Starting this weekend, some Liga MX games will air on the Worldwide Leader's family of networks in English. Yesterday's announcement trumpeted ESPN's partnership with Azteca America, but it goes a lot further than that. This is pretty huge.
To be sure, this is not the first time Liga MX has been broadcast in the US in English: both Univision and Telemundo have tinkered with the concept on some of their way-down-the-dial properties.
Each team is free to negotiate their own TV rights, much like teams in the NBA and MLB. But those negotiations were a lot like the "pacto de caballeros." Earlier this year, León became the first team to sign a TV deal outside of the Azteca-Televisa duopoly. Of course, when they have a heavyweight like Carlos Slim as a partner.
ESPN is also a heavyweight, the 800lb gorilla.
ESPN understands the potential. It's been about a year since they began flashing Ligva MX scores on their bottom line, and they signed on to broadcast all of Mexico's national team games through 2014. Liga MX (and Copa MX) was the logical move.
Meanwhile, Univision mas moved the majority of their Liga MX games from their air channels to Univision Deportes Network, a channel that has been picked up by very few carriers.
Teams would be silly to not include ESPN when their contracts are being renegotiated. They can match or beat all the zeros that are written on that little piece of paper that is pushed across the table. Granted, there are some teams that have a little more caché than others - Chivas' rights are a little more attractive than, say, Puebla's. And adding English language on the Cable TV titan is much, much, more than a sweetener.
And it is something that none of their possible competitors can possibly match.
Last summer, Mexican football was rebranded as Liga MX as a foundation to make the league more attractive to viewers... and advertisers. That means that they have to expand beyond the borders. Despite what a couple of their team owners may think, adding new broadcast partners is a means to the end they envisioned.
Corona Liga MX would mean a lot more to the Modelo group if a lot more eyeballs on both sides of the border and beyond would see it.