Wednesday, August 25, 2021

MLS Slapped a Price Sticker on the Windshield

There is a report out there that put a dollar figure on the regional rights to MLS games. 

There is a lot going on here for MLS and it's hard to explain, which is why they must be having trouble getting a buyer.

Let walk through the steps and see how far we get before we enter the dark woods...

1. Scrap Regional Games
MLS does not want to be in the regional sports network broadcast sphere anymore. Like baseball, MLS creates local deals with TV networks to carry games. The league office has always charged (challenged?) each individual team to get a deal done. There are a handful of teams that make money on it, but for the most part, MLS teams end up flipping the bill. MLS wants out of this model.

2. What MLS Wants
Since the current model isn't working, they want someone to buy the rights to all their games (460 or so) in one giant bundle, separate from the nationally televised games. Last year they instructed every team to not seek new regional deals to get ahead of this change. Outside of this info, nobody really knows what's going to happen.

3. Nobody Knows What MLS Wants
This is where I think the whole thing falls apart for the league. There doesn't appear to be a map guiding anyone forward. Who will produce the broadcasts now? Will they keep local talent and just show those games on ESPN+ like they are now just with no blackouts? Why would ESPN pay 75 million dollars for something they are effectively getting for free now? Why would anyone pay $75m to pick up 27 broadcast teams and now have to pay them and production of games? Will MLS just keep paying to produce the games but let someone else broadcast them so they can earn off ads? 

On one hand, I think MLS is wanted to copy the NBC approach with the English Premier League. Pump in the feed for non-nationally televised games and pepper in games during the weekend on big networks. Seems simple enough.

...but on the other hand. Who wants to pick up the cost of producing over 400 games (and growing)? There's no real precedent for that out there.

Anyhow, I don't think MLS has the bandwidth the work this out and is fishing for someone out there to take it and run. Since the are already negotiating with ESPN, Fox and Univision we can conclude that they are not interested. I'm guessing they are trying to net Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Roku and the like. with this little leak. We see.

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