ESPN Breaks US Cable TV Record As More Than 1 Million Viewers Watch Manchester EPL Derby

ESPN has broken the one million viewers barrier for its live coverage of the April 30, 2012 derby between Manchester City and Manchester United.

The live broadcast of the Premier League match now ranks as the most-watched EPL game on US cable television, smashing the previous record of 610,000 viewers who watched Chelsea against Arsenal from December, 2010 (ESPN2). According to Nielsen Ratings, the Manchester derby scored a 0.8 rating and had an average of 1.033 million viewers (832,000 television homes).

This monumental achievement is even more impressive when you consider that 205,000 additional viewers watched the game on ESPN Deportes, which set a record for the most viewed Premier League telecast on the Spanish-language sports network.

Importantly, on ESPN3 and WatchESPN, an average audience of nearly 87,200 people watched the Manchester derby via computers, smartphones, tablets and Xbox, which was greater than the MLS debut on NBC Sports television.

In comparison, 1.1 million viewers watched Chelsea against Barcelona on FX recently, while the US record for the most number of TV viewers to watch a Premier League match still stands at 1.67 million who watched Chelsea against Liverpool on the free-to-air FOX network, when the game was shown on tape delay in November, 2011.

Meanwhile, FOX is reporting that the second leg of Barcelona against Chelsea was watched by 438,000 viewers on FOX Soccer, while the second leg of Real Madrid against Bayern Munich scored 627,000 viewers on FX. The four Champions League semifinals averaged 1,033,000 viewers on FOX’s English- and Spanish-language networks, up 29 percent from last year, FOX said Wednesday.

During the next few weeks, executives from ESPN and FOX will be anticipating large TV ratings for some scintillating matches coming up including the Chelsea against Bayern Munich Champions League Final, the FA Cup Final between Chelsea and Liverpool, as well as the final day of the Premier League season when the title winner will be decided.

31 thoughts on “ESPN Breaks US Cable TV Record As More Than 1 Million Viewers Watch Manchester EPL Derby”

  1. I was surprised to hear Mike and Mike talk about how some 600m people watched ManCity beat ManU during the Sports Center segment of Mike and Mike radio show while driving to work.

  2. Whatever ESPN shows the radio guys there will find away to talk about it. They promote their product.

    1. This is the first time I have ever heard them talk about soccer that wasn’t the USMNT during the WC.

  3. That’s great. Too bad the game itself turned out to be such a complete dud. Not a good promotion of the EPL for the casual fans that tuned in to check out what all the hype was about. I had to pour cold water on my head just to stay awake. Not a single scoring chance to speak of by either club aside from the single goal off a corner. Thanks to both team’s managers for selecting to play such negative tactics & confirming the opinion of American who game this game a chance that soccer is incredibly boring.

    I’m one of the biggest promoters of soccer to all my American friends and acquaintances, but the games between EPL top teams this season really aren’t helping me to make my case. With a few exceptions (the 1st game between Chelsea & Arsenal as well as some unexpected blowouts) they’ve all been terrible. The recent Chelsea – Arsenal match was even worse than this one. They didn’t even look like they were bothered to play.

    1. That’s football for you. Decide watch ONE match out of 380 and you’re bound to be let down. Follow a team through all 38 games in a season and you’re all set for a roller coaster ride. The highs and lows of a full season and the added games of League Cup, FA Cup and Europe make for the best game in the world. Anybody who says the Manchester derby was a promotion for the league as a whole needs to have a serious word with themselves. May not have been the best game ever but it was still nerve wracking and I’m a supporter of neither team!

      To say ‘they’ve all been terrible’… have you watched the same season as me?! It’s been one of the best seasons in the history of the Premier League and it’s still going down to the wire meaning the fate (good or bad) of multiple teams won’t be decided until the final day. I’d take the Premier League over any NFL, MLB or NBA any day of the week.

  4. What pleased me was Monday evening after the game the NBC affiliate in Detroit showed highlights of the match. Also, on NBC Nightly News there was a story about the game complete with highlights and graphics. I can never remember this happening. This is good news for soccer in America.

  5. “Monday’s top-of-the-table Barclays Premier League clash between local rivals Manchester City and Manchester United attracted a record-breaking audience of more than four million viewers to UK pay-television broadcaster BSkyB.”

    The Gaffer

  6. Maybe this will push ESPN to cover more EPL games. As of today, they have relegated the Norwich v Arsenal game to ESPN3. Normally it would be shown on ESPN2, but I guess with Arsenal’s recent goal drought, they have decided the ratings won’t be good enough for ESPN2……a shame.

  7. And half of the 1 million were cursing at their TV when they saw a soccer match on instead of the usual Sportscenter or NFL Live.

  8. These numbers will only go up each year.

    Hopefully production values from both FSC & ESPN will get better along with weekday coverage. That can always get better.

    1. If anything, FOX should convert SPEED, FUEL TV, FOX Soccer, and FOX Soccer Plus into “FOX Sports 1”, “FOX Sports 2”, “FOX Sports 3”, and “FOX Sports Plus” so that all 4 channels can air live college basketball every weeknight in January, February, and March.

      The likes of Comcast and DIRECTV will NOT put all-soccer channels on expanded basic or digital basic tiers.

      Comcast in particular may be considering a partnership with Qatar Media. If that partnership were to form, expect U.S. rights to EPL to go above $100 million/season regardless of whether the winner were FOX-ESPN, FOX-ESPN-Univision, or Qatar Media-Comcast (NBC Sports Network and Telemundo).

  9. Is this an ESPN thing or would it have got the same figures wherever it was shown considering how it was hyped in the media? I get that ESPN is a flagship channel for you guys but how would it have done, do you think, if it was shown on ESPN2 for example? Or even Fox Soccer? Watching the promos for it on Sky Sports over the past few weeks you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a Hollywood movie, it was that dramatic!

    It’s a shame it costs so much money to watch top flight football on TV in the UK because if it wasn’t behind a paywall on Sky Sports it would have done a lot better than 4+ million it peaked at.

    1. ESPN and ESPN2 are part of the basic digital cable/satilite packages and are normally right next to each other or one or two channels apart from each other. One thing that probably helped was that it had live Sports Center (like Sky Sports News) on right before it. I don’t think ratings would have been lower on ESPN2 but they would have been lower if it was on Fox Soccer becuase that is a specialty station that is normally part of Sports packages.

    2. Now if it was on a broadcast station like ABC or FOX ratings would have been way higher than what ESPN got.

  10. Agreed. Most cable systems in the US give you ESPN and ESPN2 next to each other with just basic service. I have to pay $7 a month to get Fox Soccer HD. But, Fox S. has many EPL games each week – ESPN2 only 1 or 2.
    I believe an important factor that has helped soccer grow quickly in the US is the HD television. Games are much more enjoyable to watch – no more blurry figures in SD. And, with Fox Soccer now finally being distributed on Comcast cable in HD, things are getting better fast. It is poor in SD.

    Blog after blog shows people switching providers just to get FS HD (to AT&T Uverse in particular).

    Note that GolTV is also being more widely distributed too (think: El Clasico and Bundesliga). But still rare in HD.

    1. I’m lucky because I get Fox Soccer with my digital cable and I get FS+ HD and GolTV HD with the $8 Sports Package.

    2. That’s pretty decent though compared to how much we’re charged. First off you have to pay £20 just to have Sky then it’s another £20 for Sky Sports, £10 for ESPN and £10 for the HD pack!

      1. Hey Paul,

        To get a reasonable viewing experience you have to get Cable (for me their is only one provider available, Comcast), then pay extra for the HD then extra for the DVR, then extra for the premium package, then extra for the sports package that includes fox soccer HD, (fox soccer plus is not available in my area but all of those games are available through ( streaming.

        So in where I am in California Comcast costs 99 dollars plus all the taxes which takes it to about $120, you pay an extra 20 bucks a month for a subscription so in total $140 (£ 86) — I go between the uk and California quite bit and there is no comparison in football coverage…

        Let me explain.

        While the games are accessible the coverage to be frank is not good, at all. I know many people out here will disagree, but it just doesn’t come close to the effort or focus that sky put in, or maybe even

        The major events like the world cup that ESPN put on in 2010 had better coverage but still no where near the access or focus that the BBC, Sky or even ITV have.

        Now, America can do great sports broadcasting, and they demonstrate it on what they love best the NFL and College NFL known as NCAAF, but that is not what Football gets, its not even close.

        Even on a dedicated football channel like fox soccer it is not close, you get 2 1hour sky sports news a day, for me, 1 between 8 and 11am PST and then another @11pm PST. the fox soccer report is actually a good broad look at football world wide, (like eurosport used to be like on a saturday morning).

        For me they could do away with fox soccer plus entirely and put that money towards actual coverage and access. the subscription service is invaluable i think.

        NFL Network and is a great example of what these yanks are capable of it is very impressive broadcasting, and dedication to a sport. The EPL could learn from this even if you don’t like the NFL you have to appreciate the coverage, brand control and access that fans have. you should check it out.

        I have watched NFL games in the uk on sky, and it is awful, it is about the same quality if not worse than the soccer production value out here.

        I’m sure i will get thrown under a bus for saying the above but these are the observations I have made.

        1. Nice one for that Dust! Decent reply! Now you’ve got that out the way, can you go back to your usual amusing rants against Chelsea and things please?! 😉

        2. If there was more potential return in terms of money, perhaps American broadcasters would spend the resources their British counterparts do on soccer.

          NFL = Money + prestige + ability to pimp prime-time lineup = Top-line production
          Soccer = Little money or prestige and little pimping bonuses = Lesser production

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