CARSON -- The Galaxy unveiled the 10-year television deal with Time Warner Cable's new English- and Spanish-language regional sports networks, and the conversation with AEG President Tim Leiweke afterward quickly turned to David Beckham.
As in: Will he stay?
“You guys are more hung up on that than I am,” Leiweke said.
That might be true, but as Leiweke readily proclaimed, this new deal -- worth $55 million, according to a Los Angeles Times report earlier this week -- is all about Beckham.
The basics: Time Warner is anchoring its new networks, set to launch net year, with the Lakers and the Galaxy, and they're committing to a lot of programming: games, of course, but plenty of ancillary coverage, too. The “Bruce Arena Show,” anyone?
“We don't talk about this deal without David Beckham,” Leiweke said after the announcement in a Home Depot Center news conference. “We wouldn't have gotten the Herbalife deal [in 2007, worth as much as $25 million over five year] without David Beckham. We certainly are not touring Indonesia, Asia and Australia without David Beckham, and we're not getting the kind of guarantees we're getting [for the trip] without David Beckham. I don't even think we get Robbie Keane without David Beckham.
“We wouldn't be sitting here with the kind of partners we have, the attention we have -- and this [MLS Cup final at HDC] on Sunday, we could be at the Rose Bowl and sell 80,000 seats. That's David Beckham.”
Beckham's role in the Time Warner deal has mostly to do with influence. He has provided a spotlight on Major League Soccer, and especially on the Galaxy, that has a lot of very fine players thinking they'd like to head on over, guys who otherwise wouldn't think twice about MLS.
Whether he returns to L.A next year for a sixth season (and beyond?) or is off to London or Paris or wherever, Beckham represents a commitment, Leiweke said, to how the club will do its business.
“[This is] arguably the biggest deal we've done, period,” he said. “If you look at the amount of coverage they're going to provide to the team; if you look at the fact that it's two different networks, and they're going to build these networks around us and the Lakers; and if you look at, obviously, the financial commitment they've made here, not just in rights fees, but in production and talent, this is fantastic because it treats the Galaxy like the Lakers.
“We have to strive to make sure that we keep on trying to find ways for the Galaxy to grow as a brand in this marketplace and economy. I don't think it's lost on anyone that we spend a lot of money that other [MLS] teams don't. We have to keep on trying to go on out there and recreate revenue streams in order to justify the amount of money we spend on Designated Players, and this deal helps do that.”
Designated Players may sign for any price, and only a portion -- $335,000 this year -- is counted against the salary cap. Each team may field as many as three DPs; the Galaxy's are Beckham ($6.5 million guaranteed compensation), Keane ($3.417 million) and Landon Donovan ($2.3 million).
Leiweke was asked if there was a Beckham component to the Time Warner deal.
“There is a component in this that gives them some certainty about our commitment to having Designated Players,” he said. “We don't name specific players, because players come and go and this is a 10-year deal, but they know that we've made a commitment towards maintaining the quality.”
And later: “We are committed to DPs, and this organization will always be committed to DPs.” Any talks going on with potential DPs? “Nah, I'm not going to get into that.”
That brings us back to the original question. Is Beckham coming back in 2012?
“David and I have an agreement,” Leiweke sad, “and that is, as you all have pointed out the last five years, I have his back -- I've always had his back. David and I have zero problems communicating. And so we have a good bond. I have gone on record of saying in my life, in my career in sports, I consider him and Magic [Johnson] to be two of the most character players I have ever been around. David knows he has a home here, and I'd like him to stay.”
He said they'd talk after MLS Cup.
“What I love about this guy the most is he's 100 percent focused on [winning MLS Cup],” Leiweke said. “It's great everyone's speculating about him. Welcome to our party. This is where we thought we'd be five years ago. We'll talk to him after Sunday.
“The only thing he cares about is the only thing I care about, which is this game on Sunday night. Him and I will talk later.”