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MLS Turns To ESPN, Disney To Oversee Return Plan

“The plan calls for sending all 26 soccer clubs to Walt Disney World for a proposed tournament played at the resort’s ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. Teams would also be housed at the Coronado Springs Resort.”

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Relationships with your broadcast partners are important for any sports league. When you don’t have the reach of the NFL or the NBA, those relationships take on added significance. That is why the MLS has turned to ESPN to help facilitate its return to action.

According to a report from The Athletic’s Stan Stejskal, the league is going to rely on the full might of the Walt Disney company to get back to work.

The plan calls for sending all 26 soccer clubs to Walt Disney World for a proposed tournament played at the resort’s ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. Teams would also be housed at the Coronado Springs Resort.

“Sources said that the league views working with Disney and ESPN as the easiest way to return to play,” Stejskal writes. “If it goes to Orlando, MLS would essentially be operating under Disney’s roof. The company owns the resort that would house the league, the facility where teams would play and the network that would broadcast many of the matches.”

If everything goes according to plan, the clubs would use the month of June to train. That would be followed by a tournament that would run through the end of July and guarantee each club plays at least five matches. Four matches would be played per day with no fans would be in the stands.

With Disney having so much control, it stands to reason most of the matches would be broadcast by ESPN. That could cause conflicts with the club’s individual local broadcast deals. Stejskal writes that multiple clubs have “mentioned possible extended pre- and post-game shows and other ancillary programming on local networks as a way to begin to make good on their contracts.”

A tournament like this would be a major investment for Major League Soccer, but while the short-term goal is to get back to work in 2020, the long-term goal has to do with TV rights negotiations in 2022, when the league’s current deals expire. Clubs have been told not to sign local rights deals that run beyond 2022. That likely signals an intention to package MLS rights in national packages, similar to England’s Premier League or the NFL, and having ESPN and Disney as partners in that effort could turn intentions into reality.

Currently, the MLS has national deals with ESPN, FOX, and Univision that were signed in 2015. Over the course of those eight year deals, the 26 MLS clubs will split $720 million. The goal of centralized national TV rights deals would be to grow revenue as the league expands to 30 clubs by 2022 and to strengthen the position of the MLS as the United States, Canada, and Mexico prepare for share hosting responsibilities of FIFA’s World Cup in 2026.

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The NFL Still Considering Multiple Offers For Sunday Ticket

The NFL has had the respective bids of Disney, Apple and Amazon for weeks now. DirecTV has not bid for the package but has stated it is willing to partner with the new rightsholder for a potential deal.

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Sunday Ticket Negotiations

DirecTV currently has the rights to Sunday Ticket. That deal expires at the end of this upcoming football season. The NFL is expected to make a boatload of cash when they decide which media organization gets the next rights to the package. The only question is… who will that be?

Alex Sherman of CNBC reports that the NFL has had the respective bids of Disney, Apple and Amazon for weeks now. DirecTV has decided not bid for the package. However, they are interested in partnering with the new rightsholder for a potential deal. DirecTV knows that Sunday Ticket is a staple in bars and restaurants and is interested in maintaining those relationships.

Outside of the bar/restaurant industry, success has been limited for the satellite provider with the football package. Fewer than two million subscribers signed up for Sunday Ticket each year which made the package a money-loser for the satellite TV provider.

According to the report, the NFL wants more than $2 billion for the rights and a stake in NFL Media, which is being packaged with Sunday Ticket. Also on the table is the NFL’s mobile rights. The league’s previous mobile agreement with Verizon has ended.

An interesting piece of the negotiations is Sunday Ticket price. According to the report, a buyer would have limited flexibility on pricing. The NFL signed contracts with CBS and Fox and within the framework of those deals, language mandates Sunday Ticket have a premium price. That’s to prevent loss of viewers from the networks that feature local market Sunday afternoon games. So essentially, the price is the price for the consumer.

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F1 Renews With ESPN For U.S. Media Rights

ESPN was reportedly in a three-way bidding battle with Amazon and Comcast. According to the report, F1 told both Amazon and Comcast on Friday that they had decline to accept either one’s offer.

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F1 ESPN

The racing series F1 has decided to stick with ESPN through 2025.

ESPN was reportedly in a three-way bidding battle with Amazon and Comcast. According to the report, F1 told both Amazon and Comcast on Friday that they had decline to accept either one’s offer.

The reported value of the three-year contract is set to pay F1 $75-90M per year for the U.S. media rights. Amazon had offered to pay roughly $100M per year, with the right to sublicense to a linear broadcast network. Comcast’s offer was similar to ESPN’s in terms of value and the structure. They also wanted to put select races on it’s streaming service, Peacock.

Netflix was in on the negotiations, as well. The makers of Drive to Survive, the streaming series that many credit with the sport’s explosion in popularity in recent years, wasn’t close on on their financial offer. Also, it seems F1 executives were not ready to put all of its races on a streaming service just yet.

Currently, F1 receives $5M per year for ESPN to broadcast it’s races. ESPN has grabbed about 1.0 million viewers per race. That makes F1 a more than viable option for the network to invest into again. ESPN will be able to put a small number of races on its ESPN+ streaming service exclusively. The vast majority being on ABC or ESPN.

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Skip Bayless Says He And Stephen A. Smith ‘Sorted Out’ Their Disagreement

“Brothers fight. We have fought before. I’m assuming we will fight again.”

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Skip Bayless

Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless were locked in a war of words last week following the First Take host’s appearance on JJ Redick’s Old Man and the Three podcast.

The origins of their partnership were discussed and Bayless admitted he did not like the way Smith characterized the state of First Take before he arrived on set. Smith insisted that Bayless simply misunderstood what he meant by saying that he was told the show needed him.

Over the weekend, Skip Bayless says he and Stephen A. Smith got together at the Bayless home in California to talk things out in private.

“He was in LA, he came over, we sat by the pool,” he said on the latest episode of The Skip Bayless Show. “It wasn’t the easiest conversation for a while, but we slowly but surely sorted it out. We got through it, and we have been through so much together.”

Bayless reiterated that he considers Smith a brother. They love each other. That doesn’t mean they are always going to remember events the same way or see eye-to-eye all the time.

“Brothers fight. We have fought before. I’m assuming we will fight again.”

Fighting doesn’t mean the relationship is fractured. In fact, Skip Bayless was adamant that he remains closer to Smith than he is to most people in his life.

“I don’t trust easily because of the way I was raised, but I do trust Stephen Anthony Smith. Trust him with my life. Always have and always will. I trust he will always be there for me, and you better believe I will always be there for him.”

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