Saturday, December 10, 2016

MLS Cup Returns to Broadcast TV

The last time the MLS Cup was on an over-the-air network the Columbus Crew beat the NY Red Bulls. At the time it was on ABC and pulled 900k viewers, which matched a league the low in 2003. From there the game (at least for the English-speaking world) moved over to ESPN, where it has been ever since.

This year the game moves over to Fox per terms of the new TV deal that was signed before the start of last year.

After a strong start on ESPN in 2009 where ratings jumped back up over one-million viewers, ratings of the event have been slipping downward ever since. No doubt the switch to Fox will help get viewership back on the plus side of one million, but that doesn't mean there won't be some sweaty palms in MLS suites tonight. Anything less than that figure will bring a lot of public criticism and likely have both Fox and ESPN asking questions as to what is going on with the league.

MLS numbers across all English-speaking networks are down 15-20% this year over last. Based on what Fox normally shows on Saturday evenings, it's tough to say what the hell will happen tonight. This is uncharted territory. Fox did float a MLS game earlier this year and it pulled close to a million, but that was during a normal NFL window. It's entirely possible TV's just park on that station all Sunday out of habit.

Fox Saturday nights are a mixed bag of evening news, auto racing, college athletics and so on. That said, MLS is not a normal event on the network. People could watch out of curiosity or just skip it over altogether. Again, sweaty Don Garber palms.

What we do know is that it won't be pulling College Football numbers or even those of NASCAR. It'll be in the one million range, I suspect - and MLS and SUM will put as much spin behind it is possible.

No comments: