NeuLion, MLS Renew Streaming Deal

NeuLion and Major League Soccer will keep their streaming partnership going for a seventh year after striking a renewal for the 2016 season that will factor in some enhancements to MLS LIVE, the league's OTT, multi-screen subscription service.

MLS doesn’t break out specific sub numbers for MLS LIVE, but said the over-the-top subscription offering grew its base by more than 60% for the 2015 season.

That offering sees a renewal rate of more than 85% each year, Chris Schlosser, SVP and GM of MLS Digital said, noting that the sales cycle for 2016 is underway and the “numbers are looking very positive.”

“OTT is a very important area for us,” Schlosser said. “We deliver a very targeted millennial audience.”

Heading into the new season, which kicks off March 6, will cost $79.99 per year or $16.99 per month. MLS LIVE streams out seven local games per week (MLS also offers three  national broadcasts per week via ESPN, Univision and Fox that are blacked out on MLS LIVE). About half of the MLS clubs do allow in-market streaming (here’s how the blackout policies for the 2016 season stack up on a club-by-club basis in the U.S. and Canada). All blacked out games do become available to MLS LIVE subs 48 hours after the match.

Additionally, MLS LIVE features an archive of  games from the past six seasons, instant replays during live games, and access to condensed, 15-minute versions of games following live matches. The Web-based version of MLS LIVE also supports a multi-game feature.

This year, the OTT service will tack on some enhancements, including closer integration with via a single sign-on and a cleaner, redesigned interface for the Web and mobile apps.

Last season, about 40% of MLS LIVE subs watched on PCs, and the same percentage watched on smartphones and tablets (Android and iOS), while the remaining 20% watched on TV-connected platforms  such as Roku players, Apple TV boxes, and via the Chromecast streaming adapter.

NeuLion’s role is to manage and package the live feeds into different formats and deliver them in a range of bit rates and resolutions for the variety of devices supported by MLS LIVE.

To enable the service to scale and optimize streaming performance, NeuLion uses multiple content delivery network partners (Akamai, Limelight Networks and Level 3 Communications) and has the ability to switch those paths based on how they are handling the load, explained Chris Wagner, NeuLion’s executive vice president, marketplace strategy.