MLS is in the midst of negotiating a new TV deal with Fox Soccer Channel, and according to Sports Business Journal (which is a subscription site, so you get this instead), isn't being shy about the process. The current FSC contract is worth about $3 million a year. MLS is asking for $20 million. That's nearly a seven-fold increase, and no one could argue that the ratings are on the League's side.

If this is a negotiating ploy, starting high with room to come down as the talks go on, it still seems odd. A 100, 200, or maybe 300 percent increase as an opening number? Sure. But this? This smells like something else.

It's hard not to think that MLS is over-reaching, negotiating ploy or not. As mentioned, the ratings aren't in their favor; FSC broadcasts average less viewers than witnessed the 1950 World Cup person. That's partly a function of FSC's broadcasting standards, the channel's limited reach, and the League's low profile. People aren't lining up to pay extra for the tier that includes FSC so they can see Chivas USA play Kansas City on a Saturday night.

Maybe MLS is trying to scare off FSC. If that were true, it would make sense that a backup option is in the mix, and we know that MLS has at least made contact with Versus. MLS fans are generally in favor of the idea, having seen what Versus has done with their NHL coverage. But a sidebar to the SBJ story on the asking price is that the League hasn't spoken to Versus since September; without knowing how Garber and his crew is playing this, I'm not really sure what that means. It doesn't sound good.

I wouldn't put it past the decision-makers at MLS to simply be pissed with FSC, and by extension, Fox itself. The network doesn't get much in the way of domestic investment, and overwhelming majority of their coverage is focused on England and continental Europe. MLS is mostly an afterthought. League broadcasts come off second-rate. If MLS want to give FSC a shock to the system, a wakeup call if you will, then throwing a massive rights fee number at them is one way of doing it. In other words, "shape up or ship out."

For the benefit of the League, I hope it works, even if they don't get the sevenfold increase they're reportedly demanding.  If they do manage to squeeze FSC for all of the $20 million (doubtful), it would be a massive boon to the bottom line.  If that infusion of cash improves salaries, all the better.

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