ESPN2 EPL TV Ratings: August '09 to February '10

It’s been several weeks since I’ve shared the Nielsen Ratings with you for the latest Premier League games televised live on ESPN2, so there’s plenty of news to cover.

Overall, what is very evident is that the 10am ET timeslot on ESPN2 garners much higher ratings than the 7:45am ET one. Some of you will say “Of course,” especially those of you on the west coast, but out of the top five ratings ESPN2 has seen this season, three of the games have been in the Saturday 10am ET timeslot.

I’ve highlighted the new ratings that haven’t been shared thus far in yellow. Here are the viewing figures for August 2009 to February 2010:

Reviewing the above numbers, the viewing figures for Sunderland against Stoke was atrocious despite being on a Monday afternoon when most people are working.

The big surprise for me was how well the Fulham against Aston Villa match did especially since both teams are not in the Big Four.

What, for you, are some of the interesting observations you see? Click the comments link below to share your feedback.

By the way, if anyone is interested in slicing the data to analyze the information and see what other things we can learn (such as a timeline since the season began with a line chart showing the rise and fall of the TV ratings), please contact me at thegaffer[at]epltalk[dot]com and I’ll send you the spreadsheet.

27 thoughts on “ESPN2 EPL TV Ratings: August '09 to February '10”

  1. I find it interesting the 3PM ratings have seemingly gone down as the season goes on…while the 7:45 AM ratings have seemingly gone up. A lot of that goes down to the quality of matches we’ve seen at those times, but still.

  2. Yeah that Sunderland vs. Stoke rating is pretty bad.

    But not as bad as the game was…I was one of the unfortunate 139000 and it pretty much would be Exhibit A in justifying American stereotypes about soccer — a scoreless tie with few if any real scoring chances, yet few examples of excellent defense, just a midfield based-bore.

    Maybe people just knew it would suck.

  3. Yes, the Fulham-Aston Villa match being that high is a bit surprising. But that’s a good sign.

    By the way, for those of us who don’t like the ESPN ticker on the bottom of the screen, I noticed that FSC now has their own version which pops up at times. Yesterday I sat down to watch the later showing of Brazil-Ireland friendly. In the early minutes their ticker popped up and soon I saw “Brazil blanks Ireland in international friendly.” Well, so much for enjoying the rest of that match. Thanks a lot, FSC!

  4. Aston Villa vs Fulham having a high rating perhaps shows how much Americans love to watch homegrown talent play in England, and despite Dempsey being unavailable for the game due to injury it shows how his presence has helped create a fanbase for Fulham in the USA. Also go back and look at players like McBride. I am not to surprised at the rating.

    1. That’s a good point. I have been following Fulham more closely ever since I noticed they had a few US players a few seasons back. At one point they had at least four on the squad (McBride, Dempsey, Bocanegra, Eddie Johnson). But the other Fulham match on the list is pretty low, although it was a Monday match.

    2. Agreed – I think Americans have an understood affinity for Fulham :)

      I’m also willing to bet that those two Everton games (at #6 and #9) got a bump in viewership because of LD. I’m in CA and I stayed up all night to catch one and woke up on three hours’ sleep to catch the other.

  5. I prefer the 745am games. I take care of my daughter and let my wife sleep in. The highly rated 745am games were good contests. Fulham & Villa might both be outside the big 4, but both have beaten big4’s in the past 2 years and play good football. I would think that those who will watch those games would know about non big4 teams.

    The Wigan – United game from August was the first one with some real promotion, as the deal was signed right before Hull – Chelsea – from what I remember.

  6. The ratings are static if you compare like with like fixtures. There has been no growth overall. The thing that surprises me the most is that ESPN have bought more matches when they have refused to advertise what they have. They have a great product and package yet seem almost scared to take advantage. It would interesting to know FSC’s 10:00 ratings in comparison to the ESPN 10:00 match. Or could it be that football fans in America are not as rabid as we like to think.

  7. I’ll be interested to see ESPN’s ratings for the Man Utd/Chelsea game on April 3rd (7:45 a.m. ET kickoff). I don’t have access to FSC-HD, so I’m glad that ESPN has the game.

  8. Just looking through the numbers, typically a top squad would have good ratings, though Chelsea has 3 games at 7:45 that are in the bottom half of that list.

    The stats really draw no other conclusions.

  9. Even though neither ESPN, Inc. nor FSI made an official announcement regarding 2010-2011, I am more than convinced that FSI has sublicensed the following 83 matches to ESPN, Inc. for ESPN2 (U.S.) and ESPN Caribbean:

    23 matches on Saturdays at 7:45am ET or 8:45am ET

    23 matches on Sundays before 10am ET (usually at 8:30am ET with a handful of matches at 7am ET, 9am ET, 9:30am ET, or 10am ET)

    37 “1st pick” matches on either Saturdays at 10am ET or 11am ET or “1st pick” overall for each round of matches to be played entirely during the middle of the week (Tuesdays or Wednesdays).


    The 12 Monday night games (3pm ET or 4pm ET) belong on FS+. The matchups on Monday night are usually poor (ESPN2 got lucky with getting Liverpool in 2009-2010 due to Liverpool’s Europa League participation) and there are just too few matches to build a consistent audience in the time slot. Sunderland vs Stoke on 1 Feb 2010 deservedly got the smallest audience of the 2009-2010 season.

    1. Interesting take on how you see things breaking for next season, Oliver. I could see FSC happy to take the cash that ESPN is handing them for at least 3 games a week along with a built in audience from ESPN for the noon game on Saturday and the 11am game on Sunday which are usually the two top games of the week.

      Now that Fox has rolled out FS+ is just having the 2nd and 4th choice of 10am games on Saturday along with the occasional Monday afternoon game enough to sell subscriptions to the channel at 15 bucks a month? I would presume that FS+ will probably see a lot of the programming that will be provided by the Premiership with their new network that they want to kickoff at the start of the season in August along with what programming they own now.

      Could this be how the Weekend TV Schedule would look for next season?

      7:30am ESPN 2
      10am 1st Choice Game ESPN 2
      10am 2nd Choice Game FS+
      10am 3rd Choice game FSC
      10am 4th Choice Game on delay FS+
      10am 5th Choice Game on delay FSC

      12:30pm FSC

      8:30am ESPN 2
      11am FSC

      2:30pm FS+ which would be a 6th choice on delay 10am game Saturday if no game is scheduled on Monday.

      What are the prospects of FSC selling some Champions League games to ESPN for next season too?

      1. For 2010-2011, I expect the following distribution



        7:30am or 8:30am ET – ESPN2
        10am or 11am ET – ESPN2 has 1st pick; FS+ has 2nd, 4th, and 5th picks (and 6th pick if available); FSC has 3rd pick
        12:30pm or 1:30pm ET – FSC


        Before 9:59am ET – ESPN2 has 1st pick (usually 8:30am ET), FS+ has the leftovers
        10am ET or after – FSC has 1st pick (usually 11am ET), FS+ has the leftovers

        Monday nights

        12 matches on FS+

        Midweek (Tuesdays – Fridays)

        ESPN2 has 1st overall pick for each round scheduled entirely during midweek. After ESPN2 makes its pick, FS+ would have the next pick, then FSC, FS+, FSC, and the rest (if available) going to FS+

        Most matches “rescheduled” for midweek (due to weather or FA Cup) would go to FS+


        Serie A


        12noon ET or 1pm ET – FS+
        2:30pm ET or 3:30pm ET – FSC


        6:30am ET or 7:30am ET (new time slot) – FS+
        9am ET or 10am ET – FS+ has 1st pick, FSC has 2nd pick
        2:30pm ET or 3:30pm ET – FSC

        1. Are you guys serious? ESPN2 will get the 1st choice game?! That’d be seriously messed up if the owner of the rights and a premium football channel isn’t at least showing the 1st choice match up. 1st, 4th and 5th… but then of course, that makes FSC the whipping dog. Granted, I’ll gladly take ESPN2 getting first choice! It just seems really dumb when people will probably be dropping the premium.

        2. I’m with yespage here. No way ESPN2 gets the first choice game without shelling out a huge sum of cash to Fox — or without giving the online rights to Serie A & the Championship back to Fox for their package, and I’m not convinced Fox is serious about streaming just yet.

        3. Would FS+ rather air the 12pm Saturday Italian game or the English Championship game of the week in that time period, Oliver? What choice of game is the noon kickoff here in the States for the Serie A when they are putting their schedule together in terms of importance? It seems that the 2:30 kickoffs on Saturday and Sunday in Italy usually are the top games and I could see the new 6:30am Saturday Morning game aimed for the Asian markets to see some good matches as they look to build their fan base in that part of the world.

          Speaking of the Asian Markets is it me or has the Premiership put less big games at 7:45am this year where in previous years their seemed to be a lot more games involving better match ups? I just seem to remember watching more United games in the early morning period the last 4 or 5 years that was trumpeted as the game for the Far East Market compared to this year. I know that they have Chelsea/United in April which is as big as it gets this season but for the most part it just seemed like their have been less big games this year than previous years.

          I can see where Oliver is coming from in terms of the first choice 10am game on Saturday going to ESPN. ESPN seems to be pretty fired up about futbol especially if the game catches fired with the World Cup this Summer and want to add more games. The Premiership Rights aren’t as inexpensive as they were in past years. As long as FSC has the rights for the late kickoffs on Saturday and Sunday which are usually the time periods that see the best games they can get their best lead in at 10am on Saturdays and 8:30am on Sundays by the games airing on ESPN 2 because their reach is much bigger than FSC or FS+. Sure FS+ is going to bring in some cash it won’t be as much as what ESPN will pay if they get those 3 time periods that Oliver brought up when he was mapping how the rights will shake out for next season. Remember FSC had already farmed out the 7:30am game, 10am first choice game on Saturday, and the early kickoff on Sunday to ESPN/Setanta up to last week since the distribution has gotten away from the PPV Weekly Model they used to have.

          3 games on ESPN 2, 2/3 games on FSC, and 4/5 games on FSC + is just about the best deal for fans in America if things break this way on the weekends because most fans with digital cable would have access to the top choice games at having to pay extra for FS+. I am sure the clubs bigger clubs in England would rather have their games airing on ESPN 2 and FSC which has way more penetration than FS+ which is more minor. Having the best games where the most amount of eyeballs watching can only raise the profile of the league here in America.

  10. I’m surprised that Portsmouth vs Burnley is higher than Portsmouth vs Liverpool, Stoke vs Liverpool, Villa vs Chelsea etc

  11. England’s 1966 World Cup victory, an event relived by fans for decades, is the most-watched TV broadcast in British history, research has revealed.
    A mammoth audience of 32.3 million tuned in to see England’s 4-2 triumph over West Germany at Wembley Stadium.
    That figure is 200,000 higher than the number who watched Princess Diana’s funeral in 1997.

  12. I agree with Cameron’s assessment. I think the Fulham/Aston Villa game being that high has to do with the number of Americans that have played/currently play for those teams. Fulham was called team FulhAmerica for a while because Dempsey, Johnson, etc. were all there. Villa has Friedl and Guzan.

    Look at Everton/Man U. It was the highest rated 7:45 game, any coincidence it had Donovan playing against one of the Big 4? Interest in Everton also seems to have gone up since Donovan has gotten there.

    1. Also, Aston Villa is owned by Randy Lerner, who also owns the Cleveland Browns…..both teams are sort of underdogs to the Big Four, and both teams have a fair amount of skill.

      Another thing I noticed is that just about all of the Man U games are really high in the rankings, which makes since, with them being the reigning champions

  13. For me the earlier the start time the better. It allows you to get the game in undisturbed by those things that can interrupt once everyone gets up.

    To that extent I believe that the audience is not very effected by the teams but by the start time. The earlier starts will take out a large part of the west coast audience. Unless you get a Big 4 match up that would draw a lot of outside interest, the EPL fan base will tune in anyway. Most of the fans here will watch Stoke v. Wolves as well as Man U. v. Chelsea, it’s all good football for the EPL fan base.

    So I’m for a noon start GMT every week.

  14. Of the top clubs, looks to me like Manchester United is the only guaranteed top draw. All of their matches are in the top 10 listed – all 300,000+ and including the highest-rated 7:45 match – while Chelsea and Liverpool both have matches near the bottom in ratings.

    Arsenal only has been on once (a shame, especially for Gooners), so their one showing at spot #5 doesn’t give enough of a sample to judge.

  15. Ummmm… the Sunderland v. Stoke ratings were terrible because it was Sunderland v. Stoke. It’s one of the few games ESPN has shown that looked WORSE in HD.

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