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Why NBC Sports Is Going To Go All In On MLS

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With the first positive impression of MLS on NBC from their promotion of it during Sunday Night Football there can be speculation about how much they are going to run with it. Sure, MLS doesn't have strong ratings (~300k viewers on ESPN2, ~70k on Fox Soccer) to merit strong promotion. But there's a reason that NBC Sports will promote Major League Soccer in ways that the sport has never been promoted before 2012.

They are going to use their synergistic, multi-platform designed for MLS strategy to show the NFL and MLB exactly what the new Comcast/NBC partnership can be.

But NBC is looking at the big picture.

"We’ll be strategic about how we program the games," Miller said, pointing to the planned pregame and postgame shows for every MLS game as evidence of the care and attention NBC devotes to its partners. "We will promote MLS in our other programming, including the Olympics, to try and bring other viewers into the sport."

The message, particularly to the NFL and MLB, is clear: Promotion and production is how NBC believes it sets itself apart from its competitors.

They have already started with Sunday Night Football. They are likely to continue with their coverage of Notre Dame, the PAC-12, the Mountain West and the Ivy League. As Major League Soccer gets heavy promotion through these products and the winter with the NHL it is likely that NBC custom crafts their message to the audiences. Because that is what the NFL and MLB will expect them to do.

Notre Dame football means the Chicago Fire. PAC-12 and Mountain West means a lot of Western Conference teams. Both mean heavy use of supporter group footage as this is a natural connection for college football fans. Grambling v Southern on NBC? Hello, Sound Wave, the March to the Match. Hello Timbers Army and Section-8.

For the NHL fan expect hard hitting tackles, juggling shots and volleys.

I am not a soccer exceptionalist. NBC doesn't need to try and convince regular sports fans how different the sport is. There are already all the elements there for the average sports fan. They can use those moments that anyone recognizes as special. I fully expect them to do so.

While this is a huge step for MLS. It is going to be a stepping stone for NBC Sports. It will the step from secondary and tertiary sports (MLS, NHL, Olympics, Biking) to the big time. If NBC wants to show the NFL and MLB that those sports can be even bigger than they are now, they will do it by showing that they can get great ratings for sports that used to struggle. They've already got two bullet-points with the NHL and Tour de France. They are about to do it with MLS too.