Brand Beckham scoring for MLS


LONDON -- Despite a relatively inauspicious start to his playing career stateside, the media furor surrounding soccer player David Beckham is still strong enough to attract big deals.

Viasat Broadcasting on Thursday said it has secured the exclusive broadcast rights to U.S.-based Major League Soccer for the rest of the season. The deal means viewers across Scandinavia, the Baltic States and the CIS countries will be able to watch MLS matches and follow Beckham's adventures with the Los Angeles Galaxy club.

Viaset is banking on the ballooning media interest in MLS this side of the pond since the transfer of the former English team captain from Real Madrid to the Galaxy.

MLS was scheduled to premiere immediately on Viasat Sport 2 and Viasat Sport East with Thursday's New England versus Kansas City gane and, on Sunday night, viewers will be able to follow Beckham and the L.A. Galaxy's game against Toronto.

Viasat Sport 2 and Viasat East will broadcast up to two matches from MLS every week during the course of the deal.

Viasat already has an extensive portfolio of football coverage, which is aired on its free-to-air channel as well as on Viasat Sport, including coverage of the Swedish, Norwegian and Danish national teams as they attempt to qualify for the 2008 European Football Championships and the 2010 World Cup.

Viasat's coverage also includes the UEFA Champions League, the UEFA Cup, the English FA Cup, the Danish Premier League, the French Premier League and the Dutch League.

Viasat Broadcasting is the largest business area within the international entertainment broadcasting group Modern Times Group MTG AB. MTG is the largest free and pay TV operator in Scandinavia and the Baltics; the largest shareholder in Russia's biggest independent television network; and runs its own free TV channels in a total of 10 European countries and pay TV channels in 26 European countries.

Viasat's channels reach 100 million people. The Viasat DTH satellite TV package offers digital multichannel TV packages of more than 50 self-produced and third party entertainment channels. MTG also runs the largest commercial radio network in northern Europe.