Friday, February 25, 2022

Garber's Change in Tone on TV Deal

Don Garber spoke with Sports Illustrated on Feb. 22 about a wide range of topics ahead of the 2022 MLS season. Among them, an "as-is" look at the next TV deal. MLS is officially on the clock, so to speak, as this is the last year on the current TV package.

Garber was noticeably more muted when he spoke about how negotiations are going. He made no estimates on how much he thinks the deal is worth, nor did he go into a WWE "hype-man" type pitch about the growth of the league and soccer. In other words, the tiresome hustle aspect he usually employs is gone. 

Here's the full quote:

“We’re not there yet. We continue to be very encouraged by all of the interest,” Garber said. “It is an unprecedentedly unique package, with every single game, whether it’s a traditionally national linear game or it’s a local game that’s been aired locally in our markets in the U.S., or it’s a global game, and all of that is in a package along with the Leagues Cup. And as you would expect, there’s a lot of interest in that. But as the world continues to shift from a media perspective, we’re talking to anybody that is in this business whether it’s a streamer, whether it’s a more traditional media company,” he added. “So I’m encouraged by the interest and hope to be able to finalize something soon.”

He was able to work in a list of things included in the deal, but that's about it. It's a surprisingly bland take from Don Garber, even though it's clear that no deal is complete. Nor does one appear to be even near-complete (he would say as much if so).

It's possible Garber was not interested in going into hard pitch mode for this interview for whatever reason and that it's not a conscious change in approach. And perhaps he will still do so this weekend on FOX when the season opens up. However, the tone he takes in this piece is one that is more in line with the way modern TV deals are talked about. 

You don't see other commissioners or league officials of foreign soccer leagues in the United States out there hustling like Garber does for MLS, so when he does it comes off as a desperate pitch for a product that doesn't do what it says on the bottle. It also makes it seem like any new deal is an investment in Don Garber and not MLS (think the My Pillow guy).

Garber has stated that he thinks the deal will get done by the end of Q1 this year. That means the end of March. Given his comments above, it sounds like he is some distance away from a new deal.


My estimates have the MLS TV deal worth around $150m p/yr based on the current deals with the Premier League, NHL, and the NBA.

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