Every four years, soccer in the United States experiences a World Cup bounce where the popularity of the sport spikes, and interest continues to rise. During every single World Cup in the United States, new soccer fans are born. But now that the international tournament is over, which club leagues are most likely to benefit from the World Cup bounce on US television?
While Major League Soccer would be a natural transition for soccer fans — from the euphoria of the USA World Cup team to a domestic league — soccer fans are still not gravitating to MLS on US TV when it comes to watching games on television. For example, despite all of the World Cup buzz, advertising and ESPN repeatedly talking up the Seattle-Portland derby during its World Cup games, the TV viewing audience for Sunday night’s MLS game was a mere 426,000 viewers — on a Sunday night, for one of the biggest games in the MLS season, featuring two of the MLS teams that are put on a pedestal as model clubs.
To make matters worse, Friday night’s viewing audience for DC United against San Jose had an average viewing audience of just 69,000.
In comparison, the average viewing audience for a Premier League game on NBC Sports during the entire 2013/14 season was 438,000. And that’s for games that are shown mostly in the early-morning hours to late morning, depending on the time zone.
Due to a combination of factors, the Premier League is the league that will benefit most from the World Cup bounce. Here are my 5 reasons why:
1. The Premier League had more players represented at the World Cup than any other league in the world. While MLS had 22 players at the World Cup, the Premier League had 105. Plus, in the final, there were several Premier League players represented including Pablo Zabaleta, Kun Aguero, Mesut Ozil, Per Mertesacker and Andre Schurrle.
2. GolTV sinks the Bundesliga. With Germany winning the World Cup, you would think that the Bundesliga would have the most to gain from sports fan enamored by the brilliance of the German team. However, most of the major TV providers have dropped GolTV from its sports packages. Plus the network does a poor job of promoting its coverage, so it ends up being only a small percentage of the hardcore fans that find and watch the Bundesliga games there.
FOX Sports will broadcast the Bundesliga from 2015/16 onwards, but unfortunately the timing isn’t ideal to take advantage of Germany’s World Cup triumph.
3. Premier League marketing machines. Several major Premier League teams will be playing on the doorstep of the United States this summer with many of the games featured on national TV. Some of the teams who will here in the United States include Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City.
4. NBC is more accessible. If you want to watch as many games as possible on TV, NBC features more games on TV than MLS. Plus, they’re easier to access. The EPL game schedules are like clockwork each week, and you don’t have to hunt and peck to find who will be showing games (with MLS, the games could be on ESPN or NBC or MLS Live or a regional sports network or not on national television at all).
For the issues that plague MLS not being as accessible as the Premier League, the same can be said about La Liga, Serie A and Ligue Un. All three leagues are televised by beIN SPORTS, which is a sports channel that has fewer subscribers than NBCSN. But the biggest issue that beIN SPORTS has is lack of bandwidth — so you have games from all three leagues competing with each other. beIN SPORTS has to pick and choose which games to show live, and they often favor La Liga games instead of the other leagues. As a result, fans of all three leagues (and the other ones that beIN SPORTS has) often feel left let down.
5. The Premier League is more exciting. The Premier League isn’t perfect, by any means. But the level of excitement each week is enormous with plenty of open-ended games and off the field drama. MLS is getting better, but it still has a long way to go.
For the upcoming European soccer season, which begins in August, be sure to bookmark our TV schedules page, which will be updated weekly once the schedules are announced.