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Chelsea chaos, MLS TV ratings and power rankings of soccer TV channels

In the NEW episode, number 1404, Christopher Harris is joined by co-host Kartik Krishnaiyer to discuss several topics:

• What the chaos at Chelsea FC means for the club, players and fans,
• Our power rankings of the top four soccer TV channels in the US (choosing from NBC, ESPN, CBS and FOX)
• ESPN Futbol Americas’ unfiltered coverage of the hooliganism issue in Liga MX,
• Where does Major League Soccer stand on its relationship with Liga MX,
• Why MLS TV viewership continues to struggle in the United States,
• The reaction from the soccer leagues to the war in Ukraine,
• And your questions in the Listener Mailbag segment.

Plus we answer your questions in the Listener Mailbag segment.

Listen to the show via the player above or via this link.

Launched in 2006, the World Soccer Talk Podcast is the longest running podcast on the planet. Every week, we share the latest news about watching soccer on television and streaming, in addition to discussing what we like and dislike, and featuring your questions and feedback in our Listener Mailbag segment.

HEAR MORE: Listen to our archive featuring hundreds of soccer interviews

Send in your questions, comments and feedback via e-mail, via Twitter (@worldsoccertalk) or Facebook. We’ll read them out on-air in the next episode.

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  1. Richard

    March 19, 2022 at 4:21 am

    Maybe because soccer is boring

    • Turfit

      March 19, 2022 at 9:48 am

      @Richard, Commercial time-outs really enhance the entertainment value and excitement of American football, baseball, basketball, hockey……..

      • Zipplo

        April 26, 2022 at 4:07 pm

        Strawman as always, he didn’t say anything about time outs, he said soccer is boring, which it is. Football, baseball, hockey, etc. all have incredible, fun to watch, athletic endeavors, strategy, and dramatic action happening regardless of whether or not there are too many time outs in between. Soccer, on the other hand, is just straight boring all of the time, there are no redeeming qualities to this awful game.

        • Roberto

          April 26, 2022 at 5:41 pm

          All the sports you mentioned are for people with short attention spans. So, there is time to go to the frig. get a beer and chips and not miss anything. World football requires the fan to pay attention and that requirement is too much for many people.

        • Turfit

          April 27, 2022 at 3:08 pm

          @Zipplo, Commercial time-outs is boring. Players standing around waiting for the “tv time-out” to end is boring. Football is boring unless you understand the sport, baseball is very boring if you do not understand the sport, hockey is boring except when a fight breaks out if you do not understand the sport, nascar is very boring except when there is a big crash if you do not understand the sport (and I do not understand nascar), even t20 cricket is boring if you do not understand the sport and when you understand it you find test cricket very entertaining. Soccer is a beautiful sport that you just don’t understand the beauty in the game.

        • Yespage

          April 28, 2022 at 11:42 am

          Whether soccer is boring is up to the viewer. Baseball… the pace is slower and the game consists of almost no action at all. Football is compelling, but the 60 minute game clock contains only about 15 to 20 minutes of actual play. Hockey and Basketball are the only two sports that compete with the continued play of soccer.

          • JP

            April 28, 2022 at 11:48 am

            Hockey, yes. Basketball no way close to the continued action of soccer. Too many whistles and time outs.

            Can hardly believe there was a time I was able to watch and enjoy baseball, not even that long ago. Talking early 2000’s before it faded out for me. But even then, once NFL preseason started the lack of action became more apparent in comparison and would only continue following if my team was in the playoff race.

  2. JP

    March 11, 2022 at 12:03 pm

    Regarding MLS ratings, it’s rather simple. The interest is more regional/local vs national. On top of that, that local support is probably 4th on the totem pole (or 3rd or 5th depending on market) of interest in that particular region. Regular season national broadcasts are never going to be huge, especially like that Charlotte match Saturday night when there were multiple other matches going on at the same time. Fans of MLS clubs other than Charlotte and LA would be watching their local team/broadcast. I actually did watch most of that match. Was a weak night for NHL and interested to see the 1st night reaction/crowd in Charlotte. Overall the Fox broadcast was pretty good. Stu Holden is much better than ESPN’s Twellman.

    So what if MLS executives promised their broadcast partners a certain ratings threshold. They can promise anything they want, probably more of a marketing ploy than anything based on reality based growth metrics.

    Despite all that, MLS is still a good investment for broadcaster given that the local rights are supposedly included in the deal. If that means no local blackout, then it’s a home run for whomever wins the bid plus the summer Leagues Cup with Liga MX

  3. Roberto

    March 11, 2022 at 11:47 am

    Not sure why the TV ratings are not higher. Just about every team has seen an increase by fans in the stands, even though there has been some weather challenges.
    Charlotte will not have 74,500 in the stands every week but 30,000+ is possible.
    Probably as stated by several people above, there is strong local support but that does not translate to much national interest. There is not another country that has coverage of so many other countries leagues and that does real harm to football in the U.S.

  4. JP

    March 11, 2022 at 11:23 am

    Found the discussion/disappointment that NBC didn’t alter their score bug to show some support for Ukraine almost laughable if it weren’t so sad. All these scorebug changes are just theatre to make the leagues/viewers feel like they’re doing something to help, when in fact it’s utterly meaningless. Sure the people of Ukraine had their hearts warmed knowing Bundesliga changed their scorebug logo to the Ukraine colors, big help when their cities are being bombed. No fly zone? Troops from NATO countries? That would all just be gravy on top of the very important soccer score bug changes shown to overseas viewers (sarcastic). Putin will most definitely stop now that La Liga told him too.

  5. greg

    March 11, 2022 at 10:39 am

    Re: the La Liga change of the score-bug text from “Stop War” to “Stop Invasion” – I read somewhere (and sorry, can’t find the articles) that it has a lot to do with China. The Chinese are very much on Russia’s side and threatened to block La Liga telecasts if they called it a war. Any EPL reticence might also be explained by not wanting to anger China and jeopardize Chinese television coverage.

    re: NBC, I’m also surprised by how half-a**ed the Peacock coverage has been, but I wonder if it’s not just about the front of the camera talent they have but behind-the-camera resources – producers, camera, lighting, sound, editors, research, etc…maybe they are stretched thin with Olympics, Para-Olympics, golf and are needing to cycle people with days off. Rebecca wasn’t on this past weekend…she’d been working straight thru the Olympics to the EPL weekend after. Maybe it’s all they can do to get even a Peacock schedule on air.

    re: MLS ratings…yes, early in the season for sure, and there’s way too much other soccer going on with the Euro leagues. No space in my brain for MLS. And glad to see Chris coming around to my POV that the league is more of a local team league than a national thing unless you’ve got a major star playing like Beckham, Zlatan, etc. When I;ve watched early season MLS national games it’s been curiosity – Inter Miami’s 1st match, Portland-Seattle, El Traffico. Otherwise, Houston vs Colorado? Meh. Don’t care enough.

    Oh, I’d forgotten from last week, you mentioned it was hit-and-miss what MLS did re: the Ukraine support, and that Chicago & Philadelphia were notable for what happened before the games – those are two cities with a big Ukrainian diaspora. I know from experience in Philly that the Ukrainian people there have long been major players in the soccer community.

  6. jason

    March 11, 2022 at 7:12 am

    I can’t believe traditional TV ratings are still a thing in 2022? Why should anybody under 60 y.o. still have cable tv!

  7. Mercator

    March 11, 2022 at 1:35 am

    Couldn’t happen to a nicer club. Anyway, I don’t think Abramovich will sell now. Why would he? If he sells now he doesn’t get any of that money, if he doesn’t sell he will almost certainly be able to tie this up in litigation in British courts, and in due course after a decade of legal nonsense, probably will get something out of it. Silly to think Putin is thinking about a British football club at a time like this, if anything he will tell Abramovich not to sell to make things difficult for the UK govt. I think Abramovich has bigger concerns as well – if you recall the speculation when he bought was that he was trying to make it hard for Putin to off him by being a public figure in the UK. Perhaps just cynical thinking from an Arsenal fan hoping for champions league, but I think Chelsea could be in real trouble here, it’s not as simple as just finding someone willing to buy at a firesafe price. This is also a MUCH bigger deal to Europeans than Americans given proximity, and I’m not surprised NBC stripped out the Ukraine flag from the graphics, that was a league sponsored item, I don’t recall seeing it on Sky or Astro either.
    Back to the football…the MLS numbers are devastating. No excuse, the ESPN numbers throughout the day are enough for me to throw in the towel, and I’m a football fan not a mickey mouse executive. I think the real cause is the EPL and the timezone. EPL fans in the US are all generally non-spanish speaking football fans who would otherwise be watching the MLS. Most of the big US players play in Europe. The timezone is also not ideal, it puts the MLS in direct competition with the big US sports and with EPL and other Euro leagues in the mornings, I just can’t justify watching a MLS game where my city isn’t involved. By the time they play, I’ve seen 2-3 games in the morning usually, and by afternoon or evening I have to attend to the rest of my life. These are all general trends though – it still doesn’t’t explain why 300k+ people tune out for the MLS game, and then 300k+ tune in the moment it ends. I actually had that game in the background while working and I remember being annoyed the women CBB ran into the MLS pregame time. I thought, who is watching Women’s CBB, put the football on! Well the joke is on me apparently. I agree ESPN should cut cord and put it on ESPN+. La Liga, Bundesliga and MLS all on ESPN+ still should be more than compelling enough for any American football fan.

  8. David

    March 10, 2022 at 11:44 pm

    Thoroughly enjoyed the March 10 podcast great work!
    Re: MLS ratings: only way you will see viewer numbers improve is if the USMNT players become the stars of the league. In no uncertain terms, the are no superstar AMERICAN players in MLS. and when MLS a teams choose to SELL their best young American Players, there is no star power to attract casual fans. The soccer is getting better but still at English Championship level. at some point you should do a podcast talking about the 5-6 best players on each team. the casual fan has no connection to any of the players.

  9. dave

    March 10, 2022 at 8:50 pm

    Two reflections:
    * I enjoyed your discussion of ESPN ratings as Sunday evolved. It is telling that there is a very significant drop when MLS starts and a very significant rise when it ends. Your idea about ESPN+ (or other streaming) potentially being a better home for MLS makes sense. I suspect MLS games may tend to hold more local or regional appeal than national interest.
    * I think World Cup and NCAA football on FOX may only conflict on November 26 (Saturday after Thanksgiving). Michigan-Ohio State is a highly viewed rivalry game typically on FOX at noon ET Saturday. The next Friday/Saturday (December 2-3) is conference championship games where FOX has Pac-12 (typically 8 pm ET Friday), Big Ten (8 pm ET Saturday), and MWC (probably easy to flex). Other conference championships and bowl games are ESPN/ABC.

  10. Cpcva

    March 10, 2022 at 8:09 pm

    Two words. Genocidal maniac.

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