SBJ/20100816/This Week's News

Bedol consulting MLS on media

The architect of two of the most successful sports channel launches is advising MLS on what to do with its media rights.

Brian Bedol was introduced to the league’s board of governors in late July as MLS’s new media and content consultant. The job will see Bedol, who made his reputation launching and flipping Classic Sports to ESPN and CSTV to CBS, work with MLS to develop a media strategy across broadcast, digital and mobile platforms.

While the bulk of Bedol’s experience involves developing TV channels, MLS Commissioner Don Garber says MLS hasn’t committed to pursuing its own network.


“Brian has a lot of experience in startup sports cable businesses, which may or may not be part of our future plans,” Garber said “His experience in the cable business, his recent experience in the digital [space] — he’s obviously very well-connected and has relationships with many of the key players in the business. He has a real belief in soccer and believes he can help us chart through these changing [media] waters.” 

MLS has reached a critical juncture in its media planning. Though four years remain on its rights agreements with Univision and ESPN, it’s in the final year of an 11-year agreement with Fox Soccer Channel. It also at the start of this season brought its digital assets in-house, after a six-year partnership with MLB Advanced Media.

“The league is beyond its [media] infancy but still early in its game,” Bedol said. “We’d love to be a league in a few years that’s looked at as a leader in its quality of partners with broadcast and cable and as a pioneer in new media.”

Though Bedol sat in on an MLS meeting with Fox Soccer Channel officials in late July, Garber said, “This is less about any current negotiations and more about ensuring that we have the best possible advice to ensure that we’re making the right decisions … in the short, medium and long term as it relates to capturing as much value from a marketing, brand-building and financial perspective from our content.”

Bedol launched Classic Sports Network in 1995 and sold it to ESPN for $175 million in 1997. He launched CSTV in 2003 before selling to CBS for $325 million in 2005. Since then, he’s been working on a startup company at MIT Media Lab as well as working with Plum TV and other early-stage investments. He has no formal consulting practice, and MLS is the only league he is advising.

He is a close friend of Garber. The two live in the same town and have known each other for more than 15 years. They also fly fish together occasionally in New Jersey. This will be the first time they have worked together.

Staff writer John Ourand contributed to this report.

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