NBC Sports snags Major League Soccer [Updated]
Comcast's NBC Sports Group has landed a broadcast-and-cable-rights deal for Major League Soccer, its latest move in a push to compete more aggressively against Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN and News Corp.'s Fox Sports.
Although ESPN is still the primary home of MLS soccer and carries most of the major games, the new MLS partnership is a blow to Fox Sports, which currently has the package on its Fox Soccer channel.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but one person familiar with the matter put the price tag at $12 million a year for three years.
The accord will put soccer on NBC as well as Versus, the cable sports channel that is being renamed NBC Sports Network at the start of 2012. The deal covers 45 games. The majority of the games will be on cable, but NBC will broadcast two regular-season games and two playoff games as well as appearances by the U.S. men's national team.
One big selling point for NBC Sports versus Fox is that the Versus channel is distributed in close to 80 million homes, while Fox Soccer is in just under 40 million homes. And Comcast already has a relationship with MLS as five of its regional sports channels carry the league's games.
"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.
Over the last few months, NBC Sports has retained the rights to the Olympics through the 2020 Games as well as to National Hockey League contests. However, it lost the rights to Wimbledon to ESPN.
The next big fish that NBC Sports will try to land is the NFL's new eight-game package of Thursday night games.
-- Joe Flint
This post was updated to reflect additional information about the deal.
Photo: L.A. Galaxy midfielder David Beckham moves the ball up the field while being defended by the Columbus Crew's Josh Gardner at the Home Depot Center. Credit: Kelvin Kuo / US Presswire