The average MLS TV viewing audience for the 2017 season is down 8% compared to last season, according to data aggregated by Sports TV Ratings and World Soccer Talk.
For the 2017 season through April 3, which totals 15 games, MLS is averaging 261,667 viewers compared to 284,842 after 11 games during the same time period at the beginning of the 2016 season.
The biggest decline in TV ratings has been from Univision. Last year at this stage of the season, the Spanish-language network was averaging 303,750 viewers after four games. This year, they’ve seen a 25% decline in viewers. After six games, they’re averaging 226,167 viewers per match.
For FOX Sports and ESPN, it’s better news thankfully. By mixing up its broadcast times, ESPN’s averaging viewing number for MLS games has increased 29% this season from 246,000 to 318,333.
FOX Sports has seen a slight increase of 5% from last year’s 254,750 average after four games compared to the 268,833 average so far this season after six matches.
While the news from ESPN and FOX Sports is rosier, last weekend’s TV numbers are concerning. The final Behind The Badge episode on West Brom that NBCSN aired on Sunday mid-afternoon had more viewers than the primetime FS1 MLS game between Toronto and Sporting KC on Friday.
Also the relegation battle between Middlesbrough and Swansea — two teams that do not have a lot of fans in the US — had more viewers for their early Sunday morning game on NBCSN than Friday night’s MLS game shown in primetime to the west coast between Seattle and Atlanta. That’s the same Seattle that is the current MLS champion. And Atlanta, who are the most exciting team in the league this season.