Looking at Major League Soccer TV Ratings

tv cameraIt’s  no secret that MLS has struggled to generate big national television ratings.  Despite impressive live attendance, the league’s television partners have tolerated viewership numbers hovering in the low six figures or below.  This season the ESPN2 games have averaged less than 200k per match while the NBSCN telecasts have averaged approximately 100k.  While these numbers represent a marked improvement over the average on Fox Soccer, these are not great ratings for a major sports broadcast.  This is especially so, given the limited commercial inventory available in soccer.

Yet one area of television ratings that often goes unnoticed centers on local television ratings.  We have documented the 10 year, $55 million deal the Galaxy signed with Time Warner for local broadcast rights and we have also discussed the low level deal signed by DC United this week for the coming three years.  The range of local television deals is extremely wide, with some including pre-game shows or post game shows, while others fail to send crews to away matches.

What are these local partners getting for their investment?  A recent article in Grantland provided some idea on local viewership.  The New York analysis was especially instructive.  According to Grantland, Red Bulls broadcasts averaged a .3 on MSG, far below the Knicks, but comparable to the Devils and Islanders.  Outside of New York, Grantland quotes Sporting Executive Chris Wyche, “”Our season average for 2012 was 1.1, but we had a late game that pulled a 3.7 and we were as high as 5.1 for a 15-minute day-part.”  One final reference comes from Seattle, where the Sounders have averaged a local 1.8-2.5 depending on the channel.

It is tough to draw any significant conclusion from this data, but it makes for an interesting read. We definitely recommend that you read the Grantland article and we will continue to track ratings during the season.