SBD/May 6, 2014/Media

John Skipper Says ESPN, MLS "On The Precipice" Of New TV Rights Deal

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Skipper expects ESPN to be partners with MLS going forward
MLS' negotiations for its TV rights still have not been completed, but "whatever the deal ends up being, ESPN will continue its relationship" with the league and has "no intention of walking away," according to Jonathan Tannenwald of PHILLY.com. ESPN President John Skipper said, "We’ve been telling people for six months now, I think, that we’re on the precipice of getting a deal, and we are on the precipice of getting a deal. It’s the longest I’ve ever been on a precipice, but we expect to be partners with Major League Soccer going forward." Skipper and many others at ESPN are "well aware that a joint deal between ESPN and Fox appeared to be all but completed." The money that comes from the next rights contract "really will determine the future" of MLS, as "every big American sport and every big soccer league on the planet is fueled by television revenue." If MLS is "to rise in both those rankings, the money required can’t come just from the owners," as even the "wealthiest among them can’t match the money television can bring to the table." If a league wants to see "a higher salary cap, more investment in academies, bigger rosters, or just about anything else that requires a significant amount of spending, the only place that money can come from is television" (PHILLY.com, 5/5). THE DAILY in January reported that a deal between MLS and ESPN would likely be worth $70M annually for eight years.

MY CUP RUNNETH OVER: ESPN Senior Coordinating Producer for the '14 FIFA World Cup Amy Rosenfeld said of the net's upcoming coverage, "The best service we can give to all of you is, in some ways, to stay out of the way. But when we introduce ourselves to the coverage, it had better be damn good." PHILLY.com's Tannenwald noted there is a "pretty strong feeling inside and outside of Bristol that they'll set the bar higher than Fox can reach" in '18 or '22. ESPN will have "a dozen analysts who will rotate between games and the studio, six play-by-play announcers, five dedicated reporters and three studio hosts." The net also "won't be afraid to bring in more voices from its international channels covering the event from the same building." When you "add up everything that ESPN and ABC have planned," it is a "personal triumph for Skipper, who is one of soccer's biggest champions at the network" (PHILLY.com, 4/4).
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