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Fox Soccer Channel Almost Beats ESPN2 In TV Ratings

fox-soccer-channel2.jpgFox Soccer Channel’s first Nielsen Ratings have been released giving soccer fans and advertisers alike a glimpse into how many people watch soccer on the network in the United States.

Here are the figures for the opening weekend of October:

  1. Manchester City v Liverpool, 224,000 viewers
  2. Blackburn Rovers v Manchester United, 199,000 viewers
  3. England v Kazakhstan, 176,000 viewers
  4. West Bromwich Albion v Fulham, 81,000 viewers

And this is how televised games from the other leagues shown on FSC compare to English football:

  1. Juventus v Palermo, 81,000 viewers
  2. DC United v Chivas, 39,000 viewers
  3. Dallas v Toronto, 32,000 viewers

Comparing how many viewers watch soccer games on ESPN versus Fox Soccer Channel, ESPN2’s MLS Primetime Thursday has averaged 261,000 viewers through 23 games this season, so the 224,000 viewers for Man City against Liverpool is pretty close. And remember, the game kicked off at 10am ET on a Sunday. What will be revealing is how many viewers Fox gets when Manchester United or Arsenal plays during the 11am ET kickoff time.

Also interesting is how the televised Premier League games did against similar sports programs for males in the 18-49 demographic. On October 4th, Blackburn against Man United had higher ratings than UFC Fight Night On Spike. October 5th’s Man City against Liverpool match, meanwhile, had higher ratings than NFL GameDay Morning on the NFL Network. On both days, those Premier League matches almost had more viewers than NASCAR shown on the Speed network.

For me, the biggest talking point from these numbers is that Fox is almost beating ESPN2’s ratings for MLS games even though FSC is only in 30 million homes, while ESPN2 is in 96 million homes. Imagine how many more viewers would be watching Premier League football in the United States if (1) the games were shown on ESPN or ESPN2, (2) and the games were shown during primetime.

Of course, it’s impossible for Premier League games to be shown in primetime in the United States, but if an idea such as the Premier League Cup happened and one or more of the games were played in the U.S. during primetime, you have to wonder how high the ratings would be.

What are your thoughts about the above ratings? Are they higher or lower than you expected? Let us know by clicking the comments link below.

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  1. ben bona

    June 12, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    We have sports to watch in this country. Why would we be intersted in soccer (or any other name for the boring event)?

  2. John mc

    August 9, 2009 at 7:48 am

    Now that ESPN2 has won the EPL rights from Setanta. What will that do for the many soccer fans in Canada. Will we be able to watch ESPN2?????

    • The Gaffer

      August 9, 2009 at 9:12 pm

      John, not sure about Canada. I hope to get more details later this week. Stay tuned to EPL Talk for more details.

      The Gaffer

  3. footballer

    December 15, 2008 at 2:49 am

    If they rebrand it as Fox Football Channel, I will order it.

  4. JMC

    November 25, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    Ummm… that's a 0.0 coverage area rating for the Liverpool – Man City game. 244k viewers is about 94k households – at 30MM households, that's a 0.003 rating.

    The Euro Final was 2.4 million households, not viewers. Same with MLS on ESPN 2 — that's 261k households, not viewers.

  5. acraft23

    October 25, 2008 at 7:03 am

    FSC's unexpected ratings add to an ever growing set of evidence which includes the 3.1 rating (2.4 million viewers) ABC achieved for the Euro 2008 final & the .8 rating (1.097 million viewers) ESPN achieved for the Champions League final last year. I believe the inevitable conclusion to be drawn from this data trend centers around the quality of the players & competition. Simply put, it's not that soccer viewership struggles inherently because its, well, soccer in the U.S. Rather, ratings sulk because a simply inferior product is being presented. American viewers as a whole lack the fervor of European viewers in regards to the game. However, the individuals constituting the U.S. soccer viewership are much more discerning than previously given credit for by the television networks.

    As evidence, look no further than the average daily coverage on FSC or when ESPN airs games. The coverage & choice of programming often resembles a soccer conglomerate since until more recently, I believe U.S. broadcasters considered largely any soccer programming to have intrinsically equal entertainment value (outside of World Cup). In some ways, I attribute their lack of target viewer understanding to soccer's lower stature amongst American sports viewers. That not withstanding, it likely also stems from an American sports broadcast approach wherein simply airing any football (NFL, college, etc.) attracts viewers while remaining a relatively homogeneous product across all levels in terms of entertainment value.

    As evidenced by the Euro 2008 coverage, ESPN has taken notice of soccer's U.S. television viability hinging upon the quality of the on-field product rather than it's simple availablity. Perhaps being shown up by FSC is precisly the remedy or even, hopefully, the final straw needed to complete the transformation of U.S. broadcasters soccer programming choices. When contemplating this realigned broadcast approach & a possible U.S. EPL contract, I tend to disagree with those suggesting MLS is doomed or will suffer greatly. Granted, the first step in maintaining MLS's growth when the EPL does gain a foothold, is for the league to embrace their status rather than attempt to out run it. It can be viewed in much the same terms as Minor League Baseball, and while I would love nothing more than to have a top-flite domestic soccer league now, I think MLS will flourish as a bi-product of growing EPL popularity. Major League Baseball is more successful than ever & subsequently, Minor League Baseball has seen comperable & corralating success. Building this success on the back of the EPL will eventually lead to MLS becoming the quality we all desire, because as the EPL's U.S. popularity grows, American demand for a similar product domestically will rise & eventually be met by MLS.

  6. AtlantaPompey

    October 23, 2008 at 8:37 am

    I get all of the problems with MLS, which is the reason I pay practically no attention to it, but the league seems to be doing okay and is not in danger of disappearing anytime soon, much less because the EPL gets decent ratings and ESPN might want to muscle in on the action. (My high school English teacher would have a hissy fit over that sentence!)

    MLS is around for a while and not in danger of going anywhere. They don't do a good job of developing players now, yet the national team seems to be in good position to qualify. Americans are overseas in record numbers and make up a majority of the starting positions on the current national team, and also a good number of the future starters as well.

    It does not bother me a bit that most mainstream American sports fans don't follow football. It does not bother me a bit that SportsCenter rarely mentions the sport. It does not bother me a bit that we're a small minority in this country. So what? Do we like this sport because it's popular, or because it's a great sport? Me, I like it because it's a great sport. If I'm the only one at the pub watching it, then I'll have a shorter wait time for my next beer.

    MLS is here to stay. Whether or not that's a good thing is debatable. EPL ratings are rising, and I think going to rise even more when ESPN takes over in the next contract. I don't see that having a negative effect on the sport in this country.

  7. Lee

    October 23, 2008 at 5:30 am

    I checked out ESPN's Champions League coverage of the Liverpool game (streaming website) and was shocked! I'm in the UK so I'm used to Sky Sports coverage starting at 6pm, leading up to the 7:45 kick off with all the games available to watch via Match Choice, and with the commentators at the game. ESPN's show started 15 minutes before kick off, and they took around 12 minutes of ads in that time, coming back to the coverage simply to say “more after the break”! The commentary was obviously from a studio, and the pre-game, when it wasn't ads, was simply the commentators talking over cheesy music. Andy Gray was heard on the feed they were talking all over pre-game, so why didn't they just take Sky's coverage if it was available? Mental!

  8. Stephen

    October 22, 2008 at 9:11 am

    My take is that FSC opting for a Nielsen rating might not have been such a good move. While it may help in the short-term with ad revenue, in the long-term ESPN must be casting an envious eye at FSC's EPL viewership and will be looking to muscle in on the action.

    With FSC, Setanta and potentially ESPN in a bidding war, someone is going to lose out big time.

  9. kkfla737

    October 22, 2008 at 8:55 am

    The English leagues have a woeful record of developing American players. If MLS disappears and we are forced to rely on the USL/PDL to develop players, leagues with less $$$ than MLS and clearly of a lower overall standard the US National Team is sure to suffer. Do you really think developing players who need to compete with the likes of Mexico (after Sven is fired which is clearly coming soon) can be properly developed in a semi professional setting and then qualify for a World Cup. MLS as it is is doing a poor job of player development which is why Honduras, Canada, and others have all caught the US in top of the player pool talent. Mexico has far more talent than the US but is being held back by coaching, and politics within the FMF.

    Honestly you may want to watch a superior product. That is alright. But if MLS disappears don't expect the game to be anything more than a “foreign” sport most Americans look down upon for the rest of our lives. Right now the stakes are sadly that high which is unfortunate because I like all of you think MLS is a poorly run, poorly marketed product whose leadership has been to say the least dishonest with fans through the years. But they must survive and garner more interest in the near future for the good of all of us.

  10. kkfla737

    October 22, 2008 at 7:55 am

    Figures it would be a tough talking Hokie fan. I can take insults from fans that matter like FSU, Alabama, Michigan, etc.

    How many titles has Virginia Tech won in ANY sport? NONE

    Virginia Tech: the arrogance of Notre Dame with the tradition of Wake Forest. That's my motto.

    By the way if you want the figures I have them. No question that Notre Dame outdraws everyone but since the subject was the potential for EPL games to end up on ESPN's familt of networks I thought I'd throw in the Miami stat. Notre Dame and USC's games have been the property of NBC and ABC/FSN for years now so yes it is misleading.

    Miami's following is national. You should know that. Besides we have more to do in South Florida and tons of traffic to deal with on Saturday's the you do in the greater Blacksburg/Roanoke area by a wide margin.

    I will admit I like the Hokie Basketball team. Seth Greenberg was an assistant at Miami and the Head Coach of USF and is one of the best around. It's your football team and football fans I cannot stand.

  11. sitruc

    October 22, 2008 at 6:10 am

    SEC and their new contract with CBS(a network station) beg to differ.

    People still pay attention to Miami? They don't show up in the stands. I'm sure nobody watched those Miami games for Florida State or Virginia Tech…

    Go Hokies!

    Anyways, I woudn't mind seeing Setanta taken over if it meant I didn't have to pay $13/month for it and little changed other than financial backing. I'd like to see ESPN Classic rebranded, but for whatever reason Disney doesn't want to.

  12. AtlantaPompey

    October 21, 2008 at 7:08 pm

    How do higher ratings for the EPL turn into the USMNT not qualifying for a World Cup?

    I could not care less about MLS. I will give them a chance if Atlanta ever gets a team, but otherwise I avoid their matches completely. I understand the need to develop American players, but that doesn't mean I want to watch an inferior product when I can see every single EPL game just about every weekend.

  13. The Gaffer

    October 21, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    What's your case?

    The Gaffer

  14. Dave Griffiths

    October 21, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    ESPN coverage of Champions league is not too bad
    At least they will show the goals from the other games played that day and are staying on for another 20 minutes until 5pm and then showing another game on Espn Classic
    Derrick Rae is a competent enough countryman Tommy Smith is an irritating bollox but at least ESPN is covering 2 games each champions league day
    Thumbs up for that

  15. Kevin

    October 21, 2008 at 4:53 pm

    JUVE vs Palermo rest my case

  16. brizzle

    October 21, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    It's great to see that FSC is doing so well, but I take a different lesson from this. Imagine how well those MLS games would do if ESPN hired REAL announcers who knew their stuff? Imagine how FSC would grow if MLS dumped ESPN and moved full-time to FSC?

    I am tired of ESPN's continuing crappy coverage of soccer. Sure, more people watch ESPN than FSC, but we should get FSC into more houses…and get the soccer out of ESPN's hands.

    Reward good behavior, not bad behavior…and in this case, FSC represents the good behavior. ESPN is just frustrating to no end.

  17. kkfla737

    October 21, 2008 at 11:49 am

    As a point of self promotion let me also point out five of the top six rated ESPN games ever in College Football have including the University of Miami, so if my Canes continue to struggle, maybe ESPN will be more interested in the PL than I think because clearly other college football teams other than Notre Dame cannot draw the national interest of Miami. 🙂

  18. kkfla737

    October 21, 2008 at 11:47 am

    This is very bad news for MLS and for football in the US in general. If we have no interest in our domestic league here at home, the league cannot sustain itself and eventually it'll affect the US National Team as well which will pay the ultimate price by not qualifying for a World Cup in the near future.

    This having been said I still am not sold on ESPN plus the Premier League. When will they show the games? On Saturday's College Gameday which is a cult favorite starts at 10 AM. Maybe they bump drag racing or the like from the deuce, but the 12:15 ET game will NEVER air on any ESPN channel unless ESPN 3 begins. ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPN U and Classic all air live College Football games at that time and then College Basketball games in the winter/spring at that time slot.

    Now turn to Sunday. The 11 am ET kickoff could fit on the deuce, but will never be placed on the “mothership” with NFL Countdown going on. After the NFL season ends the networks Sunday mornings are only open until noon when College Basketball comes on.

    While these numbers are impressive I believe the random College Basketball or Football game even from mid major leagues would get more national viewers than the PL, especially when the big four are not involved (look at the drop off in these numbers for the one match that did not involve a top 4 side). While ESPN may be intrigued by the PL they need to see more before they start bumping AMERICAN sports programming for ENGLISH programming. Sorry if that sounds crass but that's the way these executives think.

  19. Dave Griffiths

    October 21, 2008 at 11:20 am

    Strike that…ESPN needs to buy SETANTA!! and then market those games as part of ESPN3
    ESPN have already bought out a European channel part owned by Setanta called NASN
    If they bought Setanta NA they could easily package what they already have into ESPN3
    with Rugby/Aussie Rules/Rugby League/Gaelic Football along with EPL/Championship/SPL/UEFA etc etc
    AND have it all in HD


  20. Dave Griffiths

    October 21, 2008 at 11:06 am

    I am impressed also…I thought that the Neilson numbers would be poor based on the fact that it would be hard to “find” the real football fans in Neilsens ratings systems.
    FSC needs to be bought out by ESPN and have ESPN Asia show them how to run an ESPN Soccer Channel
    How's about them apples?

  21. Nathan

    October 21, 2008 at 8:29 am

    Wow. The ratings are much higher than expected and very encouraging for FSC. Bottom line: soccer has the potential from growing out of its status as a niche sport. It all takes time, though. For an 11am game, the ratings for Man City-L'pool are more than FSC could have hoped for.

  22. AtlantaPompey

    October 21, 2008 at 7:29 am

    Those numbers are fantastic. Imagine now how FSC can go to potential advertisers and get not only more money, but more variety. They can also go to the cable companies and get their station broadcast to more homes.

    I would be interested in seeing the ratings of the Champions League matches this week and comparing them to the EPL matches ratings on both FSC and Setanta.

    EPL on ESPN2, especially in HD, is several years away, but I believe with numbers like this, that it is going to happen. The people at ESPN have noticed these numbers I hope.

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