US Digest | ESPN Plus kicks off with MLS deal

Welcome to SportBusiness Group’s US Digest, rounding up the news and developments coming out of the world’s biggest sports market

ESPN Plus kicks off with MLS deal

Just a week after details of Disney’s OTT streaming service were revealed, ESPN Plus has added MLS's out-of-market streaming package MLS Live. It creates a bargain for MLS fans: ESPN Plus (with all its additional content) is $20 a year cheaper than the cost of MLS Live alone ($60 compared to $80). MLS itself should benefit from greater exposure to casual supporters. Until ESPN Plus is launched this spring, MLS will stream non-televised games for free on its website.  

YouTube TV adds subscription sports channels

Elsewhere in the battle to win over cord cutters, YouTube TV is adding NBA TV and the MLB Network to its service. NBA League Pass and MLB.TV will also be available as premium add-ons to the Google-owned streaming service, whose base price is rising from $35 to $40 a month after significantly expanding its channel line-up, including a deal with Turner. The price increase brings YouTube TV in-line with OTT platforms Hulu and Sony’s Playstation Vue, but it’s notably more expensive than Sling or DirecTV’s offerings. “Sports is really one of the key offerings that a millennial would be willing to pay for a live TV service,” said Heather Moosnick, YouTube TV director of content partnerships.

LA to cash in on NBA All-Star Game

This weekend's NBA All-Star Game is expected to be a slam dunk for the Los Angeles economy. The three-day extravaganza is due to generate $116m in total – 36 per cent more than when LA last hosted the event in 2011. A third of the estimated 110,000 overall attendees are expected to come from outside the region. The NBA events themselves are due to generate around $26m, with an additional $90m coming from food, drink and accommodation. The large revenue increase from 2011 is attributed to more All-Star Game events, more hotels in LA and a stronger US economy. Meanwhile, all TV commercials for the event on TNT are sold out.

Cordeiro targets Women's World Cup after election win

The US is expected to bid for the 2027 Women’s World Cup after Carlos Cordeiro was elected USSF president last weekend. Cordeiro, previously the USSF vice-president, defeated pre-election favourite Kathy Carter in a third ballot after gaining the crucial support of the Athletes Council. Anti-establishment candidates Kyle Martino and Eric Wynalda were a distant third and fourth. Despite this, Cordeiro's four year-tenure will be largely shaped by his ability to help secure the rights for the 2026 men's event, which the US aims to co-host with Mexico and Canada.

Fox defends Thursday Night Football deal

Did Fox Sports overpay for Thursday Night Football? Despite declining ratings, TNF is still among the most-watched programmes on US television. The cash-rich Fox believes its entire brand will successfully ride on the back of having the NFL among its programming. “You either have the most-watched content on television, or you don’t have it," Fox Networks CEO Peter Rice said this week. To that point, Fox could land a play-off game from ESPN as part of the TNF deal.

Bayern put down deeper roots in States

Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich have strengthened their US foothold via a player partnership with MLS side FC Dallas. Bayern’s New York office – opened to market the club more effectively in the States – has already been going almost four years. Strategic partnerships between MLS and European clubs are not new see San Jose Earthquakes and Tottenham Hotspur  but with Bayern already having a presence in the US this deal has the potential to be far more meaningful. 

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