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Major League Soccer field accepts smaller offers from ESPN and Fox Sports as TV deal expires

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Major League Soccer thinks it scored a goal when it sold the streaming rights to Apple, but it costs the league when it comes to U.S. broadcast rates.

Last month, MLS celebrated signing a 10-year, $250 million annual deal with Apple TV+.But the deal, according to media analysts and people familiar with the negotiations, would take a deeper dive into how much we can expect from the media rights for linear TV games. forbes ESPN offers four-year contracts valued at approximately $40 million total to broadcast up to 26 regular season contests, MLS playoff games and two MLS Cup rotations per year. Fox Sports is also interested in him retaining his MLS rights, but will only pay him $7 million per season, sources said. Univision may also renew his MLS rights for Spanish-language broadcasting, according to industry sources.

people spoke forbes They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss private negotiations.

Under the current TV deal, which expires this year, Fox and ESPN will together pay MLS $75 million annually, while Univision will pay approximately $15 million annually. Of that amount, MLS estimates that $25 million was paid to USA Soccer for the national team’s television rights. So, right now, the TV rights fee from the network is only $65 million.

Officials for Fox, ESPN and Univision declined to comment.

The decline in the value of MLS linear rights should not come as a surprise.League can no longer offer exclusivity to network after agreeing to produce Partnered with Apple in JuneThe deal includes all MLS content for domestic and regional matches. In addition, MLS will bear the costs associated with the production of the game.

That means MLS could fall below the reported $250 million once costs are factored in. MLS originally sought a rights package of $300 million.

Another blow to the league’s media value is that it no longer bundles content with the US men’s and women’s national soccer teams. In March 2022, Warner Bros. Discovery-owned Turner Sports agreed to his eight-year deal to take over the national team’s television rights starting in 2023. USSF dissolved its partnership with Soccer United Marketing, his marketing company for MLS-run commercials, in May 2021. The company had previously negotiated a contract for the national team.

Lee Berke, chief executive of sports media consultancy LHB Sports, said it makes sense for MLS to maintain a network presence despite the lack of exclusivity. And ESPN still offers the best reach among sports fans. According to Burke, the problem is that simulcasting games with Apple requires a network, so “some of the audience is sucked up nationally.”

The MLS has overtaken football leagues such as the Premier League and Mexico’s Liga MX in terms of viewership in the United States. MLS averaged 259,000 viewers as of July 17, according to research firm Nielsen. This is down from an average of 287,000 for the same number of games in 2021. In addition, the league is available on English-language networks (ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, FOX, FS1).

The Premier League averaged 507,000 viewers for the 2021-22 season on the NBC Sports platform. According to NBCUniversal, this is a 21% increase for him from the 2020-21 season. The Premier League renewed his rights deal with NBC for his reported $2 billion in November 2021.

A spokeswoman for MLS declined to comment on broadcast rights figures.

A few weeks after MLS reached an agreement with Apple, reaction from sports officials was mixed. One executive applauded the league’s forward-thinking thinking about the future delivery of live sports, especially as cable subscribers continue to decline and streaming audiences grow worldwide. Some suggest that interest in MLS will erode in the short term because

“We can’t make a decision yet,” Burke says. Instead, he recommended waiting until the 2024 MLS season, by which time subscription numbers would be a better indicator of his interest in MLS on Apple’s platform. he says.

“The advantage for them is that Apple TV is already in place, so they can stream and they can piggyback on it,” Berke said.

Apple also signed a streaming deal with Major League Baseball in March 2022. forbesMike Ozhanian reported that the deal is worth $85 million a year over seven years.

The impact of the new media deal on the ratings of MLS teams is unknown. According to his website, Sportico, which reports sports commerce, MLS franchises average $500 million. This is up from his $313 million. forbes Last calculated in 2019. forbes plans to publish a new comprehensive MLS assessment later this year.