A recent interview with Amy Rosenfeld of ESPN by reporters from Philly.com highlighted some key updates to the status of Major League Soccer’s TV ratings in 2015. One of the most striking statistics was the average of 283,000 viewers per game. This is an increase of 18% from the 2014 season that amassed 240,000 viewers across all ESPN networks. While its figures were skewed by outliers such as the NYCFC vs. Orlando City inaugural match that drew 539,000 viewers, there are match-ups on the other end of the spectrum as well like the March 29th game between the Philadelphia Union and Chicago Fire (two teams arguably without any tremendous star power and limited marketability at the moment) drawing just 152,000 viewers on national TV.
The real reason to be optimistic about this season were the figures from Fox Sports 1 that report an average of 219,000 viewers per game watching the customary 7 pm Sunday national TV slot. According to the article, this figure was up 54% from the average viewers per game of NBC Sports Network’s MLS programming in all 3 years of their agreement with the league. The highest average number of viewers per game during the past three years on NBCSN was just 142,000.
According to Rosenfeld, these figures are good signs for MLS heading into the summer, because this is the time period where MLS teams face less competition from other sports programming as the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the NBA Playoffs will come to an end in June. Since this is just the first year of an 8 year contract, this season will act as a good gauge to see if the system can remain as it is or be tweaked for more success and relevance in the future.
In addition to national TV success, there was also positive news from Salt Lake City regarding the new local TV agreement between the Real Salt Lake franchise and KMYU. Despite KMYU being harder to find on TV than Real Salt Lake’s previous TV network partners, the lowest rated of 3 locally televised games so far this season have drawn more viewers than than the highest rated games on last year’s networks. One example of this success was the March 14th game that drew a 4.6 rating in the region equipped with 897,390 TVs that Nielsen uses for estimates in the Salt Lake TV market.
If MLS sees future successes like these new findings from national TV stations and local TV stations, the positive image of the league can only grow larger. Potential sponsors typically invest in a product with great promise of results, and seeing full stadiums on easily accessible TV stations could reasonably be the push MLS needs to finally stand tall next to the “Big Four” sports in America.