Fox Soccer Inks MLS Pact


Fox Soccer Channel will stay on the pitch with Major League Soccer through 2010.
The network reached a five-year deal with Soccer United Marketing, the domestic soccer circuit’s marketing and media arm, that will give the service a weekly Saturday-night match and rights to several playoff games through 2010.

As part of the agreement, MLS matches will also be telecast by Fox Soccer sister networks Fox Sports en Español, Fox Sports Latin America, Fox Sports Middle East and Fox Sports Africa.

The renewal pact also extends coverage by Fox Soccer of the U.S. Open Cup tournament for this year through 2010; a pair of U.S. men's and women's national teams annually, starting next year; and three international friendly matches per year, beginning with FC Barcelona's tour of America next month.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but sources familiar with the pact put it at more than $10 million for the life of the contract. Fox Soccer has been carrying MLS matches since 2003."MLS is moving in exciting new directions with soccer-specific stadiums, new teams in Houston this year and in Toronto next season," Fox Soccer executive vice president and general manager David Sternberg said. "We're happy to be their partner with an expanded TV package.”ESPN and Univision are expected to announce rights package with MLS Friday, the day before the circuit holds its All-Star Game.Sternberg said Fox Soccer held an option to renegotiate during the fourth season of its current MLS deal. Paying a rights fee for the first time to MLS, Fox Soccer's new contract also includes three first-round playoff matches on a nonexclusive basis this season, in addition to the 13 regular-season game slate, which kicked off Saturday with the contest between the New England Revolution and the Kansas City Wizards.Sternberg said SUM will handle national advertising inventory with MLS for the domestic telecasts, with Fox Soccer having "the opportunity to be financially involved." He declined to elaborate on how the parties would split the revenues before noting that the structure made sense, saying, "SUM sells the sponsorship packages with marketing and media components for MLS and the U.S. national teams." Sternberg added that the ad-sales force for Fox Soccer, which holds the inventory for the matches on its sister services, would work "collaboratively" with SUM where appropriate on the English-language MLS games.After this season, Fox Soccer will air a minimum of 28 exclusive regular-season games on Saturdays, as well as a minimum of three exclusive playoff contests.Fox Soccer also secured rights for international friendlies organized by SUM, starting with FC Barcelona, the UEFA Champions League and Spanish league champions. FC Barcelona will play Mexico's Chivas de Guadalajara and Club America Aug. 6 and 9, respectively, and MLS' New York Red Bulls Aug. 12.

"FC Barcelona is one of the most exciting teams in the world and one that holds strong brand awareness with the Hispanic community and general market," Sternberg said.