Although Gus Johnson and Fox's soccer coverage are getting all the attention, Major League Soccer's season has gotten underway with coverage on ESPN and NBC Sports Network. While MLS has wandered through the Bristol wilderness (good luck hearing ESPN acknowledge the existence of MLS outside an MLS telecast or the rare Not Top 10 appearance), the league is one of the pillars of NBC Sports Network. This Saturday, NBC and NBCSN are dedicating a day of coverage to MLS like the league has never seen before, including taking a very successful page form the NFL's playbook.
This weekend, NBC will air 10 hours of MLS games. At 12:30 ET on the NBC mothership, you'll see DC United vs New York Red Bulls. At 3:00 ET, it'll be Sporting KC vs Chicago Fire on NBC Sports Network. At 5:30 ET on NBC Sports Network comes the headliner - a 2 and a half hour studio block where the network will bounce around to 4 MLS games (MTL/TOR, PHI/NE, CLB/SJ, RSL/COL) before televising Seattle vs Portland at 8 ET.
Arlo White and Kyle Martino will call the 12:30 game on NBC from New York and then travel to NBCSN's Connecticut studio to anchor the whiparound coverage, which White referred to as "MLS Breakaway" on his Twitter page. The NFL has totally revolutionized televised sports with Red Zone, giving fans the ability to take in the best moments from multiple games at once. It's been done in limited fashion in other sports, but this will be the first time it has been tried with MLS.
It's a forward thinking step for both NBC and MLS. For NBC, an entire Saturday's worth of coverage including a Red Zone style block is a unique way to promote the league and dedicate an entire day of coverage to one of their core properties. There's no better advertisement for MLS than the Seattle-Portland rivalry, which will be a perfect way to end the marathon coverage.
For MLS, perhaps a Red Zone style show is the innovation the league needs to break through on television where it has lagged behind international soccer and the English Premier League. Much like showing all the touchdowns in NFL games, NBC can air all the goals in real time or close to it for those 5:30 games. Whether it draws huge ratings or not, MLS Breakaway is an encouraging and creative step. If you're looking to reach new fans as a soccer league and grow the MLS brand, the best thing to do is show as many goals as possible. Casual soccer fans like goals. It's not a complicated formula, and it seems NBC and MLS are finally doing something to reach out to a broader audience. Short of bringing in Gus Johnson, that is...
Actually Matt the only MLS game that starts at 5:30 ET this Saturday is the San Jose at Columbus game, they will be able to show most of that game and the Colorado at Real Salt Lake game that starts at 6:00 ET, but they won't be able to show a lot of the Toronto FC at Montreal game because it starts at 4:00 ET and they probably can show most of the New England at Philadelphia game because it starts at 5:00 ET!!!
@awfulannouncing Yes! A cure for insomnia!
@sambrown91 that's pretty awesome, wonder if they're gonna do that for epl too
@AxleLaRue Soccer style red zone, interesting...u coming down to the game on Saturday?
@awfulannouncing love seeing all the soccer hate this gets considering say in the 2 games NY have played, 9 goals have been scored
@awfulannouncing That'll come in handy for the one or two goals that might score
@awfulannouncing that's a whole lot of boring
@awfulannouncing Hmm. Do they ever actually score in soccer? Are they going to switch over every time there's a good pass?
@awfulannouncing SKY Germany does this for every Bundesliga\/UCL matchday. It's called the "Konferenz" channel.
@annielkozak That would be my holodeck. I'd never leave.
@awfulannouncing Still a great move by NBC though.
@awfulannouncing This never-before-seen concept is the one Sky Germany have had for Bundesliga since 2001, now even CL?
@awfulannouncing great move
@awfulannouncing and still no one will watch
@awfulannouncing what is the never before seen thing
Does this mean it could happen when the EPL arrives to the NBC family later this year. Even as a web only channel it would be a cool addition to their coverage
While not original the concept will not make any difference at the end of the day. A typical soccer game only has 2 or 3 total goals. How many re-play opportunities does that offer. ESPN ignores soccer the same way most Americas do. It's simply not one of the major games that "Joe Beer Can" relates too. NBC Sports shows soccer instead of redneck hunting and fishing. The peacock is doomed!