MLS TV ratings do 17% worse in prime time than daytime games

Photo credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Photo credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

In the United States, one of Major League Soccer’s biggest TV rivals is Liga MX, with the Mexican league having almost three times the average audience size of MLS games shown on television. Obviously Liga MX has a large following among those of Mexican origin. But there’s another factor at play too: Liga MX does much better in prime time than MLS.

Prime time is the most attractive programming slot, which runs from 8pm to 11pm, and there are never any EPL games played in this slot (since the UK is 5 hours ahead of Eastern Time, they would have to play in the middle of the night). By contrast, 70% of Liga MX games are played in prime time, 48% of international games and, notably, 53% of MLS games (note: I based my prime time definition on the Eastern time zone). Here is something I think should worry MLS. Compare prime and other time audience size:

Other time Prime time
Liga MX 467,211 633,011
International 144,702 482,269
MLS 317,333 261,086

The table above shows that while audiences rise for Liga MX and international games played in prime time, they actually fall for MLS (and note the data includes the MLS Cup final which attracted an audience of 2 million in the US). Why would the MLS audience fall in prime time? One reason could be that in prime time there’s more competition from other sports. This is the double bind of MLS: the Premier League can draw a 50% larger audience going head-to-head in daytime TV while Liga MX can draw an audience that is twice the size in prime time. The problem for MLS is competition…

SEE MORE: MLS accounted for only 7% of soccer TV viewing from August-December

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