Record global TV footprint for MLS' 25th season
By Jonathan Rest
North America's Major League Soccer is to be made available in more countries worldwide than ever before in 2020, its 25th season.
Almost 190 countries and territories will carry the matches, when the new campaign gets under on 29 February.
Seth Bacon, senior vice-president of media at MLS, told Sportcal: “We are excited to bring more MLS content than ever to fans around the world through integrated and immersive partnerships with some of the biggest media companies in the world. Coming off one of our most successful seasons in league history – with records set in key competition and media metrics – these partnerships position us globally to build on that momentum in a powerful way as we celebrate our 25th season.”
New deals in place for 2020 include: with BeIN Sports, the international pay-TV operator, covering Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia, Timor Leste, Malaysia, Philippines, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand; TV2, the commercial broadcaster in Denmark; and Abu Dhabi Sports Channels in the Middle East and North Africa.
The TV2 deal was announced late last year when the broadcaster acquired the package of soccer rights held in Denmark by the IMG agency's over-the-top streaming service Strive Sport.
IMG, which holds global distribution rights to MLS in an eight season deal that expires after 2022, will continue to carry MLS matches on Strive in Norway, but the Swedish operation was shut down mid-way through last year when pay-TV's C More bought the rights portfolio.
One notable market where a deal has not yet been finalised for 2020 and beyond is France, where BeIN held the rights in an initial one-year deal last season.
The majority of current MLS rights deals began with the 2019 campaign, when in Europe IMG was forced to sell directly in each market, after it emerged in the third quarter of 2018 that Eurosport, the pan-European sports broadcaster, would not renew its contract.
DAZN subscribers in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Spain and Brazil (where ESPN also shows matches) and Eleven Sports customers in Belgium and Luxembourg will get a first full season of MLS, after the two entities came on board with four-year deals two months into the 2019 season. DAZN has been streaming MLS in Canada since 2018.
Other notable international rights-holders include: ESPN for Spanish-speaking Latin America, the Caribbean, Sub-Saharan Africa, Oceania and Brazil; pay-TV's Sky and Premier Sports in the UK and Ireland; Fox Sports in the Netherlands; Arena Sport in the Balkans; Nova Sport in the Czech Republic and Slovakia; Polsat in Poland; and Saran Media's S Sport in Turkey and Azerbaijan.
All MLS rights deals, including local, national and international, now run until the end of the 2022 season.
Domestic rights are held by ESPN, Fox and Univision in USA, and TSN, CTV and TVA Sports in Canada.
The 2020 season marks the debuts of Inter Miami and Nashville SC, taking MLS to 26 clubs. Austin, Charlotte, Sacramento and St. Louis will join by 2022.
A feature on MLS at 25 appears in the next issue of Sportcal Insight, out next week.