The deal expands on a partnership formed last year between MLS and the free streaming service, which is part of the ViacomCBS family. Under the new deal, Pluto will retain access to game replays, classic contests and weekly studio shows. It will also add new Spanish-language content to its Deportes channel.
This deal, which does not include live games, fills a different role than the league’s bigger TV deals with Fox, ESPN and Univision, which pay MLS around $90 million per year. The Pluto partnership is aimed at helping the league, now in its 25th season, diversify its reach, especially for younger fans.
“With the youngest audience in professional sports, Major League Soccer is uniquely positioned to deliver content to fans anywhere, anytime, on any device, and in any environment,” said Gem Benedict, the league’s senior director of content distribution. “We are constantly evaluating how to enhance our fan experience when consuming our content, and how Major League Soccer can make our high-quality content available to our fan base, all while complementing our live game broadcasts.”
That’s especially important now, as most MLS stadiums are still without fans and social interaction around the country remains heavily reduced. The league had a successful 51-game bubble tournament in Orlando and is now back to hosting games in stadiums around the country. Plans remain in place for a title game on Dec. 12.
MLS has expanded in the past few years, both on the field and off it. The league currently has 26 teams, with another four expected to join by 2023. Expansion fees, which were $10 million in 2006, have mushroomed to more than $300 million, and some teams have taken in investment at valuations of over half a billion dollars.
Its major media deals all expire after the 2022 season, and that next set of contracts will be a critical litmus test that shows just how much the media world values that growth.
Pluto has also grown significantly in the past few years. The service’s monthly users in the U.S. have more than doubled to 26.5 million since the original MLS tie-up. It has also inked deals with the NFL and PGA Tour in that span.