August 6, 2009

ESPN blowing up footy, good or bad for MLS?

First, ESPN grabbed the rights to some La Liga games. Good move for ESPN Deportes and ESPN360, with over 20 games also getting on the big boy networks. Then, the four letter drops an unexpected preview of the Gold Cup final, which they weren't even televising.

Now, they've bought the rights to some English Premier League games. Cue the squealing of EPL fanboys...

My question, is this a good thing for American soccer? I love that ESPN is focusing a lot of attention on the US national team. However, with their investment in televising the World Cup, it's a smart move.

Will it help MLS? I don't see how. As much as I love watching MLS, if you're comparing it in quality to La Liga or the Premiership, MLS is going to come up short. While it will produce some entertaining games, MLS just isn't seen as an equal of the biggest leagues in the world.

As long as MLS can keep its relationship with ESPN strong due to SUM's influence, things could work out. SUM has been brilliant in producing money for MLS by piggy-backing off of the cache of the Mexican national team, international exhibitions, and TV rights to the World Cup.

The minute MLS loses that connection, we'll have to start looking back to buying time on ESPN or going the Versus route.


The Third Half said...

Hey just to heads up, ESPN purchased the 2010 World Cup directly from FIFA, and not via SUM like they did in 2006, so that gravy train is over.

As for paying for time on ESPN, ESPN can break off the contract after the 2010 season with MLS and at that point they would either have to pay or as you say find another venue.

My guess is the gravy train with the FMF could end after this world cup should they not advance deep, but they will always have Interliga here.

Superliga I think is done after this year.

That there alone should be enough to get people to worry. MLS should know better and start doing whatever it can to improve the quality on the park. When friendlies involving European teams can average 3 times the ratings ESPN gets on games, then it is time to panic.

Longshoe said...

I disagree on the FMF gravy train. I think the gigantic Mexican population in the US will ensure it continues.

Interliga will be interesting, especially with all the FMF v. CONMEBOL posturing...

Superliga still makes money, even if it's kind of a wack competition.

There's lots of people interesting in making money on soccer in the US, look at Telemundo's handling of the Mexico-US game. It's just going to be tough to convince them that they can make money on MLS.

More MLS v. foreign club teams is a good thing, more foreign v. foreign in the US could be a bad thing, unless SUM/MLS is making $$$ on it.

Anonymous said...

Real soccer fans in America are less interested in whether or not ESPN carries MLS games, than they are in watching the best soccer leagues in the world, like the English Premier League, and the Spanish La Liga.

Longshoe said...

I don't think having more interest in the EPL or La Liga makes you a "real soccer fan".

I love watching soccer, and actually get more excited recently about watching MLS or CONCACAF Champions League than the Premiership or the UEFA Champions League. Doesn't make me real or unreal, just a soccer fan in general.

Personally, I think the more soccer shown in the US, the better. I just hope that includes our own league along with the others.