After a thrilling MLS Cup match between the Portland Timbers and New York City Football Club that was the most-watched MLS Cup on ABC and ESPN networks since 2009, averaging 1.14 million viewers, the MLS is looking to get its biggest media deal in league history, according to a new report by Bloomberg.
Back in 2014, the MLS announced an 8-year broadcasting deal between ESPN and Fox Sports in English and Univision in Spanish worth a combined $90 million per season, which was five times the value of the league’s previous deal, at the time. That deal expires at the end of the 2022 season and with the league’s growth and rise of popularity, with a 30th team expected to be announced next year, MLS is expected to see a 9 figure deal.
According to the Bloomberg report, there are at least a “dozen companies” interested in acquiring rights to the league. Names such as Amazon, Apple, ViacomCBS, and WarnerMedia are mentioned in the report, which could be competing with The Walt Disney Company, Fox, and Univision in what may turn into a bidding war.
Amazon has been looking to expand its live sports footprint through its Prime Video service. The tech giant is already the streaming home of one MLS team the Seattle Sounders. Since all of the MLS rights are up for grabs after the 2022 season, one company could be the home of the league, and Amazon could expand its streaming capabilities to the league’s other 26 teams.
Soccer has become one of the most popular and valuable sports on streaming platforms. Recently, Barclays FA Women’s Super League and CBS Sports reached a multi-year agreement that will allow Paramount+ to stream games. If ViacomCBS could add MLS to its expansive soccer catalog, which includes Italy’s Serie A then it would be the premier streaming service for soccer fans. The platform is also the home of English-language broadcasts of the UEFA in the United States.
NBC recently extended its agreement with the Premier League until 2028, which is expected to be worth over 2.7 billion, the network could pair the MLS with it in a similar deal, which could help bolster its Peacock service.
The MLS has the youngest viewership when compared to other North American sports. The league is aware of this and knows that streaming will be an integral part of their next media rights deal. Back in September, in an interview with World Soccer Talk, Seth Bacon, Senior Vice President, Media at MLS & SUM explained how the league is positioned to capitalize on the growth of digital streaming:
“We’ve got the youngest fanbase in North American sports. We have a very tech-savvy digitally-native fanbase. And a very unduplicated fanbase. You can’t access our fans by getting other properties. We have a very unique set of fans who consume our product whether on linear television or digital.
When you look at the metrics that really matter (Gen Z, multi-cultural, tech-savvy), Major League Soccer has the best metrics across the board in all those areas. When you think about the way the world is shifting from a media standpoint, and how consumption habits are going to change, our sport is perfectly positioned for the next evolution of how people consume live sports.
We are bullish on our prospects for the future because we know our consumers are ready, willing and able to consume our content anywhere, anytime and on any platform – linear, digital, any device — and it’s exciting to think about what the future could bring.”