MLS and U.S. Soccer have signed a new multiyear deal with Bleacher Report to develop and distribute soccer content through B/R-owned platforms, such as B/R Football.
The new agreement, which runs through 2022, aims to create another avenue for soccer fans to consume content, as well as get MLS and U.S. Soccer content in front of potential new fans.
“We have tremendous momentum as a league right now — and that momentum leads to more people looking for more MLS content in more —and different — places,” said MLS Senior Vice President of Media Seth Bacon. “We believe this new distribution platform will allow us to reach these new, highly engaged soccer fans and continue to push our growth trajectory in the right direction.”
B/R Platforms started to roll out MLS content during the league’s MLS is Back tournament, and will continue as MLS looks to conclude its regular season this fall.
Other efforts will include featuring highlights from U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Team matches, as well as additional new programming.
“This agreement doubles down on our commitment to U.S. soccer and growing a consequential fanbase here domestically where we see the biggest opportunity in capturing the hearts and minds of a new generation of soccer fans,” said Raphael Poplock, Bleacher Report senior vice president of new business development.
“B/R Football is the #1 brand for a young, vibrant, diverse, mobile-first generation of soccer fans globally and that is because we deliver content designed specifically with them in mind,” he said.
Bacon said MLS views this new deal as “additive” to its existing linear media partners in North American of ESPN, Fox, Univision, TSN and TVA.
“The content and features we bring to life on B/R Football will only be additive as we build more interest in MLS. It will create a bigger pool of people looking to consume content and, ultimately, our live matches,” he said.
The new deal, brokered by Soccer United Marketing, will also pay MLS and U.S. Soccer a six-figure rights fee and brings another major media company into the fold for MLS as it looks towards its next round of media rights deals in 2022, according to industry sources.
There is also potential for additional revenue from this deal through brand content opportunities, sources said.
Bacon declined to comment on the financial terms of the deal, but said it “allows MLS to engage with soccer fans in even more creative ways.” The league and B/R are also working on a new all-access documentary series that will debut across B/R Football channels.
Poplock said Bleacher Report is aiming to “reinforce our B/R Football vertical with a rich MLS [and] USSF library to elevate U.S. soccer in a meaningful way.”
He also noted that it will provide “unique sales solutions for MLS and U.S. Soccer sponsors interested in reaching this avid fanbase.”
“We will continue to take our best-in-class approach in creating branded content and mutually explore other revenue opportunities across experiential, eCommerce and original programming,” Poplock said.
Turner, Bleacher Report’s parent company, does not currently have any U.S. soccer media rights after opting out of its deal with UEFA around Champions League earlier this year, forgoing the remainder of this season and next.
However, Turner has shown interest in being involved in the next round of MLS rights negotiations, according to sources. MLS and U.S. Soccer currently receive roughly $90 million a year for its U.S. national media rights, a number the league is looking to increase significantly. CBS Sports, which had previously acquired the U.S. English language UEFA rights for the 2021-2022 season and beyond, stepped in for the interim. Univision holds the Spanish language U.S. rights.