Soccer Rating Wars?

nbcAs more and more television options emerge for fans of soccer, competition for viewers has been playing out all over social media and on screens across the country.  There has long been a theory in American soccer (to quote Don Garber) that “a rising tide lifts all boats.”  Yet with networks paying ever increasing rights fees to broadcast soccer, it is inevitable that the networks will be fighting for ratings and eyeballs.  There are now multiple soccer studio shows, European games on at least three different channels.

Fox Sports1 and NBCSN went head to head with Euro Soccer this week and Steve Lepore tweeted out the numbers.  Per his tweet:  ” NBCSN/FS1 went toe-to-toe with EPL vs. Champions League yesterday. Chelsea-Aston Villa on NBCSN: 192,000. Arsenal-Fenerbahce on FS1: 59,000.”    Whether the comparison between the networks  is fair (do people know how to find FS1), these numbers dictate advertising dollars.

At the same time, NBCSN was trumpeting that its opening weekend beat Fox Sports and ESPN 2012 week one numbers more than 67%.  Per the official press release: “More than 3.4 million people tuned in to NBC Sports Group’s television coverage on Saturday and Sunday – the most ever for an opening Premier League weekend in the U.S. — featuring seven telecasts on three networks (one on NBC, four on NBC Sports Network, and two on mun2). The five English-language games on NBC and NBCSN drew a total of 3.2 million viewers – up 52% from the 2.1 million total for the five games on ESPN and Fox Soccer last year. (Source: Nielsen Media Research, NTI Live+Same Day data).”  Yet the Monday game featuring Manchester City fell far short of ESPN’s ratings from 2012 featuring Manchester United.

The ratings competition makes for a fascinating story line and it is one that bears close watching.  With the three headed sports channel monster now raging, the networks will look for every opportunity to be the top dog.