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MLS Kickoff 2024: Behind the Scenes With MLS Productions' New SVP and Executive Producer Ignacio Garcia

23/02/2024

MLS Kickoff 2024: Behind the Scenes With MLS Productions' New SVP and Executive Producer Ignacio Garcia Every match in English and Spanish, 1080p productions, evolving studio programming By Jason Dachman, Editorial Director, U.S.

Friday, February 23, 2024 - 4:22 pm

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The 2023 season marked the start of a new era for Major League Soccer, which kicked off a new 10-year rights deal with Apple. Now, in year two, which began on Wednesday with Lionel Messi and Inter Miami beating Real Salt Lake 2-0, MLS and Apple are looking to evolve their coverage both on the pitch and in the studio.

Ignacio Garcia at MLS Studios (All photos: Mark Smith-USA TODAY Sports)

In addition to carrying every game, Apple's MLS Season Pass streaming service features an MLS 360 whip-around show, as well as MLS Countdown and MLS Wrap-up studio shows - all produced from the league's production center in New York City. Once again teaming with NEP for broadcast facilities and IMG for production services, MLS Productions now has a fully staffed broadcast operation running out of its NYC facility and will once again deliver all matches in 1080p with production crews and both English and Spanish announcers onsite for every match.

SVG sat down prior to the league's opening weekend with Ignacio Garcia, SVP/executive producer, MLS Productions, who came aboard this season after more than 20 years at ESPN Deportes, including serving as GM of its studio shows since 2010. Garcia, a native of Argentina, discussed how his team plans to balance coverage of Messi with the rest of the league, his key production goals and philosophies heading into this season, enhanced production technology in the studio and on the road, and what soccer fans can expect from MLS Season Pass in 2024.

In your first year with MLS, what are you most excited about this season? What are some key production philosophies and goals you're focusing on?

One of the things that gets me the most excited is the chance to elevate the storytelling and elevate the experience throughout the season. In 2023, there was great coverage during match days but not necessarily a 24/7 type of [offering]. I come from that 24/7 network environment so one of my goals here is to provide not only the great coverage on match days but also great shoulder programming. We want to transition into creating content seven days a week that fully surrounds the league.

At MLS Studios: (from left) Liam McHugh, Bradley Wright-Phillips, Sacha Kljestan, and Andrew Wiebe

And how are you going about creating that 24/7 network mentality?

A lot of it is being done behind the scenes with the foundational bones [of the operation]. We now have more of a proper newsroom with people working here at our facility five days a week. We are putting in a lot of work behind the scenes to beef up the production, and I'm very confident that you will be see the results on-air.

We're also looking to expand our digital content. For example, this week, we debuted a brand-new show: This Is MLS in English and Esto es MLS in Spanish on YouTube, which is a one-hour show previewing all the matches happening this weekend. We didn't have one before, and it could potentially transition into MLS Season Pass at some point. We will continue to [create content] like that for the digital space throughout the season.

Kevin Egan at MLS Studios

How are you looking to boost your coverage for Spanish-speaking fans this season?

We are very eager to serve fans on both the English- and the Spanish-language side equally. One thing we are super excited about is adding MLS 360 in Spanish, which we only had only in English last year. We also have two different studios: one for our English[-language programming] and one for the Spanish-language side. We have made several enhancements to the Spanish-language studio, and we also plan to use Studio 1, which is our largest set used for [English programming] to do some preproduction and original content for the Spanish shows. Whether you are watching us in English or Spanish, you'll see much more cohesive coverage across the board.

TV crew at MLS Studios

Let's dive a bit deeper into MLS 360. After a pretty strong debut last season, how are you looking to evolve that whip-around show in 2024?

We are pumped to be debuting a new host, Kevin Egan, who is high energy and very engaging, while keeping most of the core talent that we had in the show last year. We are very excited because we are also adding some bilingual talent that can contribute, with former MLS coach Gio Savarese joining the team.

Philosophically, for MLS 360 this year, we're going to lean much more on the games and the live action, with the premise that you are not going to miss a single goal and you're going to see every key moment in every match. When we come back to the studio, the talent is going to be much more intentional about what they can contribute.

Since live action is the number-one priority, we're also going to be much more mindful about when we go to break, always looking to break at halftime and not in the middle of the action. There are a lot of things that we are doing conceptually to bring a new vision to MLS 360 while also building on the success of year one.

Tony Cherchi at MLS Studios

In terms of live match productions, how are you looking to build on year one of MLS Season Pass?

We love the studio side, but matches are obviously our bread and butter. First of all, just like last year, every match will be produced [onsite] with at least one truck, if not two, and both English and Spanish announcers will be at the stadium for every match. All matches will be done in 1080p again this year. And there are several things happening behind the cameras that we are confident will create new MLS style that
LINK: https://www.sportsvideo.org/2024/02/23/mls-kickoff-2024-behind-the-sce...
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