Well, D.C. United fans, get ready for more Dave Johnson and John Harkes in your future. The Post's Steve Goff is reporting this morning that the club and Comcast Sports Net have reached a three-year agreement to show at least (almost) half of United's games. As Goff teased in his Facebook feed, this is not ideal.
United will have a guaranteed minimum of 16 games on the regional outlet each of the three seasons subject to the deal. As a reminder, MLS teams play a 34-game regular season, meaning Comcast is bound to cover less than half of the season. Luckily for this year, United have several nationally televised games, but as of today, five of their last ten might not appear anywhere locally, save for the league's paid TV and streaming options (MLS Direct Kick and MLS Live, respectively).
Worst of all, United's next two games - Friday's visit to Sporting Kansas City and next weekend's home match against our biggest rivals won't have CSN coverage. What's more, half the reason for the club's delay - part of it was a multi-year deal (check) but part of it was also supplemental programming such as a coach's show - isn't a part of the deal. LivingSocial presents The Ben Olsen Show, hosted by John Harkes will have to remain a dream.
United did manage to get CSN to commit to fronting the production costs of game coverage, at least, though not to paying a rights fee, a change from recent seasons where the club split such costs with the network. Such are the perils of bargaining from an apparent position of weakness. Reports early in the negotiating process indicated that multiple outlets were interested in carrying United this year, leading to optimism regarding the number of games covered and the chances that we'd actually see some of the supplemental programming. We never did learn the identities of any players beyond CSN, though, and - whoever they were - they apparently dropped out of the talks, leading to the position we're now seeing: CSN or nothing at all.
Perhaps in three years, when this deal has run its course, Ted Leonsis' Monumental Sports Network will have brought competition to the regional sports network market in the DMV and there will be a bit more of a hunt for United's television rights. Perhaps not. In the immediate future, though, fans will get at least some local coverage of the Black-and-Red. For the rest of the games, though, get thee to
a nunnery RFK or else to one of the club's regular watch parties, which this week feature locations on both Metro corridors in Arlington and another one in Richmond.
- RiRa (2915 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22201) - Official Screaming Eagles viewing party, Nick DeLeon will be in attendance and there will be various giveaways, including a signed Nick DeLeon jersey.
- Crystal City Sports Pub - 2nd Floor (529 23rd St. S, Arlington, VA 22202) - Official Barra Brava viewing party; autographed Dwayne De Rosario jersey giveaway.
- Gus' Bar and Grill (2701 West Broad St. Richmond, VA 22302) - Official RVA-DCU viewing party; Conor Shanosky will be in attendance to support the Black-and-Red, and there will be signed jersey giveaways from D.C. United players on loan with the Kickers.