TV Ratings May Get Even Better For MLS

Partnership Paying Off

As we go through this first season of Major League Soccer’s contract with NBC Sports, we’ve read many a story about the way that the league has received increased exposure (here’s one). The move from FOX Soccer to NBC Sports Network (and NBC to a lesser extent) constituted a fundamental change the number of matches shown, and how many people have access to that action.

It’s clear that FOX Soccer has a limited distribution in the United States, while NBCSN has continued to gain traction through its extensive coverage of the Olympics. We’ve seen the minor tiff between FOX and MLS over the spring-to-fall schedule issue, though why should MLS even listen when FOX seemed unwilling to produce original creative content for the league?

NBC Sports Network recently began a series called MLS 36, a spinoff of the NHL 36 documentary series they have run about pro hockey in North America. Their first episode followed leading goal scorer Chris Wondolowski for 36 hours, and the second centered around Fredy Montero in the hours before the US Open Cup final. The show has been airing directly after MLS matches on the network, and while its unclear how it’s doing from a ratings standpoint, it can’t hurt the league’s image. And when you go from being treated as an afterthought to getting real promotional efforts from a network, that’s a clear upgrade in stature.

And the news seems to get better for MLS. According to reports from a subscriber newsletter, DirecTV will move NBC Sports Network from channel 603 to channel 220 in September 2012. For those of us who are dedicated soccer fans subscribing to DirecTV, we are used to rummaging up around the 600’s to find FOXSoccer and GolTV (channel 620 on DirecTV will soon become beInSportUSA if you haven’t heard, covering La Liga, Serie A, and Ligue 1). For the casual fan who hangs out around the low 200’s where ESPN’s networks reside, this could potentially be a major boost in profile and exposure.

I imagine that the National Hockey League played a significant part in NBCSN’s move to the lower reaches, but MLS can absolutely reap the benefits of this jump. September and October hold 9 matches slated to be aired on NBCSN, plus 5 combined on ESPN and ESPN2. There will also be 3 matches on the flagship NBC network. What a chance for the league to appeal to the casual fan and try to win over some new viewership.

And think about it this way – September and October are also a time for college football on Saturdays. If there’s ever been a time I’ve been flipping around channels during commercials looking for live action, it’s during the college football season. There are so many offerings on, and the commercials become irritating. It may be a stretch to rely on this type of remote-control ADD, but it has to have a better chance of working than airing on a network that only hardcore soccer fans frequent (or even have access to in many cases).

Now it’s not all good though. The Summer Olympics have been a grand spectacle, and the top dog is the Opening Ceremony. There were many appearances by David Beckham in the festivities, yet NBC failed to even mention his employer once. Fortunately for the league, it has received some press in the form of the Honduran U-23 team. Roger Espinoza, Jerry Bengston, Mario Martinez, and Andy Najar are all MLS players who contributed to the Honduran effort at the Olympics, dispatching Spain and giving Silver Medal winners Brazil a run for their money in the quarterfinals.

It will continue to take time, but I think the prospects for MLS’ growth are much brighter in their current situation. So let’s get ready for the stretch run here in 2012. With a second network starting to give serious coverage to the league with improved distribution to many households, popularity should continue to improve for MLS.

59 thoughts on “TV Ratings May Get Even Better For MLS”

    1. I don’t believe so, but here’s hoping it has helped earn some new followers for the league – especially today’s soccer final which was an amazing, exciting match.

  1. I always wonder how accurate this stuff is. For instance, I don’t
    have cable (its a racket IMHO) so I watch the highlights on the MLS
    website, use MLS Live or ESPN or the radio, and go to a game at
    least once a month. I wonder how many there are like me that don’t
    have cable but do this. I think that NBC has been a huge
    improvement from what I have seen though. I think in general people
    get too caught up in ratings. Sure, the big games where teams spend
    100 million on their roster get tons of ratings, but from the
    numbers that I have seen, nobody really cares about a game like
    Everton vs QPR for example. Those games get really bad ratings,
    much worse than MLS. The big ratings come from the casual fan, and
    we can win them over as the product improves year after year. The
    future looks bright I think.

    1. You realize I watched NY Houston in my living room in Seattle last
      night. Sure cable is a racket, but who would have thought I would
      be able to see that fifteen years ago ?………….The future is
      very bright, only a moron MLS hater troll would argue the other
      side and they don’t believe the other side, but just pretend to.
      The thing that NBC does so well is make you realize how great the
      present is. It has never been better in US history for sure, but it
      has never been better than most of the countries out there…….we
      are very lucky and NBC doesn’t try to convince you it is so much
      better elsewhere, it could be so much better, etc etc.

      1. I have ESPN3 so that does the trick for me, as well as MLS Live and
        a Roku. The fifty bucks a month I can do without. With that said, I
        wish that I had cable and NBCSP (their coverage is great from what
        I have seen), but I just can’t justify spending that kinda money
        for a couple of channels.

      2. I guess all I was saying is that i don’t get counted in those TV
        ratings, and neither do those that do the same as me or that go to
        the games. Therefore, the numbers are inaccurate (but still

        1. It’s true that ratings aren’t the be-all-end-all of popularity. But
          the ratings determine ad revenue for the network, which determines
          the value of broadcast rights, which is a major part of most
          professional league’s revenue. We need increased viewership to be
          able to continue to increase the quality of play in the league.
          That’s why people get worked up about ratings.

          1. Fair enough. I can see it at that level, but I don’t really see it
            in terms of popularity or if people actually care about the league.
            I definitely think that it is worth caring about, but people use it
            as a tool to say that “see, nobody watches” and I don’t think
            that’s accurate.

          2. Yeah revenue and a bunch of trolls that try to put people that
            follow MLS down. The only ones that care about TV ratings. The
            first group cares because it is their livelyhood….the second
            group, hmmm, well, ummm. They just aint too bright.

    2. There are those that do what you do but roughly they are probably
      proportional to other sports so it evens out. And besides, it is
      the numbers that advertisers care about so in the end it is what
      the league and the people looking for the league to succeed care

  2. NBC has been great for anyone that is a fan of US soccer. FOX was a
    joke, always looking down on the game and acting like the US
    leagues weren’t worth watching……ESPN is a step above, but not
    even close to NBC. A MLS 36 on Nagbe. ESPN and FOX don’t know who
    Nagbe is………As for NBC not mentioning Beck’s league, everyone
    already knows where he plays. NBC is more focused on the superstars
    of today and tomorrow, Nagbe being a perfect example.

    1. nagbe is shit. anyways Fox soccer broadcasted MLS, USL, and the
      USOC. so i think youre wrong when you say Fox soccer dont care
      about US soccer. however it was hard for MLS to break any ground on
      FSC because its in direct competitoin with better leagues . NBC
      sports is full of B sports like NHL and indy car they needed more A
      sports and mls would fit the bill for them. i watched MLS 36 and it
      was pretty interesting (albeit i felt scripted) but if mls wants to
      stay relevant as NBC sports grows, USSF and MLS will have to
      improve its quality or it will receive the same amount of attention
      as FSC

      1. FSC broadcast the USOC ? Hmmmm could have sworn I watched the games
        streamed until the final which was on GOL TV who out bid FSC ( who
        does not care about US soccer )

          1. I think that is my point however. When other stations actually
            cared, we saw that Fox, did not. (As if you couldn’t tell by the
            broadcasts). You can’t side with Alex on something like this and
            have credibility, he literally does not want MLS as is, to succeed.

  3. i’m a big soccer fan but i find it very difficult to get into MLS
    for the simple reason it is setup like an American sports like like
    the NBA where too many teams make the playoffs. I think there are a
    lot of soccer fans like me. So i don’t think it matters whether or
    not games are on NBC or FOX or ESPN – a lot of soccer fans don’t
    find a regular season that is essentially all about playoff seeding
    to be that appealing. I think the dreadful TV ratings for this
    league shows that.

    1. I disagree. Most of those soccer fans are casual fans that go for
      the big club, big game, and big players. If you look at ratings for
      normal league games, MLS fares quite well if not better. Around
      150,000 or more are not watching on TV because they are at the
      game. Add that to the TV ratings on NBC, ESPN, and local sports
      stations, MLS does better than a game like Sunderland vs QPR that
      nobody but a small fanbase actually cares about and watches. Those
      TV ratings on FOX are well under 100,000 viewers, sometimes under
      50,000. Those are horrible TV ratings for “the best league in the
      world” that supposedly has “fans”.

      1. how do you know that the soccer fans who do not watch MLS are
        casual fans? This is BS. At least provide some a
        survey or something. As far as ratings…the EPL is on very early
        in the morning(sometimes as early as 4:30 am on the west coast) so
        it’s silly to compare the ratings. Even so though the EPL gets
        better ratings than MLS. MLS does not get good TV ratings. Even the
        MLS home office admits this.

        1. I think by definition they are casual. The good team games are the
          ones that get good ratings. Following good teams = casual fan for
          me. MLS admits the NATIONAL ratings are not good, but they are
          unconcerned. They are pleased with local.

          1. Don’t really see what is funny about growth of the national TV
            ratings making where they stand initially irrellevant, but then
            again I am communicating with casual fan that found the English
            league exciting last year.

    2. The playoff race is actually quite exciting right now, as well as
      the Supporter’s Shield race. Yes, 8 out of 19 teams would be
      better, but to say that the playoff race is not exciting is silly.
      The teams at the top are competing for home-field advantage, and
      the mid teams are competing just to make it. Teams closer to the
      bottom are not out of it yet, but have a huge uphill climb. To say
      that the regular season is boring is like saying that qualifying
      for the World Cup or Champions League playoffs is boring. Far from

        1. I wouldn’t go around quoting coaches’ opinions like it’s the
          end-all. They aren’t exactly interested parties. I feel pretty
          confident that if LA were sitting where San Jose is now Arena would
          be saying that the Supporter’s Shield still matters.

      1. i dont feel it being excited. i will applaud the goons at MLS HQ
        for finally deciding that a home field final is better than a
        neutral site final (albeit i wish it were a Home Away series like
        Copa Libertadores) in the end parity is so saturated in MLS that
        IMO home field advantage isnt much of a advantage. over saturation
        of parity is my biggest problem from actually enjoying mls. dont
        get me wrong i love a tight race but when every team is basically a
        carbon copy of each other so identical that the game is basically
        up to a coin toss to me that just not very fun. its like watching
        little babies try and race you see one actually try, another gets
        distracted, one just sits there and cry. idk IMO MLS actually
        starts in the post season.

    3. join the club of over 100 million soccer fans in this country
      (according to a FIFA report) that cant take mls seriously because
      of its americanization of the sport

      1. Again, where are these 100 million fans at? What games are they
        watching? Even the CL final got less than 2 percent of that. Most
        are casual fans that come around during World Cup time. That’s not
        necessarily a bad thing, but its way overstating reality on the
        part of FIFA. Where are they getting these numbers?

        1. Dont stop him with facts, he is on a roll ! Next up Pro Rel….come
          on, hurry up, it would SAVE US soccer. What are you waiting for
          trolls, hurry up !

        2. where is your evidence they are all casual fans?I’m sure some are
          but not the majority. I agree that 100 million sounds far fetched.
          There is a large % of soccer fans in this country that follow the
          national team but don’t follow the domestic league. This is just
          anectdotal but i have 20 friends/work aquantinces that are fans of
          soccer. They all follow the national team and watch some EPL. A few
          of them watches MLS playoffs. But not one of them follows the MLS
          regular season. The reason? it’s boring,,,it’s only for deciding
          playoff seeding etc.

          1. Regular seasons that go by single table are boring too. The same 3
            teams at the top buying championships, the same poor teams at the
            bottom of the table. Pretty boring stuff, and very predictable. And
            casual fans tune in to the big game(s). What else is a casual fan
            if that’s not what they are? Unless they are a big club, nobody is
            watching EPL games. Pure and simple. Who is your favorite team/club
            if I may ask?

          2. Alan, did you watch this past EPL season? Anything but boring. I
            don’t have a fav club team. I root for American players. Fulham,
            Bolton, Everton etc.

          3. Are you kidding me? About a year ago I predicted the entire season
            on this site. It worked out like I thought. You just have to follow
            the money and see which 3 teams are in contention to buy the next
            championship. I don’t even care this year. I will tune in to the
            big games, but the season itself is boring. This season in MLS is
            very interesting if you have been watching.

          4. The EPL wasn’t boring ?……………There were two teams with a
            prayer and one of them won it all. The GD for the top team was +69.
            How can that NOT be boring. There are only 38 games and the GD for
            the top team was +69 ? The third place team was 19 points behind
            1st and 2nd, and that was exciting ? You realize that is MORE than
            6 victories behind. The league was over at Christmas for any team
            not in Manchester. I actually followed it during the MLS offseason.
            I will not this year. It is VERY boring. Maybe the reason you don’t
            think it is boring, is you don’t care who wins ? Other than that, I
            can’t think of an arguement for exciting.

      1. the NFL regular season isn’t all about playoff seeding. It’s
        difficult to get into the playoffs. The NBA regular season is a

  4. The thing is no one will ever be happy and MLS is light years
    better off than other leagues were 15 years in their existence.
    This is good news for the league and IMO if your a soccer fan you
    will follow soccer in this country and ratings will get better with
    more accessibility. If you are a casual you will follow only big
    euro clubs and still hate on MLS for quality. The difference for me
    is that the team i support i can watch on TV and in person while
    everyone else has to wake up early on the weekends to only watch
    their so called team on TV.

    1. That’s not the only difference. Your team can also end up at the
      top or bottom of the table. Most of the “real” and “traditional”
      fans pick teams that just happen to be one of the teams that have a
      shot at winning the title, but have 0 chance of getting relegated.
      I wonder how many of those fans support a team that is now in
      nPower as their main club, lol.

    2. “If you are a soccer fan you will follow soccer in this country.”
      OUCH, did you mean to give the smackdown beating to the trolls, or
      did it just happen as a side consequence ? Trolls ? You just going
      to take that ? You bave never made a post about a soccer game in
      three to four years, but defend yourself…….At least bring up
      Pro Rel !

    1. @Robert………that change of rules in the middle of regular
      season is not only very characteristic of a Mickey Mouse league, it
      also shows the mentality of our “leaders”, for them our game is not
      atracitve as it is, it has to be somehow changed in order to be
      sold to americans ( countdown clock, shoot outs , single entity
      )…..As long as we don’t find a way of taking the USSF back , it
      will be the never ending story. …….I keep saying, fans have to
      organize and fight, I don’t see any other way around it ( the total
      silence of our journalism doesn’t help either
      )………………”You never change things by fighting the
      existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes
      the existing one obsolete.” – R. Buckminster
      Fuller………………we the fans should create a paralel
      Federation that ignores the USSF. We should send an open letter to
      Fifa explaining our motives and our plan. ……..then create the
      structure that is in line with the principles and the spirit of our
      game. Publish the criteria that clubs have to meet in order to join
      . Make that criteria logical and reasonable, and build our
      structure like we should have in the begining, starting with a wide
      base of many humble clubs, and build up from there . ( Instead of
      creating a fake summit show with no base )

      1. Roger, I agree! Just like those “mickey-mouse” guys at FIFA who
        decided to change the number of points for a win from 2 to 3. It’s
        a corruption of the original game to help “Americanize” it with
        more incentives for a win. Get a life.

      2. Roger you forgot about the best tiebreaker of all !!! IF your
        league’s UberTeams are tied after everyone played the full amount
        of games, decided it on goal differential ( Man U-Man City, EPL
        2011-12 style ) !…………dont stop bro, you on a rooooolllll !

        1. Ohh yes! Let’s talk about a league on the other side of the
          atlantic! Let’s talk about Fifa! Let’s ignore how bizarre and
          unprofessional is to change tiebreaker criteria in the middle of
          the season!

        2. Charles, you have an EPL obsession. Do not forget that the EPL is
          just 1 league out of around 99% of all the world leagues that
          practice a similar model

          1. EPL is kinda quoted as the benchmark by all the trolls. Everything
            has to coincidentally be just like them, and every rating is
            compared to them. So yeah, it makes sense that they are brought up.
            I’d rather talk about better foreign leagues like Bundesliga, Serie
            A, and a lot of the leagues that are south of the border if I were
            to ever talk about a foreign league. I mean if all of the trolls
            brought up Argentina’s league, that is what we would talk about.

      3. What is our game all about? Among other things, it is about
        fighting til the end. It is about believing in the impossible.
        ………there are just a few minutes left, your club is about to
        be relegate or maybe loose the championship, but you believe, you
        wait for that miracle until the last second. You suffer, bite your
        nails, your hart want to get out of your chest……….the MLS fan
        boys will never understand that our game is TOO BIG to fit in their
        “entity”………life is the main game, so even though we are
        suffering this bizarre reality, we have to believe we can change
        it, and fight to do it.

  5. Good stuff. I’ve always been a big fan of the original content.
    Anything that helps fans get to know their teams and players a
    little better is a good thing. The Champions League series that RSL
    did last year, albeit not a television series, basically turned me
    into a supporter.

  6. good article. One thing to bear in mind: the NHL is in brutal
    contract talks yet again between the owners and the players union,
    and a strike could be on the cards again. This would make MLS a
    more focal attraction for NBCSN, meaning more advertising and
    promoting to make sure they keep bringing in viewers

    1. If the NHL went on strike again and lost another season so soon
      after the last would be a death sentence since they are finally
      getting back on there feet now.

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