Friday, September 18, 2020

MLS not being televised

Major League Soccer has had two schedule releases post "MLS is Back" bubble tournament and none of the games have been picked up by the ESPN channels on TV. 

All MLS games are available on ESPN+ and in local markets, but the curious absence on MLS on the sports leader and longtime partner is an odd one. 

One reason might be that MLS fulfilled its commitment to ESPN during the bubble, where most games were broadcast. That seems a little bit harsh on ESPN if that were the case. Did they just want to move on to focus on the NBA, MLB and NFL? 

Another part of the equation might be that ESPN recently picked up the US rights to the Bundesliga. It starts soon and features a normally MLS broadcast booth in Derek Rae and Taylor Twellman.

ESPN+ viewership numbers are normally not made publically available but one can put together pieces of evidence to deduce that they don't pull more than four digits (free games live on both YouTube and Twitter show viewership).

After the release of the September MLS schedule, I combed it once again for games on the ESPN family of networks and saw nothing. Univision has a couple games, so does FS1, but that's it.

MLS has a problem here. They have lost whatever they had of the national gaze (in regards to sports). They were always a sort of add on in general nationwide sports conversation, but now you won't hear a single peep about them on national sports shows. Hell, even on my Twitter feed, heavy with soccer and MLS, I don't see a whole lot.

Was ESPN upset with how the MLS Bubble ratings went? I think it's possible. They always tell fans to "vote with your feet." I think ESPN just did that with MLS.

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