TV contracts are the financial life blood of professional sports leagues, and MLS is no different. While the League relies on multiple sources of revenue, the ultimate goal is to generate substantial rights fees from television partners. The amount MLS can earn from those rights fees are largely determined by ratings (and the packaging of FIFA properties owned by SUM). MLS fans are keenly interested in the League’s ratings, and The Sports Business Daily has provided some interesting information regarding 2009 ratings,
According to Austin Karp’s article, MLS ratings on ESPN2 were up almost 15%. Most dramatic, were the ratings of Beckham’s Galaxy, who drew almost 420,00 viewers per match. After Los Angeles, Seattle was the next biggest national television draw on ESPN2 broadcasts. From July 25 until the end of the year, MLS averaged 319,00 viewers per game. MLS also saw an increase on FSC, with an additional 13k tuning into MLS matches compared to 2008. The actual number went from 51k to 64k. The article is here.
These numbers are a great sign for MLS. By way of comparison, MLS numbers fall right in the middle of ESPN2 numbers for EPL broadcasts. Overall, the numbers are actually more favorable for MLS if you average them out. These numbers somewhat vindicate the ESPN decision to move the MLS game of the week around (something we opposed). By way of comparison, these numbers are comparable to those of the NHL on versus, which averaged about 310,000 viewers per game last year.
As we have noted previously, ESPN has landed some outstanding matchups for the playoffs, including both Seattle and Los Angeles. If the League and ESPN promote the games actively, there is a chance for an outanding rating on Thursday and Sunday.