Monday, March 30, 2015

MLS Misses Key Element on TV Deals

In its 20th season, MLS begins three new television rights deals. This is great news except for one crucial item.  None of the deals are structured for consistent prime-time viewing.

This is a big disappointment for MLS, especially as expectations are so high for new teams joining the league and the new Tv deals in place.

Momentum seemed to be on the side of MLS and then there is this stark realization that clearly shows an incompetence from the league in the public relations department.

It would seem like a no-brainer and an easy steal from a Marketing 101 class-Make sure to get a national audience to watch in prime time.

In looking at the entire schedule on MLSsoccer.com, the weekly nationally scheduled games by the three networks are set mostly for the same times. Friday and Sunday night games will generally start at 7:00p.m. EDT. Friday's broadcast is by UniMas and Sunday's broadcast is on FoxSports1. ESPN2 is scheduled as a lead-in to FoxSports1 on Sundays.  Games on ESPN2 are generally scheduled for 5:00p.m. EDT.

It should be noted that in July and August, UniMas has MLS games scheduled to start at 11:00p.m. EDT.  Also, FoxSports1 and ESPN2 do have a minimal few games (combined-I counted five or six) scheduled for prime time.

It should be clarified that Univision, owners of UniMas, will broadcast other MLS games consistently in prime-time, but on a different channel that requires a preferred cable Tv package not a standard one (generally, cable Tv is divided into three categories-basic, standard and preferred).  It is called Univision Deportes.

The scheduling of MLS matches for these national broadcasts may be an issue of whether the networks have faith in putting MLS on in prime time.  Are the broadcasters suggesting these new time slots or is MLS asking for them?

The NFL, NBA and MLB have all found network deals to broadcast their games in prime time. Each of them has a home in a time slot that keeps their sport front and center.

MLB has had national recognition on Sunday nights on ESPN for 25 years.  The NFL shows off its national appeal on Sunday and Monday nights, on NBC and ESPN respectively, and on Thursday nights with CBS.  The NBA reveals its skills on Thursday nights on TNT and Wednesday and Friday nights on ESPN.

At this point, some of these sports broadcasts are legendary or quickly becoming legendary.  The NBA on TNT on Thursday nights, Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN and Monday Night Football are part of the culture of American sports.  Sunday Night Football in America on NBC is starting to reach that level.

MLS needs to take a cue from the mainstream leagues and get its name etched for at least one night on one channel in America.  Soccer has its advantage of lasting just under two hours.  It can start at 8:30 or 9:30p.m. EST and sports fans will still be tucked into bed by 11:30.

Any MLS broadcast start time not in prime time is for soccer fans only and won't attract the casual sports fans that MLS desperately wants and needs.  It is a mistake that has to be corrected starting next year.

You May Also Enjoy Reading:
'Occupy!': The Casual Dining/Sports Bar Impact on MLS
Should MLS Play All Its Matches At Night?
Soccer Benefits from 'Short Attention Span' Caused By the Internet
Flipping Channels: Sunday Night Football on NBC and MLS on ESPN
NBC Sunday Night Football Promotes MLS During Broadcast

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