EPL and MLS Neck And Neck In Monday’s TV Ratings Battle On ESPN2

Despite an embarrassingly low viewing audience of just 82,000 Sunday for MLS’s debut on NBC Sports, MLS got a boost Monday with a much more respectable viewing audience of 337,000 for ESPN2’s live coverage of Portland Timbers against Philadelphia Union, which was slightly higher than the viewing audience for Monday’s 4pm ET game between Arsenal and Newcastle United, also shown on ESPN2.

Arsenal versus Newcastle United had a viewing audience of 316,000 viewers. Both Portland against Philadelphia and Arsenal versus Newcastle had a 0.3 rating.

Over on ESPN Deportes, meanwhile, the Premier League match had a viewing audience of 47,600, while the MLS game had 46,478 viewers.

While ESPN2’s MLS game had the advantage of a 9:55pm ET kick-off compared to the Premier League game, which was shown during business hours, the viewing audience for the Portland-Philadelphia game is still impressive especially when you consider that ESPN/ESPN2’s average last season for MLS games on its network was 291,000.

The viewing audience for Arsenal against Newcastle United was also respectable, but nowhere near some of ESPN2’s previous records (albeit featuring much bigger teams playing against each other).

15 thoughts on “EPL and MLS Neck And Neck In Monday’s TV Ratings Battle On ESPN2”

  1. I wonder how many people actually know they have NBC Sports. I know I have it (because I had Versus), but have no idea what channel it is on nor any idea what they are broadcasting. These guys are really flying under the radar….or have I missed all the promotion because I watch zero network television?

    1. Same here, Guy. But MLS fans have been playing up the NBC Sports deal almost daily since it was signed in August. NBC Sports has had ads on the NBC network and elsewhere, too. But I haven’t seen a lot of advertising or marketing by NBC Sports on the places where soccer fans congregate. So far, it seems to be aimed at soccer fans who are already MLS fans, and the casual viewer — who is not going to be interested in MLS.

      The Gaffer

  2. Although 82K for RBNY v FC Dallas games doesn’t sound like much, especially compared with the numbers that ESPN2 garnered for those games mentioned in the article, I heard that the 82,000 was a 20% increase above what FOX Soccer averaged for MLS games last year…so at least it’s improvement in the non-ESPN broadcaster category.

    1. The problem is that it’s unclear if it is an improvement. As you note, the FOX number was an average; NBC’s is one observation. It’s all pretty inconclusive.

  3. Wow – that’s impressive.

    I’m right there with the rest of the county in regards to the increasing popularity of MLS – I went from just watching my local in their inaugural season, to watching two or three matches last year, and now I watch equal or more than the EPL.

    Both leagues have their place, and they can most definitely co-exist.

    1. I agree Gaz, but for those who aren’t in a local MLS market, there’s zero connection to the league. If there was a MLS team in town, I’d watch Premier League games in the morning and go to MLS games at night. Unfortunately there are huge regions of the United States where there is no MLS team.

      The Gaffer

    1. And that’s precisely the issue that MLS faces. If there’s no local team, there’s very little reason for interest in watching the league as a whole on TV. The best US soccer player plays overseas (Dempsey), and when viewers are faced with a choice of either watching a league that they have little or no connection with versus watching one of the most entertaining leagues in the world, the Premier League is going to win the TV battle.

      For a country the size of the United States, MLS needs to speed up expansion, doing it carefully to avoid mistakes. But as we’ve seen in Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto, MLS has done a brilliant job in local markets — which is where they excel. Their track record on TV has been abysmal.

      The Gaffer

      1. I understand your argument that locals with no team have no connection, but can we really have a team in every market? does every state get 1?

        what about the states with multiple large metro areas/markets?
        California already has 3 teams, Texas has 2 and NY wants a second… this could quickly reach 75-100 teams.
        do we have the player pool to fill these teams?
        what about crowds? even many USL teams (or whatever that league is calling themselves now) can break 3-4 thousand in attendances…

        1. ack… the above should read:

          even many USL teams (or whatever that league is calling themselves now) can *barely* break 3-4 thousand in attendances…

      2. But I think they can co-exist at some point – especially in the States. It’s just a matter of time.

        Someone in Michigan can decide they like the cut of Seattle’s jib and follow them.

        American sports culture is like that. I’m not a gridiron fan, but I live in certified E-A-G-L-E-S territory. – yet I know people that support the Steelers, Cowboys, or Giants, all the while not being from that part of the county. Plus, American football supporters are used to this idea with them having to pick an EPL team they may never see play live.

        But you’re right – if a local team does pop up near you, it’s easy, instant immersion for most football supporters.

  4. Obviously you cant compare Premeirship or La Liga with MLS.
    However MLS is a much improved standard to a decade ago.
    All you had to do was watch the atmosphere @ Portland Monday night to know to the MLS is on the up.
    Many a premiership side would love that atmosphere. Live on E2 a sellout and top notch atmosphere.

    If you put too many teams in the league you end up with Wigans, Boltons, Blackburns etc…
    Where in a Footy only country you cant fill half the stadium. Slow and maybe little more expansion will serve MLS the best.

    Im a massive EPL fan. Go to The Lane yearly, you can fully enjoy both and accept the diifferent standard.

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