D.C. United has reached a long-awaited — and long-term — agreement with Comcast SportsNet, but coverage will not begin until May 8 and no matches are currently on the outlet’s schedule after Sept. 15.
The three-year deal calls for at least 16 matches annually. Every other U.S.-based MLS club, except Chivas USA, will have 21 or more games on local channels this season.
In addition to CSN’s coverage, United will appear on NBC, NBC Sports Network or ESPN2 nine times this year. However, that leaves as many as nine other matches — more than one-quarter of the 34-game slate — without standard TV coverage. Of those nine, five are road games, including this Friday night against Sporting Kansas City.
United might add TV for some games late in the year, depending on CSN’s interest and how the team is faring. However, as things stand at the moment, five of the last 10 regular season matches will not be televised.
The next two games — Friday at K.C. and April 13 against New York at RFK Stadium — will be available in the Washington area on the league’s pay packages only (Direct Kick and MLS Live). Because the games are not on TV here, the league’s blackout rules are lifted. Viewing parties are scheduled at restaurants/bars, as well.
ESPN2 will carry the April 21 home game against Philadelphia, but the Columbus trip six days later is not on the local TV schedule.
CSN will then show 14 consecutive matches between May 8 and Aug. 3.
The outlet will not pay a rights fee — it hasn’t in several years — but will cover production costs. The team and channel split expenses the past few seasons.
Dave Johnson and John Harkes will return to the broadcast booth but won’t travel and will have to call away games from the CSN studio in Bethesda, Md.
United aimed to tie supplementary programming (a coach’s show and behind-the-scenes specials, for instance) to the new broadcast contract, but aside from periodic pregame and postgame shows, those plans apparently did not come to immediate fruition. However, concepts for original programming are in development.
The remaining schedule:
April 5 at Kansas City no standard TV
April 13 New York no standard TV
April 21 Philadelphia ESPN2
April 27 at Columbus no standard TV
May 8 Houston Comcast SportsNet
May 11 at Dallas CSN
May 19 Kansas City CSN, UniMas
May 25 Portland CSN, Univision Deportes
June 2 at Chicago CSN, UniMas
June 8 at New England CSN, Univision Deportes
June 15 Toronto CSN
June 22 San Jose CSN
June 29 Vancouver CSN
July 3 at Seattle CSN
July 7 at Colorado CSN
July 20 at Chicago CSN
July 27 New England CSN
Aug. 3 Montreal CSN
Aug. 10 at Philadelphia NBC Sports Network
Aug. 17 at Montreal CSN
Aug. 24 Toronto no standard TV
Aug. 31 at New York NBC Sports Network
Sept. 8 at Chivas USA no standard TV
Sept. 15 Los Angeles CSN, UniMas
Sept. 21 at New England no standard TV
Sept. 28 at Toronto no standard TV
Oct. 4 Chicago NBC Sports Network
Oct. 12 Philadelphia no standard TV
Oct. 18 at Kansas City NBC Sports Network
Oct. 27 Houston NBC