Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Locking In '21 MLS TV Numbers

Here are my final viewership numbers for Major League Soccer's 2021 season.

TABLE 1 - Viewership

• These numbers use count events falling out of the top 150 cable programs on the day as "0" (zero). The rating on those events is generally below a 0.01 rating, which statistically speaking, means nobody is watching. Networks impacted by this are FS1, TUDN, FOX Deportes, and ESPN Deportes. 

• I do not have a second source for Univision (/UniMas) daily TV numbers. To my knowledge, they are not metered by Neilsen. When I do have a reliable source, I will add them to my reporting.

• FOX SPORTS 1 had five games with "0." All of them occurred at the start of College Football and the NFL (August 21 - September 29). One match (NYRB v NYC) was postponed and the move to date of the match didn't get a rating. Another - Atlanta FC v Miami CF - was bumped off its scheduled time on FS1 in favor of another event. The others, Austin v Dallas, Atlanta FC v Orlando City, Miami CF v NYRB just didn't register a number.


TABLE 2 - Viewership
ALL Networks160217
Cable Only116130
English Only214278
Spanish Only-42

Table 2 breaks out English and Spanish Language TV.


TABLE 3 - Top Games (no Thanksgiving Day Game or Cup Final)
721FC Cincinnati – Inter Miami CFFOX, FOXD5/16
695LA Galaxy – Los Angeles FCFOX, FOXD5/8
620Portland Timbers – Seattle SoundersABC, ESPND5/9
557Inter Miami CF – Atlanta UnitedABC, ESPND5/9
557Inter Miami CF – LA GalaxyABC, ESPND4/18
546Atlanta United – Philadelphia UnionESPN, ESPND6/20
512Portland Timbers – LA GalaxyABC, ESPND5/22
504Los Angeles FC – LA GalaxyFOX, FOXD8/28
498Los Angeles FC – Seattle SoundersESPN, ESPND4/24
485Los Angeles FC – Austin FCFOX, FOXD4/17

Table 3 does not include the Thanksgiving Day or MLS Cup Final figures, which are more or less outliers. The Thanksgiving Day game had a massive lead-in and the MLS Cup is a one-off event. Looking at it this gives us a better snapshot of which teams do well and when.


General Callouts:

• Using the Median number is a personal preference. MLS can be pretty extreme in regards to viewership (0 - 1.8m), so it helps to look at the middle number.

• I used the announced MLS calendar at the start of the season as a starting point. From there I went week to week on Major League Soccer's own site to verify info (the list the networks for each game).

• Spanish Language: When a match is shown in both English and Spanish, the Spanish number (avg) is about half (19k) of the Spanish only (42k). 

• Only about a quarter of the games broadcast in Spanish Language pull a measurable number.

• 5 of the to 10 games with the most viewers this year were broadcast in both languages.

• I don't have any FOX Deportes games that were simulcast on FS1 finishing in the top 150 cable shows on their day. The only time FOXD records a number is when it is on OTA FOX.

• Big markets support the "broadcast" / OTA MLS games. Miami, LA (both), and Atlanta dominate traditional broadcast numbers. Interestingly, Miami and to a lesser degree, Atlanta do not do well on cable.

• All-Star game viewership is not included. It pulled 366k on TUDN and a surprisingly low 175k on FS1.

• There are reports of MLS averaging around 285k across networks this year which I guess is possible if you add in Univision data. Without it, I can confidently say it is 217k.


I record these numbers on a daily basis and it's not just MLS. I record all cable data. Categorization is done manually, so there is an error % to my numbers (human), but I would say that it's less than 5% when looking at a full year's worth of data.

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