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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on July 20, 2009 5:55 PM. The previous post in this blog was Nkrumah lawsuit: $562K plus. The next post in this blog is Jumbo junk. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Can "major league" soccer survive without TV?

If Portland taxpayers shell out tens of millions to rip up PGE Park to make it a soccer-specific stadium, they had better hope it can, according to this article:

[A]ttendance is one thing, but MLS has a major TV problem. With average ratings lower than bowling, poker, college volleyball and small conference college basketball and football, the league needs to think TV in the next expansion.
More people watch poker and bowling on TV than watch "major league" soccer. That's funny.

The article also sheds some light on the stadium proponents' theory that the Timbers' current league (USL-1) may go out of existence. The story suggests that that league may be restructured, but with some kind of renewed partnership with the "major league":

If MLS does not commit to a NYC-2 franchise, Red Bull must seek an accommodation with the new USL-1 team heading to Long Island next year. That would involve playing a Big Apple Cup competition between the two teams and selling the TV rights, independently of MLS and USL if necessary.

Rumors persist that USL, as a league may undergo some sort of overhaul structurally before the 2010 season begins. With the collective bargaining agreement pending in MLS, it is possible that when 2010 rolls around the two US professional leagues will be willing to renew their partnership, which was broken off earlier this decade or even enter into something more comprehensive.

Like a merger?

Finally, the specter of Portland losing its newly awarded "major league" franchise in favor of Montreal or some other city does not seem realistic given the fact that the league is ready to expand as fast as misguided rich folk are willing to put up the money:

After bringing on Philadelphia next season and Portland the year after that, [MLS Commissioner Don Garber] discussed Montreal, Vancouver and St. Louis as prospects, particularly praising the latter as a league priority.

Garber convinced no problem with saturating market. And if they stretch the domestic talent too thin, they'll loosen the international rules...

Why don't we just tell him he needs to make do with portable stands, and see what he does? If the Paulsons have $35 million to hand him, he's not going anywhere.

No, wait, I forgot, this is the Portland City Council. The Portland City Council never calls a bluff.

Comments (20)

They should watch more poker on t.v.

Mojo,
That was an elegant tie-in. Well played.

He won it on the river.

I got no beef with soccer or the league expanding just as fast as misguided rich folk can put up the money . . . so long as it's _their_ money. Aye, there's the rub.

Well, it could turn out to be a FLOP. But only if Paulson has two jokers in his pocket, though. Shoot, he does (three, if you count Saltzman).

That's a classic detail in the "ready to expand" link: The Wilbon family was going to fund another MLS New York team 'til they got burned by Bernie Madoff?
What a costly Ponzi scheme, and Bernie's was bad too.

Well, to be honest the author did say in person attendance was "quite good." Considering the hard salary cap the league has at $2.5 million per year its not difficult to make the money to pay players just in gate revenue. A bigger TV contract would be nothing more than icing on the cake and allow the league to bring in higher paid players.

Why not pass on MLS and the PGE Park remodel and cut to staging a few Huge Gang Fights on surrounding streets during the season.

That would be in keeping with the European model.

its not difficult to make the money to pay players just in gate revenue.

Swell. What pays the gigantic mortgage on the stadium remodel -- cotton candy sales?

In other news, 10 of the 14 teams in the league are showing attendance decreases this year. Half the teams in the league are off by more than 20%. Overall, attendance per game is down 6.36%.

What a time to kick out the Beavers and go "all in" with the Paulson family. I thought Vera was a dupe -- Sam-Rand is worse.

"St. Louis as prospects, particularly praising the latter as a league priority"

St Louis? A priority? That's something you don't hear every day. Does he just make a road show to these burgs and get them excited about becoming "major league"?

Garber and MLS fans are as sharp as the soccer balls they kick.

"What a time to kick out the Beavers and go "all in" with the Paulson family."

Hey, careful Sam and Randy are starting to build a reputation for being bvehind the curve.

Here's how high-class "major league" soccer is. Perfect for Sam-Rand's Portland.

I am not getting where this agression comes from in soccer fans. Most of these guys are nebisshes (at least smaller than the average real football fan) who get a few beers and then think they are tough. I guess that's Samdy's contingent though.

I mean who the heck cares if a broken piece of goods like Beckham goes to Italy or an Italian restaurant? It'd be like the Brett Favre fan club getting in fights pretending he's the best QB in the world (I am disocunting John Madden, of course.)

Portland is getting better by the day.

Jack, you apparently have never watched a single soccer match from Europe. That is so not at all impressive. Seriously, fans in Europe have been known to attack their team's players if they feel they are not doing well enough.

It ain't low class, not even close.

I don't judge boorishness on a comparative basis.

"you apparently have never watched a single soccer match from Europe."

OK, I'll bite, I've never seen a camel race or red-haired midget sprint either. So what?

What is not low-class about a team's own fans attacking their players? So Philadelphia would be a good soccer town?

Even though I'm a long-time soccer fan, there are no worse fans--at their worst--than soccer fans. They're a minority, to be sure, but an ugly one.

No NFL players, for example, playing the most violent game on earth, have ever been shot to death for their on-field performance. Oh, for other stuff, sure, and they even shoot back with alarming frequency, but not for how they played...

Steve: St. Louis, for better or worse, has a long and strong soccer history.

Something's off with the final quotation cited. Vancouver is already awarded an expansion team in 2011.

It seems very, very unlikely that MLS would merge with USL-1. A history of large expansion fees to enter MLS would create a major backlash from existing and recent owners. That, and most USL-1 owners are not wealthy enough to make a go at MLS even if their market (Minneapolis, Miami, Cleveland, Tampa Bay2010, NYC2010) might be desirable.

Some years ago Frontline did a great piece about MTVs role in product development and marketing in the music industry called "Merchants of Cool." The concluding observation was that as far as the music industry is concerned — and this is no surprise to anybody who has worked in the entertainment/culture industries — once the product pipeline is established and the marketing feedback loop in place, creating market demand for products both great and horrible is a straightforward mechanical process. They want to standardize production and minimize risk, and they do so by removing uncertainty; namely the uncertainty about what is good music and what is bad. If you have a reliable formula in the end, it just doesn't matter that Limp Bizkit is a horrible horrible horrible band. And in pure dollar terms, it certainly is reliable.

It's clear that MLS is working through a similar model, in that they are hoping to artificially inflate the image and import of the culture they are selling with the aim that it will one day create its own whirlwind, all while setting up the infrastructure of the pipeline: the stadiums, TV deals, teams, etc. And in some ways they are targeting a similar audience, too. But the Merchants of Cool knew that Limp Bizkit was a disposable commodity, a throwaway. It was to be profitable for a short run only before the marketing muscle shifted to the next new band. What MLS and Paulson are promising to do is build an industry that is inter-generational and institutional like the NFL or NBL or NBA, but they're trying to do it on a bubble strategy. As Bill McDonald has been saying and the Rolling Stone article so painstakingly demonstrates, it's taxpayer subsidized pump and dump.


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