In a move that seems to be very good news for the league, MLS has announced a three-year media rights agreement to have 45 league games broadcast on NBC and the new NBC Sports Network (which will be re-branded from Versus) over the 20112, '13 and '14 seasons.
NBC will broadcast two regular-season MLS games and two playoff games, 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 and three playoff games. All of those telecasts will include pregame and postgame coverage.
Here's the news from MLSsoccer.com.
I also would assume that NBC now has a greater incentive to use its other sports platforms to give MLS scores, and otherwise acknowledge the league as a major American sports league.
And now here's a segment from an Associated Press story that kind of picks up on that last point:
The package currently on Fox Soccer Channel will move mainly to the NBC Sports Network, Versus' new name beginning Jan. 2. The cable channel will air 38 regular-season games, three playoff games and two U.S. men's national team matches each year.
NBC will broadcast two regular-season MLS games, two playoff games and two national team appearances under the three-year contract announced Wednesday.
"It shows our sport is ready for prime time," MLS Commissioner Don Garber told The Associated Press.
The deal became possible after Comcast Corp., Versus' parent company, officially took over NBCUniversal in January. Not only will a handful of games be available to a broader audience on NBC, but Garber is confident soccer will get invaluable exposure through advertising during the network's coverage of other sports, from "Sunday Night Football" to the Stanley Cup playoffs to the Olympics.
"NBC is really famous for promoting their partners, and that's a big driver in our decision to do a deal with them," Garber said.
Hockey, shown on both NBC and Versus since before the Comcast merger, has seen significant ratings growth in recent years.
"What they've done for the NHL I think is remarkable," Garber said.
Here's NBC's take, complete with a short video.