Wednesday, September 16, 2015

NFL Decimates MLS TV Ratings

Major League Soccer's ESPN and Fox Sports ratings took an enormous hit on the opening weekend of the NFL season. The match on Fox Sports 1 between came in Orlando City and Sporting Kansas City came in at 58% below season network average while ESPN 2 was hit even harder losing almost three-quarters of their regular MLS audience (-73%).

Here is the breakdown:

215k : 2015 FS1 Viewership Avg

91K : Sunday's Match

-124k : Below Season Average

233k : 2015 ESPN2 Viewership Avg

63k : Sunday's Match

-170k : Below Season Average

Combined, that is a 66% loss in total viewers to MLS. Taking it on the surface that means that a mere 33% of the viewers over the spring to summer are MLS-first fans. There's obviously a lot more to that equation but rarely do we get such clear head to head match up.

This could be filed as "not news" by most of us out there as the NFL finally jumps off the starting blocks but rarely do we have the numbers publically before us like this (which you can find at It's a guess on my part, but I find it hard to believe that MLS drew fewer numbers in the past.

For me, the drop in audience is shocking. The issues MLS has drawing an audience has to do with the fear of going their own way and breaking free of copying league formats used in the rest of the country. We've said it here many, many times on this site through posts and podcasts - SOCCER is a popular sport in this country but MLS is not. Going after the "casual fan" (or Butch, as I have called him) caused MLS to get completely blotted out this weekend.

We need leaders working in the sport. Lacking the courage to separate themselves from the rest of the domestic leagues and the humility to recognize that there are better ways of organizing soccer has hurt MLS for 20 years. Going forward will be no different unless things change drastically at the US Soccer Federation level.

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