Friday, April 06, 2007

MLS-Beckham-ESPN the Perfect Storm
By – Jim Williams
The Examiner
April 6, 2007

This weekend the MLS will open the season when DC United takes on Colorado at 3:30pm this Saturday on ABC but that is just the start what might be the leagues biggest season.

This is the first year that ESPN sports has total control of all MLS telecasts and on July 24th David Beckham will be playing his first game as a member of the LA Galaxy.

According ESPN Scott Guglielmino, Vice President, Programming the network is sold out in advertising for the entire 2007 season. That is something the network can say for only a handful of its properties.

Beckham will bring a large number of casual fans a very large female audience ages between 12 to 30 that will likely be watching their soccer game ever and certainly their first MLS telecast.

So can the network hold this audience and expand on it.

Well Dave O’Brian the lead play by play man feels that things look good for the league and soccer in general.

‘My daughters like tens of thousands of young women play soccer and they have posters all over their rooms of David Beckham. He is a world wide star and we are about to experience what people all over world know and that is David Beckham transcends sports and goes right to rock star status,’ said O’Brian.

‘Our plan is to make sure we give fans a very up close look at all the players in the league thus using the Beckham effect to develop other MLS players into household names and marketable stars,’ stated Tim Scanlan,Senior Coordinating Producer, Remote Production for the network.’

Beginning this season, ESPN will debut MLS Primetime Thursday on ESPN2 – an exclusive weekly primetime window for Major League Soccer telecasts. The new series, presented in high definition, will further show the network’s commitment to soccer that will include more SportsCenter.

The 2006 FIFA World Cup coverage which was just nominated for a 2007 Emmy Award in the ‘Live Special’ category and I asked O’Brian who took a great deal of flack from the hard core soccer fans about his play by play style if the nomination was vindication for him.

‘I think it shows that our goal of brining soccer to all fans was accomplished. I really feel that if this sport is to grow to the status that I believe it can fans want to hear familiar voices doing the games. The same voices they hear on baseball, football and other big events,’ said O’Brian.

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