Thanks to Sports Media Watch for this nugget:
ESPN2 averaged a 0.2 U.S. rating and 254,000 viewers for its first two MLS Playoff telecasts. In particular, Dynamo/Sounders on October 29 drew a 0.2 and 274,000, while Galaxy/Chivas USA on November 1 drew a 0.1 and 233,000. ESPN Deportes averaged 63,000 viewers for the same two games, including 86,000 for Dynamo/Sounders and 39,000 for Galaxy/Chivas USA. (ESPN)
So while the ratings are down slightly from the Regular Season, the MLS continues to outdraw the Premier League on ESPN. According to our sister site, EPL Talk, the top flight in England has averaged about 247,000 viewers on ESPN this season, which is less than the MLS playoffs are averaging, and far fewer than the MLS Regular Season averaged.
When you factor in the Deportes audience in Spanish, the two leagues are not even competitive in terms of viewer ship. The Premier League does sell more merchandise in the United States, but clearly based on these numbers, has less casual fans than our domestic first division. Merchandise sales reflect hard core fandom, not mass interest. Much like Fox Soccer’s EPL ratings which are three times the network’s average MLS viewership, the pay channel appeals to hard core football fans, not casual sports fans.
Most EPL matches on ESPN are either non competitive matches involving top four clubs against the rest of the league or simply games that include two unattractive sides. MLS, on the other hand features competitive action and compelling story lines in each telecast. Given this reality, it is little wonder casual American TV viewers are voting with their remote controls for MLS over the EPL.
For those curious, the Mexican Primera Division continues to lead MLS and all other domestic championships on US television. ESPN 2’s Monday Night English Football (Afternoon in the US) telecast does lead MLS in average viewers, but since the majority of ESPN telecasts are on Saturday mornings, the head to head comparison favors MLS, whose fans are willing to flock to TVs to watch matches on several different nights a week.