The first television viewership numbers of the 2013 campaign were released today. With the preseason focus on the league’s struggle to maintain solid ratings, there was no doubt that the first numbers of 2013 would draw significant interest. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the numbers landed in close approximation to the numbers from last year. According to the released numbers, the NBC Sports telecast of the Houston/DC game averaged 107,000 viewers. The ESPN Sunday night game featuring Portland and New York managed an average of 221,000 viewers.
The opening number on NBCSN easily beat last year’s first game on the network which managed close to 80,000 viewers. Conversely, last year’s first ESPN2 telecast was much higher. That said, the 2012 last year for NBCSN was 119k and for ESPN2 was 232k. Thus, the numbers from last weekend fall comfortably within the anticipated range.
The numbers are neither surprising nor impressive. Viewership won’t increase overnight and the opening numbers on NBCSN suggest that some of the network’s promotion was effective. Nevertheless, with the television deals coming up for renegotiation, the league needs the numbers to show improvement. While the rights fees may be significantly increased by the sheer numbers of sports networks vying for live programming, a significant uptick in numbers would make MLS a much more attractive property.