One of the most frustrating aspects of following an MLS club- even after 17 years- is the way in which the league has handled it’s television “presence.” Of all of the areas I will write about in this series this is the only one where I not only feel that MLS can improve, but where I also feel like the league has taken a step backward.
I’m going to confine myself to the national television picture- as opposed to the local outlets that generally show every match of the team in the area and MLS Live, the internet based pay-per-view service which gives supporters access to (at least in theory) every MLS match. I’m also going to ignore the television rabbit hole which is MLS involvement in the U.S. Open Cup and the CONCACAF Champions League. Suffice it to say I think matches from both of those competitions are now shown on the DuMont Network (look it up, kids).
Here is the list of past and present national television outlets for MLS:
(The ESPN family of networks have been with the league since the beginning)
With all of these networks involved over the past 17 years the problem has never been getting an MLS on television. The problem is that there has rarely ever been any rhyme or reason to what matches are on what networks and on what days. Locally, yes, I know that the Revolution matches- unless they are shown nationally (which the rarely are)- are going to be on Comcast Sports New England. But what if I want to watch a match not involving my local team because it has implications for my team, or maybe I just want to watch it because, well, I like soccer? Where is it? When is it? Do I even get that channel?
I’ll give you the easiest example/illustration of this problem that I can: Tell me what time, what day, and on what network the MLS “Game of the Week” airs?
Chances are your answer went something like this, “Well, I know it’s on ESPN2- though sometimes on ESPN- and err, umm…”
My point exactly.
By the way, it used to be Thursdays at either 8pm or 10pm, now it’s on whenever ESPN/ESPN2 decides it is.
Now don’t get me wrong, this is not going to prevent the dedicated supporter from finding the match- it’s important to us. But what about the casual fan? What about the person who is more interested in tuning in to sports “events” than in firing up Fox Sports Southwest to see a “run of the mill” FC Dallas match? If you’re wondering what I’m talking about (and you’re of a certain age) cast your mind back to Monday Night Baseball and the pre-ESPN Monday Night Football – did it matter what teams were playing in these games? It did not. You watched because it was on a major network and it was in prime time. It was “appointment” television before the term was coined. Which brings to an end my complaining and makes it time for my simple-minded solutions.