What Would Generate Higher TV Ratings – A Live MLS Game or LFC Documentary?

Would more Americans watch a live MLS game or a TV documentary about the 17th-placed team in the Premier League? We now know the answer after NBC debuted their first MLS game on free-to-air television Saturday, while FOX showed its debut episode of the “Being: Liverpool” behind-the-scenes documentary on its free-to-air channel.

NBC’s broadcast of Seattle against Portland generated a 0.4 rating, while FOX’s coverage of “Being: Liverpool” garnered a 1.3 rating. NBC’s TV rating for its first free-to-air MLS game was so bad that the game earned the lowest overnight of the weekend for a live sporting event on broadcast TV. The weekend friendly game between the US women’s national team and Australia had a higher rating with a 0.5.

The two-hour Saturday afternoon broadcast of Portland and Seattle was beaten by a one hour broadcast about Liverpool Football Club. MLS fans may argue these TV ratings for the fledgling league are baby steps and that the slow-and-steady turtle will win the race, but the fact is that the first-ever Premier League game shown on free-to-air network television last season generated a 1.0 household rating with 1.6 million viewers, which is far greater than MLS’s 0.4 rating. Hopefully ratings will improve for the remaining 3 MLS games scheduled to appear on free-to-air NBC this season.

Meanwhile, the average MLS viewing audience on NBC Sports this regular season is up 101 percent compared to the regular season average from last season on FOX. On paper, that sounds impressive until you realize that the viewing average on NBC Sports is only 137,000 (FOX’s average last season was 68,000).

FOX’s debut episode of “Being: Liverpool” was aired on a Sunday afternoon alongside NFL programming, which is a more popular sports viewing day than a Saturday afternoon. But excuses aside, it’s time for MLS to make some improvements in its TV coverage. On a local level, the league is making giant strides, but on television it’s one flop after another.

The success of Premier League soccer on US television continues to accelerate. The next match to be shown on free-to-air television is this Sunday, September 23 when Liverpool plays Manchester United (shown on tape-delay on FOX at 2pm ET or 4:30pm ET; check local listings). The second episode of “Being: Liverpool,” meanwhile, airs on FOX Soccer Sunday night at 9pm ET.

21 thoughts on “What Would Generate Higher TV Ratings – A Live MLS Game or LFC Documentary?”

  1. I didn’t know MLS was airing on NBC this past weekend, I just happened to stumble upon it. I kept going back from MLS to college football.

    1. ^^ Agreed!! In all fairness, broadcasting a game that had little to no advertisement, on a Saturday when the college games are on is going to be a recipe for disaster.

  2. MLS seriously needs to get its act together. Signing aging Euro stars, throwing $100M on NYC stadium and ridiculous format will not make soccer fans support this league. I believe it’s time Don Garber steps aside and get some fresh blood for MLS.

  3. The problem is that NBC have diddled around all season long waiting to show an MLS game on the Network. Now, they suddenly pull the trigger with the season almost over in the hope of pulling some straggling non-NFL football fans to the game.

    A pretty dumb approach if you want to increase viewership. The shame is that Seattle Portland is probably the most English of MLS games given the crowd etc etc. Frankly, a more realistic comparison would be to look at next week’s rating of Being Liverpool as the first show will have drawn a ton of “curiosity seekers”.

  4. NBC are absolutely clueless, they don’t have the pulse of anything accept the NFL. Their olympic coverage was terrible.

    their sports network is so poor they even had rocky on the other night. Rocky is not a bad movie, but a sports movie making the conscious decision of putting on a movie about a fake boxer on your premium sports channel in prime time slot shows how little they get it.

    MLS made a poor choice allowing NBC the main contract, they should have given it all to ESPN or Fox Soccer if they wanted to raise the profile of the game. The local coverage by Comcast sports of the earthquakes is an absolute joke. commentators use weird terminology and constantly sound awkward. They use a local radio breakfast co-host that has no clue as the sideline reporter and he clearly shouldn’t be anywhere near a football game.

    The MLS need to not worry so much about what money they are getting and be more diligent about who they entrust the coverage of their league too.

        1. Kozimor and Gray are bad, same with Dibbly as a sideline reporter. But, when Kozimor was doing Olympic coverage and Dibbly was in the commentary position he was very good. Dibbly should be the lead commentator.

    1. Did they advertise the game anywhere? I saw that the women’s match was on NBC but had no clue about the MLS match. The problem with the MLS on both ESPN and NBC Sports Network is that its never at a set time. You have one week a match on Saturday at 3PM but then next week a match at 10PM. They need to be more consistent

      As for the Liverpool documentary, I didn’t want it either, don’t care too much for it in all honesty, surprised it got that many viewers to be fair

  5. Your phrase, ‘The 17th place team in the Premier League’ givees no credit to the fact that LFC is a storied club with a great deal of American support. You make it sound like this was a documentary about Stoke City or some other team that that average (non-EPL following) American has probably never even heard of. You also make no mention of the fact that this documentary was sandwiched between two NFL games and was likely aided by a large number of residual viewers hanging around between games. This article tries to draw a parallel between two completely unrelated broadcasts. It’s apples and oranges and yet you are trying to indict the MLS based on being outperformed by a documentary that was widely advertised and given an advantageous air time? Does the MLS have a great deal of work to do, absolutely. However, the picture you are attempting to paint with this article is a stretch at best. Had the two been running simultaneously and been given equal advertising then perhaps you would have a basis for an argument.

  6. The MLS is just not very much fun to watch. The talent is just not there. There’s a reason you never here about teams buying ‘stars’ from MLS in the transfer windows.

    Unfortunately the weather and geography of the US is a major challenge. They really need to get in line with the other league schedules, stop Americanizing football w/ playoffs and all star games, and work on developing real US talent. The Kobes/Vicks/LeBrons of the US still don’t go anywhere near a pitch unfortunately.

    1. Agreed. The play is awful. Very little technical play (an indictment onthe players) and very little tactical play (an indictment on the manager/coaching staffs).

      Read Ken Sweda’s blog on soccernewsday.com and ull see where the real problem lies

  7. I, too, stumbled upon the MLS match. NBC did almost no advertising for it. That’s a shame, because it was a fantastic match with incredible atmosphere in Portland, which translated well on TV.

    1. Well if you are a fan of the sport you should have watched it. Great game in a great atmosphere! I’m sure the Internet has a place for fans of paint drying. You should Google that.

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