bacon, MLS senior vice-president of media, told Forbes regarding the new deal’s importance to the league’s forthcoming media rights talks. “B/R treats soccer the way it should be, as a fast-growing sport with wind in its sails.”