Recent TV Viewing Audience Numbers Offer MLS A Ray Of Hope

NBC Sports Network is doing everything it can to pump up TV ratings for its coverage of Major League Soccer. The network is showing some matches on free-to-air television. They’re putting Arlo White back in the lead commentary booth this weekend (and putting stand-in Steve Bower in charge of commentating this weekend’s Premier League matches). They’ve started experimenting with double headers where a Premier League match is followed by a MLS game. And they’ve been promoting the league at every opportunity they get.

So how have the TV viewing audience numbers done in the past week for MLS and NBC Sports Group?

Quite good, actually. For the 2012 season, NBC’s average MLS viewership was 125,000 per game, while the latest numbers we have for the 2013 season averaged 102,000 per regular season MLS game. However, when NBC decided to feature a MLS game immediately after a Premier League match two weeks ago, for the Dallas-Seattle game that followed the West Ham United vs Manchester City match, the average viewing audience for Dallas-Seattle was 395,000 compared to the 658,000 who watched the Hammers versus City match. Both games were shown live on the free-to-air NBC network.

While it’s discouraging that 263,000 fewer people decided to watch the MLS game, the 395,000 viewing figure is still quite impressive by MLS standards.

More recently, on the final weekend of the MLS regular season last weekend, the average viewing audiences for MLS averaged 189,000 viewers who tuned in for Saturday’s 3-5pm ET game between Philadelphia and Sporting KC on NBCSN. While, on Sunday on NBC, 294,000 viewers watched DC United against Houston from 1:30-3:30pm ET. Over on NBCSN earlier that day (Noon-2pm ET), an average of 583,000 viewers watched Chelsea against Manchester City.

Consistently across the board, the viewing audience numbers for MLS games on NBC were far greater than their season average. And the bump that Dallas-Seattle got when it was preceded by a Premier League game will give NBC and MLS some encouragement.

MLS viewing audience numbers aren’t anywhere close to Premier League numbers, but there’s a ray of hope that will hopefully give NBC and MLS some reason to be optimistic during contract negotiations for upcoming TV contracts.

Meanwhile this weekend, NBC are televising three MLS conference semi-finals live on television:

New England against Kansas City (Saturday, 8pm ET, NBSCN),

Seattle vs Portland (Saturday, 10pm ET, NBCSN) and

Houston vs New York Red Bulls (Sunday, 3:30pm ET, NBC).

Arlo White will commentate the Houston-New York game, while John Strong will commentate Seattle-Portland.

ESPN, meanwhile, will televise Sunday night’s semi-final between:

LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake (Sunday, 9pm ET on ESPN, ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN).

Adrian Healey and Taylor Twellman will commentate the game for ESPN.

Editor’s note: Stay updated on MLS news, analysis and opinion on our Major League Soccer league page.

13 thoughts on “Recent TV Viewing Audience Numbers Offer MLS A Ray Of Hope”

  1. When you’re going up against college football, it’s tough for a soccer game to score in the ratings. Still, the 395,000 for FC Dallas vs. Seattle FC on NBC was lower than the English-language telecast of MLS Cup 2012 on ESPN, which had a 0.7 overnight share.

  2. I really think just having a consistent time slot will really help. If you have one MLS game every Saturday after the Premier League, one game every Friday night, and then one other night a week (either Sunday night or Saturday night); you’d get people in the habit of watching. 395000 watched that Seattle/Dallas game, but if they wanted to see another game; they have to work to figure out when and where to watch.

    1. The owners are preventing that because they they want to play the games at times where they get the most people through the gates.

      1. Would only require one game per weekend at that particular time slot, meaning each team may be asked to play at home at that time once or maybe at most twice a season.

        It’s a good idea because at this point, any increase in viewership and however it’s attained is critical. If piggybacking on Premier League games can garner almost a 4x increase then make it happen.

        I’m sure NBCSN isn’t complaining about the increased viewer numbers, either.

  3. Arlo White is only doing the play by play for the Houston-New York match this weekend. John Strong is doing the play by play for the Seattle-Portland match.

      1. LaxBandt, I heard back from NBC and they had an error in their press release, so you’re correct. I’ll update the article shortly. Thanks for pointing this out.

  4. MLS may be at the take off point. NBC’s promotion during EPL matches have increased viewership. We should also note the increase in viewers for the USMNT.

    Enjoying it all and have my 2014 season tickets already set for the Chicago Fire.
    Join me for a game again soon Chris!

  5. No surprise, MLS has a lot more compelling matchups than that borefest Manc U vs Fulham or Hull vs 9 man Sunderland.

    1. Yes, I am all about New England v Kansas City in the first round of the 8 round MLS playoffs than tuning in to Arsenal/Liverpool, for example.

      Give it a rest. The MLS is what it is. A live event to go to if you are in the US. Nothing more.

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