Up until the past week, ESPN has been the golden child of Premier League coverage in the United States. We’ve been spoiled by pictures in HD, match coverage that begins when the players enter the tunnel, Monday evenings that bring us the UK feed of ESPN’s coverage, and Saturday mornings with Georgie Bingham and company.
But the shine is now starting to come off a little with TV ratings for the past two weekend games that leave a lot to be desired when you compare them with ratings from August and September of this year.
Here are the complete ratings so far this season for games shown on ESPN2 (with last weekend’s games highlighted in red):
- Liverpool v Aston Villa, Mon., Aug. 24, 3 pm, 398,391 viewers
- Wigan v Man United, Sat., Aug. 22, 10 am, 374,799
- Manchester City v West Ham United, Mon., Sept. 28, 3pm, 293,600
- Portsmouth v Everton, Sat., Sept. 26, 7:45am, 270,927
- Bolton Wanderers v Tottenham Hotspur, Sat., Oct. 3, 10am, 265,508
- Chelsea v Burnley, Sat., Aug. 29, 7:45 am, 253,934
- Liverpool v Burnley, Sat., Sept. 12, 10 am, 253,779
- Aston Villa v Manchester City, Mon., Oct. 5, 3 pm, 248,956
- Fulham v Hull City, Mon., Oct. 19, 3 pm, 209,207
- Aston Villa v Chelsea, Sat., Oct. 17, 7:45 am, 206,886
- Burnley v Sunderland, Sat., Sept. 19, 7:45 am, 199,380
- Chelsea v Hull City, Sat., Aug. 15, 7:45 am, 164,485
As you can see, the games from last weekend are near the bottom in terms of ratings according to Nielsen Ratings. And here’s why I think they’ve taken a dip:
- During the first several weeks of the Premier League season, ESPN was advertising its Premier League coverage on websites galore across the Internet and including popular destinations such as BBC Sport and The Guardian. Now, it seems that the advertising has stopped,
- While we don’t like to admit it, the baseball championship games are occupying a lot of time of American viewers which may be having an impact on viewing figures for the Premier League. And with NFL season in full swing, there are only so many hours in the day to watch sport,
- The international break prevented Premier League football from being shown for two weeks, just as the season was getting very exciting. Now that the break is over, it may take casual soccer fans a little time to get back in the habit of watching Premier League games on ESPN2.
The other reason is that the quality of opposition last weekend is not as attractive as a game featuring Manchester United or Liverpool. Surprisingly, the games featuring Chelsea have resulted in mediocre TV ratings (the highest being just over 250,000 for Burnley against Chelsea in late August). Plus the game between Fulham and Hull City feature two clubs with relatively tiny groups of spectators.
Luckily for ESPN2, the TV schedule over the next few weeks will improve significantly for the network. First up is the Birmingham derby this Saturday morning between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Aston Villa. The following Saturday is the biggest game of 2009 for ESPN2 featuring Arsenal versus Tottenham Hotspur. It’ll be quite interesting to see what the TV ratings are for the first Arsenal game on ESPN2 so far this season.