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Which league’s TV ratings declined the most after the World Cup?

The name of the game for soccer leagues shown on US television is to figure out a way to take advantage of the hype and interest in a men’s World Cup tournament, and to attract those viewers to their respective leagues after the FIFA tournament is over.

According to research by World Soccer Talk, some leagues did better than others after the 2018 FIFA World Cup ended.

Before diving into the statistics, though, we first need to mention that there are two important factors happening after a World Cup tournament. (1) the viewing figures for league games will dwindle in comparison to the TV ratings that the World Cup itself gets, so there’s bound to be a big drop-off. And (2) there is sometimes a burnout factor for sports fans who want to take a break from watching 3-4 games a day, every day, for an entire month during the World Cup.

Now, the numbers.

Average TV viewing figures before World Cup compared to after

TimeBundesligaLiga MXMLSPremier League
Before World Cup69,033606,942333,200461,261
After World Cup57,163412,987253,276439,622

Analyzing the data more closely, here are the leagues that saw the biggest percentage drop in number of viewers from before the World Cup compared to after:

Liga MX — 32% decline
MLS — 24% decline
Bundesliga — 17% decline
Premier League — 4% decline

Due to several MLS games being televised on FOX immediately after a World Cup game, you would expect MLS to have the best chance of adopting more viewers after a World Cup ended. The league benefitted from having the best visibility during a World Cup tournament from a large number of plugs and ads on the over-the-air FOX network. Plus, the late summer months featured the race to qualify for the playoffs. But despite those advantages, the MLS TV viewing figures declined 24% after the World Cup compared to before when the World Cup started.

During the World Cup itself, MLS games averaged 601,000 viewers, so the drop-off was an even greater 57% comparing World Cup MLS numbers to the MLS numbers generated after the World Cup ended.

Meanwhile, the 32% drop-off in TV viewing numbers for Liga MX can be attributed to DISH’s removal of the Univision channels in late June, which made a big impact to the league’s TV ratings.

Last but not least, due to beIN SPORTS being removed from Comcast and DIRECTV during the summer of 2018, it meant that we were unable to determine what the change was in the viewing figures for LaLiga.

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  1. Anthony

    April 9, 2019 at 12:05 pm

    Any early chatter on who will be bidding for the next round of Premier League rights? I’m guessing NBCSN remain the favorite to keep them.

    • Christopher Harris

      April 9, 2019 at 12:42 pm

      NBC Sports has the rights through May 2022, so no discussions would have taken place yet. But NBC Sports will be the favorites, for sure.

      • Eddie

        April 9, 2019 at 1:38 pm

        NBC sports could stay for longer and obtain the premier league rights

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