It’s official. The Premier League is America’s soccer league, at least on television.
Earlier this week, EPL Talk exclusively announced that Monday’s TV viewing audience for Manchester United against Arsenal was the highest ever on U.S. television for a Premier League match. And now ESPN has announced that the average viewing audience for the Premier League this season on ESPN2 is 324,000 (21 games), which surpasses the 249,000 average for the 25 Major League Soccer regular season games in 2010.
Over at Fox Soccer Channel, TV viewing numbers for Premier League matches on the network far exceed those of Major League Soccer. TV ratings for MLS games on Fox Soccer Channel remained flat. Fox Soccer Channel, whose MLS telecasts aired primarily on Saturday nights, saw its slate of 31 matches average 53,000 viewers this season, flat with last season.
Fox has been reluctant to share its TV viewing audience numbers for the Premier League, but we do know that August’s game between Liverpool and Arsenal drew 291,000 viewers, which was the twelfth most watched FSC telecast of all time. Out of the four Premier League matches that Fox televised during the opening weekend, the games averaged a 0.4 household rating which was up 34% over last year’s opening weekend. Total viewers for the four games increased by an impressive 46% (194,000 viewers versus 133,000).
While Major League Soccer is suffering with low TV ratings for games that are often shown during prime-time or late evenings, at least the attendances for MLS games are up compared to last year.
Based on the above ratings, we can infer that the new audiences who fell in love with World Cup 2010 gravitated to ESPN’s coverage of the English Premier League in larger numbers than Major League Soccer. It’s obvious that MLS has its work cut out for itself if it is to reverse its downward trend in viewership.