Wednesday, March 23, 2016

2016 MLS on TV - Down

MLS is in year two of their television deal with ESPN, FOX and UDN. Things are down, but before we get started on year over year, let's run over the bullet points from the new deal:

- Package deal with USMNT
- 90 million dollars (SUM/USSF) annually
- Games will have fixed Sunday schedule, Friday on UDN
- Deal runs 8 years

Last year, I tracked 75 games across ESPN and FOX (FS1, FS2) in year one and another 22 on UDN.

Average Viewers in 2015: Network
330k: ESPN
222k: ESPN2
197k: FS1
64k: UDN

Now, for the year over year stuff through the first seven games on ESPN2 and FS1.

-29% Drop, Aggregate Viewers, 1st 7 games
2,117,000 - 2015
1,512,000 - 2016

-36% Drop, Median
289,000 - 2015
184,000 - 2016

-29% Drop, Average
302,428 - 2015
216,000 - 2016

Not sure how else to jump off this than to say it's bad news for MLS offices. They were (are?) banking on a stable schedule, particularly Sunday, to gain some traction. Year 2 now... and there's nothing to hang their hat on. If there were, you better bet MLS would try and capitalize on it.

TV / streaming is the most important thing for MLS going forward. Right now, it appears as if there is a group of about 150-200k that fall into the "hardcore" category. Meaning - that's the size of the group that puts MLS first over other things on television. Comparing this to other leagues, both college and professional, it's a viewership number that teeters on the edge of obscurity and bass fishing.

This year's start suggests that the 150-200k is eroding.


Live sporting events have weathered the 'cord-cutting' storm so far, but cracks are starting to show. Cable subscriptions are down across the board. 2nd tier programming like NASCAR and NCAA College Basketball are starting to dip. Many think it's only the first sign of the coming ratings-drop storm (or The Cable Apocolypse).

MLS falls in this group that might get hit hard by the shift away from traditional TV broadcasts. They have a nice streaming service but they only have a small base of "hardcores" to build on.

It'll be interesting to see where this goes. Good, bad... I'll be tracking. Numbers don't lie.

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