Soccer is becoming more popular in the US — but MLS broadcasting deals haven’t kept up

MLS has come a long way: 15 years ago, the league had 12 teams, and 1 ownership group paid just $7.5m for the right to start a new franchise. Today, there are 26 teams in the league, and one billionaire paid a $325m fee to launch a new team.  So, the increasing number and price […]


February 17, 2020

soccer image

MLS has come a long way: 15 years ago, the league had 12 teams, and 1 ownership group paid just $7.5m for the right to start a new franchise.

Today, there are 26 teams in the league, and one billionaire paid a $325m fee to launch a new team. 

So, the increasing number and price of these teams must mean they are turning huge profits, right? Not exactly.

The majority of MLS teams lose money

Pro soccer is gaining in popularity among US viewers (soccer is the 2nd most popular spectator sport among Americans 18-34 after US football), but the MLS has struggled to negotiate lucrative broadcast contracts.

But despite booming popularity, the broadcasting biz is backwards

Last season, average per-game attendance in MLS was 21.3k, while average attendance at NBA games was just 17.9k.

But the MLS broadcast deal with ESPN, Fox, and Univision (which doesn’t expire until 2022) brings in just $90m annually, while the NBA’s broadcast deal (which extends through 2025) guarantees the league $2.6B in annual revenue.

Daily briefings, straight to your inbox

Business and tech news in 5 minutes or less

Join over 1 million people who read The Hustle

Psst

How'd Bezos build a billion dollar empire?

In 1994, Jeff Bezos discovered a shocking stat: Internet usage grew 2,300% per year.

Data shows where markets are headed.

And that’s why we built Trends — to show you up-and-coming market opportunities about to explode. Interested?

Join us, it's free.

Look, you came to this site because you saw something cool. But here’s the deal. This site is actually a daily email that covers the important news in business, tech, and culture.

So, if you like what you’re reading, give the email a try.