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MLS Cup Returns To ABC For First Time Since 2009

“This year the MLS is introducing a new 14 team playoff format scheduled to last 3 weeks in late October.”

Jack Ferris

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For the first time in over a decade, ABC will carry the MLS Championship in November.

ABC was the original home for the MLS from 1996 through 2008.  However, starting in 2009, declining ratings for the MLS Cup resulted in a shift over to ESPN.  Over the last ten years, MLS coverage has been spread between ESPN, FOX and NBC platforms but rarely did the league’s biggest stage get a slot on any of the company’s main networks.  Last year, FOX earned a 1.2 metered market rating when they showcased Atlanta United’s 2-0 victory over the Portland Timbers on their flagship station.  This year, Disney hopes to improve on that number.

“ABC has a rich history of soccer coverage, including MLS Cup for more than a decade in the early years of Major League Soccer,” claimed Burke Magnus, ESPN VP of Programming and Scheduling in a press release.  “We are excited to once again showcase the league’s marquee event on the network.”

This year the MLS is introducing a new 14 team playoff format scheduled to last 3 weeks in late October.  Like the NBA and NHL, the team that comes out of the Eastern Conference pool will face the Western Conference survivor in the November championship.  The team with the higher regular season point total will host the 2019 MLS Cup.

“With a new playoff format that rewards regular season performance with a greater home field advantage,” explained MLS Deputy Commissioner Gary Stevenson, “the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs will feature must-see games in the most intense atmospheres.”

The November 10th broadcast will have Jon Champion in the booth alongside Taylor Twellman with Sebastian Salazar on the sideline.

Sports TV News

FOX Will Use Chris Fallica On Belmont Stakes Coverage

“While the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby remain at NBC, The Belmont Stakes is moving to FOX as part of the network’s deal with the New York Racing Association.”

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The Bear will be more than just a college football presence when he moves to FOX. Chris Fallica wrapped his final duties for ESPN last week and is now headed to a new network and will tackle some new responsibilities.

Fallica’s new role at FOX will involve plenty of sports gambling content. Richard Deitsch of The Athletic reports that content will include horse racing.

“One Fox Sports source said look for him to appear on the Belmont Stakes coverage,” Deitsch wrote in his weekly media column.

Starting in 2023, horse racing’s Triple Crown will not be seen all in one place. While the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby remain at NBC, The Belmont Stakes is moving to FOX as part of the network’s deal with the New York Racing Association.

How the network intends to use Chris Fallica on the broadcast is not clear. Given that he is coming to the network to contribute to gambling conversations, it is likely he would either be making picks or at least reviewing odds right up to the start of the race.

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Sports TV News

NBCUniversal CEO Expects Disney To Buy Company’s Hulu Stake

“Shell noted that live sports coverage is helping make the stake in Hulu a luxury for NBCUniversal.”

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The Walt Disney Company owns 67% of Hulu. The other 33% is owned by NBCUniversal. The latter company doesn’t expect that to be the case forever.

“It’s worth a lot of money,” NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said at an investor conference earlier this week, “and I think there’s no indication that anything else is going to happen than Disney writing us a big check.”

Hulu is primarily a platform for movies and television shows. It is a major part of Disney’s deal with the NHL though. The streaming giant is part of the package of 103 games that are exclusive to ESPN and ABC. Hulu is also a live TV provider for many. The company’s Hulu Plus Live TV package had over 4 million subscribers as of the summer of 2022.

Shell noted that live sports coverage is helping make the stake in Hulu a luxury for NBCUniversal. He credits sports and content migrated from Hulu as the reason Peacock has grown to 18 million paid subscriptions since September.

Deadline reports that if Disney does want to acquire NBCUniversal’s stake in Hulu, “the price could fluctuate but will be in the tens of billions of dollars.”

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Sports TV News

Greg Olsen Believes He and Kevin Burkhardt Can Handle Games ‘On Any Stage’

“Obviously, the bosses get paid a lot to make hard decisions. You have to obviously do what your bosses decide. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

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Greg Olsen

Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen are on tap to call Super Bowl LVII in February, and Olsen told Front Office Sports he has the confidence to announce the game with no hesitations.

“If you’re asking me, I think Kevin and I have shown that we can handle a game on any stage – on any day. We just did it on Thanksgiving. We’ll do it again around Christmas. And obviously throughout the [NFL] Playoffs,” said Olsen. “So whatever decision they make. Obviously, the bosses get paid a lot to make hard decisions. You have to obviously do what your bosses decide. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

“But as of now, I anticipate Kevin and I, the two of us, with Erin and Tom down on the sidelines, the four of us, broadcasting the Super Bowl in February in Arizona. Until I’m told otherwise, that’s how we’re proceeding.”

Olsen also told FOS he has negotiated a new contract with FOX Sports, but declined to share details. He is slated to be replaced on the top broadcast crew once Tom Brady ends his playing career. Brady will then begin a 10-year, $375 million contract to serve as the network’s top NFL game analyst and brand ambassador.

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