MLS is a TV ratings disaster in New York City

Photo credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

In the same city that Major League Soccer calls home, which is also the number one TV market in the United States, MLS’s two teams in the New York region have been a TV ratings disaster.

Despite the two MLS teams being accessible in more than 7.3 million homes in the New York area, TV ratings for nationally-televised games featuring New York City FC and New York Red Bulls have not “moved the needle” for the top-flight soccer league in the United States.

Take a look at the recent regular season games that have been televised nationally on English-language TV featuring New York teams playing away:

90,000 viewers for Sporting KC-New York Red Bulls (April 14, 2019)
119,000 viewers for Minnesota United-New York City FC on ESPN2 (April 13, 2019)
216,000 viewers for DC United-New York Red Bulls (September 16, 2018)
61,000 viewers for New York City-New York Red Bulls on FS1 (August 22, 2018)
191,000 viewers for Seattle-New York City on ESPN (July 29, 2018)
176,000 viewers for Orlando City-New York City on ESPN (July 26, 2018)

To put that into context, MLS games this season are averaging roughly 240,000 viewers.

When national MLS TV broadcasts feature at least one team from the New York area, viewership for games decreases 15.23% when compared to broadcasts that featured no New York MLS teams. This is for English-language cable broadcasts only across ESPN, ESPN2 and FS1. Broadcasts featuring at least one New York club averaged 186,563 viewers in 2018 and broadcasts featuring no teams from New York averaged 220,083 viewers.

In comparison, broadcasts featuring at least one of the Los Angeles MLS clubs saw a 4.74% increase in viewership.

The poor viewing numbers for the New York teams is a worrying trend for Major League Soccer. In the media capital of the world, New York City, MLS is barely visible. With the current TV deal set to expire in 2022, broadcasters have to wonder what else can be done to make the league relevant in the New York area. After all, if the league has a perception problem in the number one TV market in the United States, there are larger problems afoot.

Additional reporting by Collin Werner.

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