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Saturday, June 22, 2024

ESPN’s 27-Year Run With MLS Ends

  • ESPN was reportedly unwilling to pay a large fee for non-exclusive MLS games.
  • Apple entered an exclusive, 10-year agreement with the league earlier this year.
Multiple soccer balls on sideline of MLS game
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN is officially through broadcasting MLS games.

The soccer league entered an exclusive, 10-year media deal with Apple earlier this year, worth at least $250 million annually — leaving ESPN, Fox, and Univision with only nonexclusive options.

ESPN was reportedly unwilling to pay a large fee for nonexclusive games and had concerns over the potential for Apple to make games available outside a paywall, which could deter viewers from watching on TV.

  • The Disney network has broadcast the league since it began in 1996.
  • Between ESPN’s pay-TV channels and ABC, the networks brought in an average 343,000 viewers per game last season — the highest since 2007.

Univision, whose relationship with MLS also started in 1996 and has been mainstay since 2007, will not broadcast any regular-season or playoff games as part of the new deal, but will air Leagues Cup matches. Apple’s agreement includes Spanish broadcasts and French broadcasts for Canadian teams’ games.

Fox has renewed its deal and will broadcast 34 regular-season games annually, eight Audi MLS Cup playoff matches each season, the MLS Cup, and select Leagues Cup matches.

TSN and RDS signed their own deals in Canada. 

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Apple’s Agenda

Apple’s new deal runs from 2023-32. Games will be made available through a new subscription service in the Apple TV+ app that costs $14.99 per month or $99.99 per year.

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