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By DAN KARELL
It’s been a long time since anyone has heard an update on Major League Soccer’s TV negotiations, but according to a report, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
ESPN and Fox are still locked in negotiations with MLS for the television rights to both MLS and U.S. Soccer, according to Sports Business Daily. The two networks are expected to have a joint agreement, with reports in January stating that the deal would be worth around $70 million per season. Current television rights holder NBC dropped out of the right’s bidding in January.
“When we go through this process with different leagues, some of them take longer than others,” ESPN senior vice president of programming Scott Guglielmino told SBD. “It’s an ongoing conversation and discussion. I am hopeful that we will be successful in the not-too-distant future and have something to talk about.”
MLS’ current national television deals with ESPN, NBC, Univision, and MP & Silva (international broadcasts) all expire following the 2014 season. The league’s deal with TSN runs through the 2016 season.
MLS has yet to officially comment on the report.
In 2013, SBD estimated that MLS currently earns around $18 million from their deals with ESPN and NBC, with another $20 million coming from deals with MP & Silva and Univision. TSN’s contract figures with MLS have remained undisclosed.
The $70 million-per year figure reported in January was a surprise because of how badly MLS suffered in television ratings last season. The league saw their viewership drop 29 percent on ESPN and ESPN 2 and an eight percent decrease on NBC Sports Network from a year before, according to SBD’s figures.
It remains unclear how MLS and U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Team games will be split up between ESPN and Fox.
“It’s somewhat complex in that you’re dealing with two different properties, and it’s a long-term deal,” Guglielmino said. “It’s taking a little bit longer than we would have liked, but we’re going to hopefully get something done.”
What do you think of this news? Do you anticipate this deal being completed before the start of the 2014 season? How big of a deal would it be to the league if they can bring in $70 million per season from just ESPN and Fox?
Share your thoughts below.