The latest in the sports television wars

Two pieces of news broke Wednesday in the sports TV wars:

  • NBC picking up MLS doesn’t mean much for NBC/Comcast, given how low MLS is on the totem pole, but it is very good news for MLS. It wasn’t that long ago that no one would have ever said that about a move to Versus, but this move gives MLS a shot at more featured time slots, a place on a channel that now has double the distribution, a chance to take advantage of any other big pick-ups NBC adds down the line, and a return to broadcast television. The MLS Cup will remain on ESPN for the time being, but MLS’ choice is to stay on ESPN or leave primetime – though they may want to unify their English-language coverage under one banner in three years, and I have a feeling NBC/Comcast may wind up with a better shot at it then than ESPN. It’s also bad news for Fox Soccer, for whom MLS was their main summer attraction. This move had been rumored in the past, especially when MLS went past their schedule announcement without a deal with Fox Soccer this season and considered buying time on Versus.
  • On the other hand, ABC managed to renew their relationship with the IndyCar series, despite some thinking that the whole series might be unified under the NBC banner after Versus took the cable contract some years back. This means ABC will maintain its long association with the Indy 500 that will now extend for more than half a century.

I’m undecided over whether to count MLS on my scorecard – I didn’t count when Fox picked up rights to Conference USA. MLS gets more press, but miniscule ratings. Should I count neither, both, or just one or the other? (I really need to update my Sports TV Contracts list from the first year of Da Blog…)

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