Aug 11, 2011 2:11 AM by Lee Douglas/NBC Sports
NEW YORK - Major League Soccer (MLS) and the NBC Sports Group Wednesday announced a three-year media rights agreement, which commences at the start of the 2012 MLS season. The partnership calls for 45 MLS games and four U.S. Men's National Team contests to be televised live across both NBC and NBC Sports Network each season. This marks the first rights deal for the newly-named cable channel that will be re-branded from VERSUS on January 2, 2012. The announcement was made today by MLS Commissioner and Soccer United Marketing CEO Don Garber and Mark Lazarus, Chairman, NBC Sports Group.
"Everyone at the NBC Sports Group is thrilled to begin this partnership with Major League Soccer," said Lazarus. "MLS is a perfect fit for our new group, and we are uniquely positioned to help grow soccer in the United States with extensive coverage on NBC Sports Network, significant programming on the broadcast network and our growing digital platforms. Additionally, this agreement complements the partnerships that five of our regional sports networks have with their local MLS teams."
Each season, NBC will broadcast two regular-season MLS games, two playoff games and two appearances by the U.S. Men's National Team, marking the first time four MLS matches will be broadcast on English-language network television since 2002. The NBC Sports Network will televise 38 regular-season games, three playoff games and two U.S. Men's National Team matches. All telecasts on NBC and NBC Sports Network will consist of pre-game and post-game coverage. According to the agreement, the NBC Sports Group obtains digital rights across all platforms and devices for the games it televises.
"Our new partnership with the NBC Sports Group is a significant step forward for Major League Soccer and U.S. Soccer," said MLS Commissioner and Soccer United Marketing CEO Don Garber. "The NBC Sports Group is world-renowned for its award-winning coverage, superb broadcast quality and promotional expertise. We are excited to be part of NBC's ambitious plans for soccer, and look forward to reaching a considerable audience on multiple platforms."
Featuring an exciting mix of players, including world-class stars such as Landon Donovan, David Beckham and Thierry Henry, MLS is one of the nation's fastest growing sports properties. It has seen considerable growth across many metrics, including number of teams (10 clubs in 2004 to 19 in 2012) and new stadiums (two soccer stadiums in 2004 to having 15 of 19 clubs playing in venues built with soccer in mind, including new soccer stadiums in Houston and Montreal next year). This season, the League is enjoying the highest average attendance and largest number of corporate sponsors in its 16-year history.
Along with already-established MLS partnerships with five Comcast SportsNets (California, Chicago, Mid-Atlantic, New England and Philadelphia), this agreement provides the league with coverage across the NBC Sports Group's unique four-tier portfolio of assets: broadcast network, national cable, regional sports networks and digital platforms.