Coming to a broadcasting station near you

It might not be ideal coverage, but MLS is getting exposure on all three major networks; even more than other American sports leagues
by Herb Scribner   |   Friday, January 06, 2012

AMLS working with 3 big TV networks lot of people know me as a soccer guy. They see the Bayern Munich jersey, the Manchester United hat, the US Soccer keychain, and they immediately take me to be this uber-obsessed soccer junkie that craves his next hit from a corner kick.

But before I became a soccer nut, basketball reigned supreme as my first sport of choice. The NBA was surely past its mid-90’s prime, but seeing the dominating forces of Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant tear through the league back in those days, turned me onto the sport.

One other very attractive part of the NBA was its broadcast show, NBA on NBC. It sounded awesome; with its catchy (yet undeniably corny) intro music and always appeared legitimate and real. It wasn’t fake; it was the big time. You knew when you heard that song (you know, this song), it was time to feast your eyes on top tier athletes on the National Broadcasting Company. It was a big deal.

But broadcasting rights for NBA were lost and the league eventually found another home elsewhere on TNT and ESPN, where it still runs. Even though I’ve since lost touch with the NBA, I’ll always yearn for the sport to return to the NBC days.

It was around this time that soccer became my staple. Soccer became everything.

And here I am, nearly 12 years into my soccer fan career, and I’m already getting my wish for the NBC broadcasting show to return. Only this time, it’s not the NBA that’ll be on my screen. Rather it’ll be my passion, my love and my addiction.

Beginning this upcoming 2012 season, the MLS will be shown on NBC and its affiliated networks.

Earlier this week, Twitter, Facebook and general chatter alike blew-up when NBC released its latest promo for the young American soccer league.

After watching the well-crafted, albeit short, promo video, I concluded that my dream had been realized. MLS on NBC will be a reality. Even though the deal between the broadcasting company and MLS was revealed back in August, now, with this promo, it’s becoming a reality for me that a TV program and coverage that I idolized as a child will return to my television screen.

But what’s even more tantalizing about this move, with the season drawing near, is that the MLS will now be shown on two major broadcasting networks, something that other American sports leagues don’t have the privilege of. Both ABC and NBC hold the rights to MLS broadcasts. It’s possible that in the 2012 season we could see two simultaneous broadcasts on the ABC and NBC channels. We’re already getting pretty close to that, as the recently released MLS schedule shows a game on ESPN2 and NBC Sports Network (formerly known as Versus) on the same day.

One common complaint among soccer fans in America is that there isn’t enough soccer coverage by the mainstream media. Often times, soccer is left out of the Sportscenter highlights and the general news day recaps. Some newspapers let it live in a blog, others fail to mention it at all. I often feel like I’m left scrambling to find the right game that I want to watch or the right story to read. And all of this is still true. Soccer doesn’t yet have nearly the same exposure as the NFL or the MLB.

But it does have three major networks fighting it out for broadcasting rights. NBC, ABC and FOX were not only in discussion over the MLS rights, but also the FIFA World Cup rights. And even though FOX won the rights to the English broadcast of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, Telemundo, a company owned by NBC, won the Spanish broadcasting rights.

It’s an admirable, yet largely overlooked, achievement that the MLS, just a short 16 years into its life, has a place on each of the top three broadcasting networks. And maybe even more importantly, that soccer, a sport that a portion of the US public denies as a top tier sport, has three major networks in a bidding war before it can even legally vote.

That American soccer now has all three of the nation’s largest broadcasting networks as partners is quite significant. US television has given soccer a golden opportunity to attract viewers and grow the audience of fans from coast-to-coast. By no means has soccer broken through yet and become a top-level sport in the eyes of the general public, but it has garnered the opportunity to do so.

The sport I chose, the sport I love is slowly making its way up the ladder and onto every television set across America. I definitely know one that’ll be blasting the MLS intro tune come March 10 and for years to come.

Herb SCRIBNER

Nationality:
USA
College:
UMass Amherst
Club Domestic:
NE Revolution
Club Foreign:
Bayern Munich
SN managing editor, award-winning journalist and recent college grad, Herb has always been known as "The Soccer Guy" wherever he goes. He's been published by the Boston Globe and has experience with film production and novel writing.
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