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Report: WNBA games averaged more viewers this year than MLS

Robbie Keane, Leonardo Gonzalez

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Much has been made recently about the decline in viewers of regular season Major League Soccer matches on National TV, but according to the Sports Business Journal, MLS has a long way to go before it breaks into the living rooms of your average American.

Though this season’s numbers weren’t aided by being scheduled alongside the European Championships like in 2012 or the World Cup in 2010, the SBJ says in a report that regular season Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) games on national television earned higher viewership on average than MLS games.

The SBJ says that MLS’ average numbers on ESPN/ESPN2 (220,000) and NBC Sports Network (112,000) were lower than NCAA Softball games, IndyCar races, the X Games, and even the Solheim Cup, an international golf tournament that was televised last August on the Golf Channel. The SBJ points out that due to soccer’s traditional weekend schedule, their games were primarily outside of the primetime hours while the WNBA games were normally during the week in primetime.

In June, MLS hired Television veteran Gary Stevenson from the Pac-12 Networks to be president & managing director of MLS Business Ventures. It’s thought that the hiring was to help MLS renegotiate their national television deals, which all end following the 2014 season. Currently the league has deals with ESPN (eight years, $64 million from 2006) NBC (three years, $30 million from 2011), and Univision (eight years, $80 million from 2006) for U.S. broadcasts, and MP & Silva for international broadcasts.

The SBJ reported last August that this fall, MLS would begin talks with their television partners over new deals starting in 2015.


What do you think of this report? Surprised at the numbers? Do you believe that the World Cup next summer can give the league a boost in ratings?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Several reasons/excuses for this:
    -If you want to watch basketball in the summer, the WNBA is you’re only choice
    -MLS has to compete with the best leagues in the world, and international tournaments, for television viewers. You could have watch dozens of European league games on a typicall Saturday, before the first MLS game kicks off.
    -Most soccer fans want to watch the world class teams play and don’t care for the parity of MLS
    -Summer is traditionally the time of year people watch less television

    If league sponsors were turning their back on MLS, I’d be concerned. That doesn’t seem to be happening. Aso, I’m sure ratings for the demographic advertisers want (18-44 years old, male) are just fine.

    • good points except for the first one. WNBA gets horrible ratings. MLS’s are just worse.

      oh and the demo ratings are not just fine. They are horrible.

  2. Having grown up with soccer as #1 sport and pretty close to #1 thing in my life, when I immigrated to the US in 1993, I was quite disappointed and frustrated by lack of interest and support for the sport in the US. That has improved by a lot. At this point, I have to say, I am more annoyed by soccer fans like Snordo (see his comments above) than people who tell me that soccer blows, is boring etc. We are such a small community already, it just pains me to meet people who are not just indifferent to MLS (and in many cases USMNT), but they actually take pride in putting the league down and are happy to see any negative news. Why in the world would you not want your domestic league get better and better?!?!?!?!?!?! Yes, MLS is far from the best. However, I am pretty sure that NYRB is no weaker than let’s say my former home team in Ukraine (they actually just collapsed) and I have never, ever, ever heard anyone in Ukraine make fun of domestic league or someone to be shocked and laugh at me when I tell them they I support my hometown team instead of being another bandwagon Man Utd. fan. And by the way, while the quality of play in MLS puts it in perhaps Top 20or Top 25 in the world, by most other parameters, the league is way higher (integrity of results, competitiveness of teams, average attendance, TV broadcasts, stadium quality etc.).

    If all USMNT fans started following the league next year and on, TV contracts would increase several-fold, salary cap would easily double and quality of play would improve dramatically. Following the league to me would be attending 3-4 local team’s games a year, watching 1-2 games per week on TV and buying 1 jersey every 3 years.

    • I hear you and I’ve been making a concerted effort to watch MLS recently in order to support it and to brainwash my 2yo son into liking it. I even have an MLS Live subscription. However the nearest team to me is DCU which is 6 hours away. I don’t get local DC stations so I can’t see them regularly. There was rarely a nationally televised game during the regular season (heck two playoff days weren’t on national TV) let alone a nationally televised DCU game so it was difficult to follow them easily and impossible without the MLS Live. If there was more than one nationally televised game then one would undoubtedly be on the spanish only channel Univision which doesnt help me in the slightest. That Univision broadcast would blackout the MLS Live coverage so I couldn’t watch it there either. I have NBCSC but I’m not sure that is included in basic cable packages so that doesn’t help many other people.

      Put all that together and its clear you have to be a pretty dedicated fan to even watch even one random game every week let alone your own team, especially if you are outside the local broadcast market. That has got to change to allow all USMNT fans to start supporting MLS (as they should).

      • First of all, I applad the effort! Secondly, if someone lives more than 3 hours away from a city that has a team, then I agree that things are different and the threshold is higher. I would still expect someone like you to follow play-offs, watch MLS Cup and perhaps watch big games like Seattle-Portland. I believe that NBCSN is available to vast majority of people. And I also believe that between them and ESPN that has been on average about 1.5 games per week

    • Great comment. Thanks. One thing they could do immediately–take away a DP and double the cap. It wouldn’t make much of a financial difference for those teams with 3 DP’s and i think it would improve the quality of play if you could pay more guys in the $200 to $400 k range. An example I used elsewhere is 1 Dempsey vs. 10 players getting $500 k. I’m a big Dempsey fan, but I’d take the 10 players every time.

    • Really. You support Sunderland, Palace, Fulham, Norwich, etc? Some fans scream they want pro/rel but they even don’t support relegation candidates. They support teams like ManU who never have the threat of relegation. The reality is fans enjoy when others are relegated, but dread the thought of their club being relegated.

      • most American soccer fans i know support teams that have American players on them. So for awhile it was Fulham. Now it seems to be Stoke and Sunderland.

      • Thats completely different. Americans watch American players but they don’t care what happens to the team. If they had a vested interest in the team (not only the player) they would understand how fearful some of the fans of lower premiership sides are that their team will be relegated and end up like Leeds, Sheffield United, Wolves, or Pompey.

        We don’t have that here. We just get to sit back and watch the crash without being a part of it. If pro/rel was here you might still like it but you would definitely have a different opinion of it.

  3. Are these rating considering other outlets? Because I bought a ROKU specifically for MLS. Do these ratings consider those media as well? I don’t know how this works so one bit and would like to better understand.

    • Ratings are usually driven by “Nielsen families” — paid or volunteer TV watchers who have a monitoring device on their TVs (or perhaps some keep a hard copy viewing diary — I did when I was a watcher back in the 90s). Their viewing habits are extrapolated to give an idea of how many households watch a specific show.

      Online viewing can be counted pretty easily, but they usually are included separately. And someone show ask FirstRowSports how many people *really* watch MLS games in the US. 🙂

  4. man, some of these comments take me back to the early years of our league – Mickey Mouse, it will fail, it sucks…and yet here we are. Do we still have a ton of work to do? Yup. But we are trying and doing what we can – whcih is a heck a lot better than those who take the easy path to bash a league they never had the courage to stand behind. I love other leagues as well and grew up a life long Manchester United fan. I love Man U and the quality of the Prem and the other top leagues but DC uniTed and MLS are No. 1 in my heart. Why? Because they are ours and I will do all I can to help it succeed.

    This is why the Accington Stanley’s of thw worl exist because they certainly may not have the quality but they have the love and support of people who know the value of owning and enjoying somethig that is theirs, unlike many who latch onto the existing success of others while they thumb their nose at wht is turely theirs.

  5. These “reports” are sponsored by the networks and publicists who are getting ready to bargain for the MLS rights that expire soon. This is a common ploy, you bend a few stats to give you a better prognosis for your side of the bargaining table. The facts are, while viewership is up for WNBA, the demographic groups watching are not the best. Soccer on the other hand appeals to the best demographics markets, except the older, male high income bracket (ie Golf) ESPN has spend considerable more for the rights fees for the WNBA as it is tied to the very lucrative NBA propert rights.

    ESPN hold the rights for the WNBA and they market and advertise the hell out of it on their NBA, college football and other properties. Something they DO NOT DO with the MLS properties.

    ESPN has been a poor rights holder for the MLS and attempts like this show they want to lo-ball the negotiations. Ives has done a bit of a disservice in not recognizing the trap ESPN iand its surrogates s trying to lay.

    It will be somewhat of a blow if ESPN does not spend some cash and retain some of the MLS rights, BUT, with NBCsn and the Fox Sports network and now CBS looking to a new sports network , there will be a lot of media companies looking for content and media rights. Soccer fits the bill for it’s appeal in most of the desirable age group and media markets.

    Do not let the spin deter the MLS from negotiating a great deal. The MLS is s great property and with the lead-up to the WC, the next great leap soccer in America will take, is a measurable increase in rights fees, one that will increase salary levels across the board, bring back USMNT stars to this country and bring exiting new (and old) foreign stars to these shores.

  6. Not surprising at all — soccer isn’t a major sport in the US.
    Don’t really care that WNBA has better ratings.

    When I watch MLS on TV I am happy with the quality. Handful of world class goals this season. Proud that we have an improving league.

  7. Not really surprising. Why would anybody watch MLS when you can watch much better games from the best leagues in the world?
    SS stadiums, packed houses and famous over the hill players don’t mean much if the product on the field sucks.
    Even the Liga MX games are way better than what you can get from MLS.
    If they want me to watch their games they need to put something worth watching on the field otherwise I got plenty of better options.

      • I agree with you Yevgeniy, but the league can only just get by on fans like us.

        MLS sees a catch 22 here. It needs more money to pay for better players to attract more money. Other popular US leagues use TV revenue as a primary means of closing that loop, and this isn’t an option for most if not all MLS teams.

        Ultimately, MLS needs to keep teams from losing money in the near term, attract stronger owners with deeper pockets, and THEN spend more on players as circumstances and finances allow. It will be a slow build yet, but with more SS Stadiums — and indicators like NYCFC and Orlando — I think we’ll make another decent jump in quality in 3-4 years.

      • That’s fair. For what it’s worth, I think they spend a ridiculously low percentage of revenues on salaries. But as is, quality is decent and competition is great. The quality justifies more eyeballs at this point

  8. The NHL’s regular season national ratings aren’t much better than MLS’s or WNBA’s. The NHL does fine because it understands that it is a gate dsriven league far more than a TV driven league. The same is true for MLS. The WNBA is at its high-water mark. It won’t go any higher. MLS needs to conectrate on getting payiong customers into the stands and buiuldiung regional ratings. Once that is done it can concentrate more on national ratings.

    One big problem facing MLS on the national ratings front is the playoffs get lost in the sea of college football, then profootball, then the NHL and NBA starting their seasons. There are no or few decent time spots for MLS playoff games.

    • Look at the TV ratings for NHL playoff games them come back and say this again with a straight face. The NHL is booming, and their biggest games get big ratings.

      There’s always going to be competition for TV.

  9. I played soccer in the early 70’s, after learning it in a college gym class in the 60’s. Hardly anyone knew what soccer was back then, just some foreign game you played with your feet. I remember when about the only soccer game on TV was the World Cup finals. And you never saw any articles in the newspaper sports section. After the US qualified in 1990 they started to show more WC games. I remember the start of the MLS. I have watched soccer slowly but steadily increase its popularity because it really is the beautiful game. This latest report is disappointing, but that’s all. Who knows the reasons? Lots of possibilities. What’s more important is that attendance wise, MLS is approaching a per game average of many MLB teams and other more established sports. This is just a bump in the road.

    • Amen Gary. I was there too. Tulsa drawing 15k was deemed above average, of course no games on TV….and almost no one knew we had a league.

      At least now you have trolls making fools of themselves who know there is a league.

    • Interesting insight and perspective about the growth of US soccer! When I came to Oregon in 1954, there were only a couple of college soccer teams and about 6 amateur teams in Portland made-up of immigrants like me. Now, the Timbers are known across the US and little school kids are playing soccer every day during recess. Hopefully this great growth in US soccer will continue. I also believe US parents are becoming more interested in getting their kids to play the fairly safe and very healthy sport of soccer versus the violent contact sports such as football or hockey.

  10. Americans are creatures of habit.

    Get a consistent marquis time slot. Flex scheduling. Always put the best match up in the fixed slot. Boom. Off to the races.

    Here’s a bigger hint: Clint Dempsey is not a TV draw. The casual fan drives the media markets. The casual soccer fan has no idea who Clint Dempsey is.

    Most importantly–


    For some inexplicable reason player brand creation isn’t a big deal here. Get these guys to take their shirts off. Do some modeling.

    Lionel Messi being a wild, wild outlier–the stars are sex symbols. Get the moms. Get the teenage girls.

    Cristiano Ronaldo has a female fan club larger than the entire domestic viewership of MLS.

    • Sorry to say, but some of these guys can barely hold a microphone, just don’t have the looks or charisma for primetime TV. There are only so many Beckhams and Ronaldos in the world, and one of them just retired. Might as well ask for us to develop the next Messi.

      • There are some really good looking guys in MLS with great physique for male modeling. Lean muscle.

        Is it hard to build the charisma? Yeah. But luckily professional athletes are generally of that mindset.

  11. Most of you guys that take this as an opportunity to just hate on MLS are cnuts. You should support your league so it can become the EPL or La Liga instead of complaining that the quality is not good enough. Those ratings and the dollars that come from them are the only way you MLS to grow into a top league.

  12. I’m all for in the beginning of the season to help people get into it is put games on directly after the noon EPL match. In the northern US and Canada its the perfect time of year to schedule day games (enjoy higher temps) and keep people watching soccer all day.
    I know for myself i’m not going to do a 4hr round trip drive or 5hr round trip train ride to watch the revs or redbull just to freeze and then get home at midnight.
    This would also work at the end of the season as well to get people more involved in upcoming playoffs.
    During the summer I have no helpful solutions.

  13. relax. the league is making progress. for the first time, this 45 year veteran soccer fan, watched the MLS playoffs. pretty good stuff.

  14. Just like everyone else says, we need standard times. The EPL has an early Saturday match, followed by a bulk of matches at the same time on Saturday afternoon and then a late Saturday match. This is generally the schedule on Sunday, just with fewer matches and no late match. Then they also have Monday and Wednesday night games.

    What MLS needs to do is have set times for matches on the weekends. Have most matches on Saturdays 1 PM to 7 PM EST windows. No more 10 PM EST games for those west coast match ups. Seattle vs Portland should be a national draw but most people have plans on a weekend night so no wonder that time slot doesn’t draw.

    Have the same window on Sundays as well, just with less matches like the EPL. Loading up on Saturdays is a good idea because there isn’t much on TV during the afternoon and early evening on Saturday. College football only overlaps with a couple months of the MLS schedule. Also make Tuesday and Wednesday the weekday prime time days for MLS. Always a 7:30 PM EST start like the NFL does for its Monday and Thursday games. You could do a doubleheader some weeks for some of those west coast games, not an ideal slot but it would still give the league exposure knowing that every Tuesday and Wednesday night there is a MLS game on NBCSN. I chose Tuesday and Wednesday because the NFL has Monday and Thursday and the NBA does Thursday games as well.

    • Every team in England is in the same time zone and we have 3 here. Also, there is a lot more variation in the weather here. Who wants to play during the day in the summer in Texas, for example? I think you have to respect your home fans first and that means playing at a time that brings the most fans into the stands. That may not be the best time to get ratings, unfortunately.

      • 3 time zones? Did we lose one somewhere along the way? Oh and don’t forget Alaska and Hawaii. So really there’s 6 time zones across the 50 states, 4 for the contiguous 48.

    • MLS teams are concerned about gate and concession revenue in the current environment, and is the reason why MLS has been pushing for soccer-specific stadiums. Not sure what kind of gate figures you’ll get Tuesday and Wednesday. To me, MLS is in a highly competitive business going after individual and family entertainment dollars. They’ve been doing ok there, and MLS isn’t going to forfeit that for increased TV ratings. And if they do, it will be a balanced and well-thought strategy.

      • Squeezing every game into that same window might be a bit much but I don’t think that making sure that 2 or 3 games are available in that Sat afternoon window every weekend would be too much to ask. Throw in flex scheduling to make sure they are enticing matchups as well and you’d have a winner.

  15. I think MLS needs to do more to promote the and build up the CCL matches. The one thing NBA NFL and NBA have in common is they are the best in the world for that respective league. MLS is just never going to be that. However the one thing MLS has and those leagues don’t is international matches. You already have the US – Mexico rivaraly that draws well, why not do more to translate that to the club game. One of the best things about soccer is the global aspect, while other American sports are so isolated.

    • I agree. Only problem is CCL coverage would be CONCACAF’s problem not MLS’. That being said, CCL needs to be trumped up and given a more serious tone than the average league match in MLS when it is covered on TV. Fox Soccer Channel makes them seem like glorified friendly matches..

    • I agree but I think the salary cap will need to be raised before that can happen. Teams that are actually successful at champs league competition have deep rosters and MLS isn’t close to that. There is usually a pretty big drop off once you get passed the first couple bench players on even the deepest teams due to the salary cap.

      I guess if MLS was as popular as the NFL the size of the regions each team commands could make up for having a salary cap but that is also a long ways off.

  16. ESPN games are shown to infrequently to matter – unless you knew it was on, you would be lucky to flip to it by mistake. ESPN can’t even be bothered to show the results of matches on the bottom line much less showing highlights during SportsCenter.

    I like NBCSn’s converage, but nobody has it – so thats not helping here We wont get total control over 2 or 3 networks for games like the NFL does, so let’s look towards the NBA model and try to nail down one network, one day, one timeslot. Play back to back or even triple headers on big boy NBC on saturday or sunday afternoons like the ESPN Sunday Showcase NBA has on ABC. Only the best games for like 3 or 4 hours.

    We can still have our regional games, the odd game here and there on ESPN during the week – but there needs to be a huge showcase. We also need to claim a holiday to bombard the TV with games on… NBA has Christmas, MLB has 4th of July. NFL has Thanksgiving, we need something like this… Easter (just brainstoriming here)??

  17. I agree with what a lot of others are saying. This is a result of a lot of minor factors all adding up to dismal numbers.

    I wonder how the internet numbers are looking. Streaming on-demand is the future if you ask me. Even for sporting events. I wonder if it’s possible for MLS to work out a deal with HULU, Netflix, or Amazon Prime to stream their games.

  18. Anyone who is embarrassed by that needs to think about it for a second.
    Did you get left off of the junior high lunch table with the popular kids ?

    Soccer isn’t that popular in this country. Sure when the World Cup rolls around, sure when Manchester plays Manchester, or Seattle plays in a big game it is.
    But who cares ? Why would I care one bit about this ? I don’t think the league is folding, it is great soccer, enjoy it.
    Listening to guys named Snordo who don’t know anything about soccer rip on soccer in this country ? Is that what you want your life to be, caring about his rediculous opinion ? No.

  19. MLS has made tremendous progress, especially when you consider it didn’t exist 18 years ago and now has 19 teams (and possibly 24 soon), most in soccer specific stadiums, with average attendance higher than the NBA and NHL. But tv ratings are what MLS really needs to get to the next level. Being able to get big dollars for tv rights is how MLS teams will be able to increasetheir budgets and attract a higher caliber of player.

  20. Its been stated before but they need to do some flex scheduling and put the game at a set time each week. It is impossible to know when a game will be on national television. I know NBCSN did some on Friday night this year but it was random and ESPN usually does something Sunday night but again it isnt a set time.

  21. I would watch games but I don’t have cable so can’t.

    I subscribe to MLS Live which blocks many of the good games.

    I watch all the the champions league games on-demand online, why can’t MLS do the same?

    Seems like they are shutting out many viewers by going with the closed networks and choosing odd times that their possible viewers don’t like.

    • Not sure what you mean by on-demand. MLS Live had Full Matches available usually within a day of the match if you wanted to watch it online.

  22. Also, can we get rid of the slew of obnoxious, grating commentators for these matches (and the clueless ones, don’t forget them)? Not saying there aren’t any good ones, but I just find myself loosing patience and more likely to stop watching if the commentary is bad in addition to the play.

  23. The MLS scheduling, as it currently stands is atrocious. The marquee playoff games are on at terrible times and the regular season schedule is a complete crap shoot. You never know what time or day the games are on. This needs to be fixed immediately for the league to be successful. I don’t know how they MLS didn’t make a stronger attempt to improve this leading up to re-negotiations with the various tv networks. Hopefully Gary Stevenson can improve the situation significantly this coming season. There is absolutely no reason to maintain the sub-standard schedule that is currently in place. It’s not rocket science. MLS should advertise a lot smarter too. No casual fans have any clue about the playoff situation or even that it’s going on…ummmm was going on and will pick up again in a few weeks. ugh. c’mon now! The MLS business model has been very smart the past 10 years. The sudden expansion and awful scheduling are detrimental and need to be fixed asap to get more lucrative TV contracts which will lead to more quality players and play which in the long term is a win win for all. It can be done. Hopefully the powers that be hire some quality people and don’t execute the 5-10 year plan recklessly.

    The WNBA comparison only shows that the national MLS tv schedule is extremely poor. nothing else. I’d bet most MLS fans only watch their team and then European leagues. Not all, but a large %. DOOOP

    • The WBNA is run by the NBA; that is how that unwatchable league survives. If the WNBA is ran by some Joe Schmoe that has no NBA connections, the league would have been gone years ago.

    • MLS needs a flex schedule like the NFL does to show the best teams on national TV. Last week of the season should be scheduled all in one day to create viewership and buzz for the league. As for the MLS playoffs, the schedule is terrible as well especially the MLS Conference Finals, one game Sat, one game Sunday. To add spice to the league, just like the NBA, NHL, NFL and MLB, have their own network 24/7 to show exclusive coverage like postgame interviews from the players and press conference from the coaches on both sides. Carry some of the USOC tournament games on that channel as well.

  24. Damn, I watch MLS games pretty much anytime they’re on tv. Figured other people did too, wow was I wrong. Still love the league, and will continue my viewership from here in my living room in the Midwest. It’s my way of supporting the league (no local MLS team here), and I’ve liked watching it more and more over the last few years. Hope this gets turned around, because that headline does not look good for anyone. I can already here the laughs from the MLB$NFL$NBA$ fans now. No disrespect to women’s hoops, keep ballin’ ladies. Just need to figure out what’s goin on with this, no reason MLS shouldn’t have better viewership.

    Best of luck in the future, and I hope you get the right team in place to work on these ratings. Stay strong, god bless.

    P.S. pleeeeeeeaaasssssseee no silly gimmicks, let’s keep things classy around here.

    Best Regards, HC

  25. Well, it’s hard to spin this in a good way, but there are a few reasons to think that it will get better:

    1. Bumps from other soccer events near a crucial tipping point for soccer fandom in this country. MLS ratings got a significant bump when NBC acquired the EPL. WC2014 will add another bump, and the people the demographic MLS is trying to reach is constantly emerging.

    2. This was only the second year that MLS has had relatively widespread distribution. It’s still a relative newcomer to the TV market in a capacity greater than what ESPN2 previously aired.

    3. New TV contracts will have more flexibility, so the attractiveness of each individual game airing will go up.

    4. MLS attendance blows WNBA attendance out of the water.

  26. Lol yes this is embarrassing a little. Don’t mention it to your buddies when you are having convos by the water cooler at work. You have to remember that the WNBA is backed by the NBA they have a lot more pull than MLS, I’m not surprised that those numbers are low. Sure NBC has better production value but at least with Fox Soccer I knew where to tune in to watch it and it was simple. This has nothing to do with how a stadium looks or how many people attend because obviously the WNBA games have less than 8000. Truth be told this is Don Garber making mistakes in business deals as well as league structure your soccer fan in the USA is exposed to other leagues around the world and the way they work so when you see the MLS small salary cap, poor performance at international level (dom kinnear fielding reserves in crucial CCL matches), poor playoff format, who wants to go out of their way. I’m an MLS supporter I will look and for a game and watch. However when you’re exposed to other leagues that take thing serious even the liga MX which knows 99% percent of the time they will win the CCL still take it serious and MLS teams don’t then why watch same with the playoff formats. Look at Houston or the revs cruise by all year long with crappie games all season just to sneaky in at the playoffs to turn it on. Playoff format needs to change with only the top three making it with the first place of each conference seeded and second and third place play to make it to the conference final. But until we understand that the whole we are Americans and it has to be how we do it then this will continue.

    • Just off the top of my head, I’m guessing it was the US vs. Mexico from Columbus. I remember reading that it got very high ratings and beat out a number of higher profile sporting events for that week.

      • US vs mexico 2013 was the highest rated game ever

        2.5 million on ESPN
        5 million on the spanish stations

        US soccer ratings dont correlate with MLS ratings. US soccer is the highest quality of soccer in the US and playing other countries adds to the ratings

  27. As someone who has played soccer my entire life and really wants the game to develop in this country it’s a bit troubling to see that MLS still hasn’t really taken off on the television side of things. I think having most of their games played on NBC Sports Network does hurt. Not too many people have this channel and I think MLS should work out a deal where more of their games are played on the flagship NBC and/or on ESPN/ESPN2. These channels are mainstream and even though no one goes to WNBA games, it’s still easy for someone to turn to these channels and just watch for even a few minutes. Not too many households have that ability when MLS games are on TV packages that they don’t want to pay for. Everyone will pay for ESPN/ESPN2…NBCSN not so much.

    • ESPN doesn’t give a darn about MLS. Terrible time slots. Forget them. Far better to find a partner like NBC interested in showcasing the league.

      • I hear what you’re saying drew11, but I just hate the fact that NBC has placed most of MLS’s games on their Sports Network. I would love to see more and more games be placed on their flagship NBC channel, but unfortunately because of their TV shows that aired during Primetime hours during the week, I don’t see MLS breaking into that lineup. So that means only Saturday afternoon/evening games would be aired on NBC. Would love to see midweek games played on that channel or at least ESPN/ESPN2.

      • Sports Fan: I have DISH Network and NBC Sports Network is only offered on their most expensive package at $75/month. Their cheapest package is $40/month.

      • Wow, guess I’m lucky then. I have Mediacom cable/internet and was thinking about switching, but might stick with it. Nice to know I can still watch EPL and MLS games whenever. NBCSN really is pretty great with the soccer coverage. That sucks it’s not as widely available as I thought tho.

      • I agree! I really enjoy the coverage that MLS and BPL has on NBCSN….I just wish it was more easily available like what you have with Mediacom.

      • Christian is correct about DirecTV. Networks like Univision have been our savior since NBC started getting into the act with that bit of effective overpricing. Same problem with Fox’s changes.

  28. MLS has a much higher ceiling than the WNBA. This is a setback and MLS has a long way to go to get TV viewership but there are a lot of signs of growth. New teams and cities trying to get their own MLS teams. If the US does well in Brazil it will continue to help soccer in the US and that includes MLS which needs to get out of the way of the WC schedule.

  29. Oof, this isn’t good at all. Sure, there are a lot of factors that negatively influence the ratings (scheduling probably being the worst), but it’s definitely the biggest concern facing the league.

    The fact that MLS doesn’t hold its own against other sports is a negative, but the bigger problem is how it compares to other soccer leagues. Ratings for the Premier League and Champions League keep going UP, and MLS is trending down. And let’s face it, the money in sports nowadays is in TV. And it’s only going to increase in the coming years.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if the league is starting to seriously reconsider their player acquisition and salary budgets. Stars (in their prime) = ratings = $.

    • You sir are spot on… MLS has got to figure a way to enhance TV revenue while at the same time not going broke ala NASL 1.0 with player salaries… More overseas investors? Getting away from the single entitiy format? Let clubs control their destiny? In US Soccer only the strong should survive.

      • Heh, it’s pretty comical that you can be 100% sure that you’re right. And have decided to make a blanket statement with nothing to back up your argument.

        Here’s one quick reason why it ISN’T just down to scheduling. MLS can’t hold viewers from other leagues. Case in point. Both MLS and the Premier League were on Fox Soccer for many years, and this fall were both on NBC Sports. Both networks promoted MLS matches heavily during the Premier League matches, and quite often scheduled MLS matches IMMEDIATELY after the late Premier League matches on weekends. But MLS has never been able to even get 40% of the Premier League’s ratings.

        NBC Sports has done a great job with the Premier League this year, and the ratings backed it up. 391,000 viewers averaged for every match, and the big ones drawing over 900,000. They also did a great job promoting MLS during those broadcasts, and specifically telling viewers when the next MLS broadcast would be on.

        The end result? Just a 20,000 viewer increase for MLS. So no, not JUST scheduling.

  30. Yes, and TV networks should only show MLS games with full stadiums. If that means only games from Portland and Seattle, then so be it. Empty stadiums on national broadcasts are terrible for image.

    • Kansas City, Portland, or Seattle.

      Fixed for you. Sporting Park has 35 consecutive sellouts. The only question when it comes to fans there is how many will be standing on the concourse over the Cauldron.

      Why is it I can turn on the TV and find a WNBA game on the Four-Letter-Network whenever I look up during the season. OTOH, I have to search this page twice a week to discover ‘if’ there’s a game on TV that I can watch.

      More than anything, THAT is the prime factor to me. WNBA is on regularly, usually counterprogrammed against something its market wouldn’t watch. And honestly isn’t competing with MLS in anything but the vaguest sense. But MLS is never on at a convenient time. It’s usually programmed either so late at night working people can’t watch it, or slammed against other sports that guys do watch.

      I’ll support the League whenever it’s on. But I’ve missed a lot of games because I didn’t know when they’d be.

  31. Well, I am one who is watching as many MLS games as I can, even the regional broadcasts of Comcast Sportsnet Houston.

    I love the business model MLS operates under, but the bottom line is that to be successful in this country they are eventually going to have to start paying players more to attract the top talent.

    • I never know which games I can actually watch (i.e., which games are on ESPN, NBC, Fox Sports Whatever). And yes, I’m not one to stay up for a 10:30 or 11pm ET game on the West Coast. I do however try to catch games if my schedule allows and it actually happens to be televised on a major network (still disappointed with the playoff games that were only available through MLS Network or DirectKick or whatever it is called).

    • I also watch tons of MLS games, usually on MLS Live and I get the regional broadcasts of the Fire on Comcast Sports Network here in Chicago. MLS makes all their programming information available on their website, and any game on a major network or in your local viewing area will be blacked-out on MLS LIve. But otherwise, MLS Live has been a great bargain this year.

      • The one that’s allowed pro soccer to survive for 17 years in this country and still be on an upswing?

        Yeah, I’m a pretty big fan of that.

  32. for about a flex schedule…which has been floating around of late. at least set it up for the chance of a good game! no more primetime coverage of low table matches.

  33. ALL the blame goes on the owners and their stadiums !

    Watching games like: fc dallas, ne revs, san jose earthquakes, dc united, columbus crew, and the ridiculous roof on the Houston dynamo stadium where its puts blocks of shade on the field is not pleasing to the eye

    Next comes stadium placement by not having a world class stadium in the downtown, you built it out in the ghetto or suburbs: Chicago fire and Philadelphia

    Like Lalas said: Perception is reality.

    Formula for TV ratings ladies and gentlemen

    World class (40,000 – 30,000) stadiums in prime downtown locations in an area with restaurants and bars + More fans/packed stadium = more revenue

    More revenue = salary cap increase and quality players

    quality players = more TV ratings

      • I think the poster was blaringly clear that people aren’t tuning in due to lack of quality players. Not sure how you could miss that point…

      • Well he has one line about players and three paragraphs about stadiums so I don’t know how you missed that.

      • Actually Lewd, I think that you missed the missed the point. It was a poorly structured argument on Love it or Leave it’s part as well. He discussed stadiums, but never connect stadiums to quality players. Just one disconnected line.

    • It makes sense. Watching games with lame atmospheres like Dallas, Cbus, NE, etc is very difficult. As a neutral, it’s much easier and exciting to watch a game in KC, Pdx and Seattle due to the awesome atmosphere. My friends who don’t give a crap about soccer say the same thing.

      SSS were/are awesome for the league, but MLS team owners need to address the issues ASAP for new stadiums. Make sure a roof is over the supporters section so they can actually be heard. I don’t care what the civil engineers say, it makes a difference.

  34. Hahahahahaha. That is so pathetic. Further proof that MLS is a sad league. People only show up to games because they like to jump around and yell not to actually to watch the sad display of “professional soccer” on the field where starters make less than school teachers. Soccer is supposed to be really popular in Portland and Seattle but their most hardcore fans show up and don’t even watch the game. No one wants to watch the MLS on TV. Why would you?

    Women’s Basketball. Think about that for a minute.

    • The city of Orlando thought about it and put down $40 million on MLS. Is that pathetic? What is really pathetic is soccer snobs. They need to find another hipster hobby because soccer is fast going mainstream in the US.

    • I’m a Timbers Army STH and I laugh at your accusation. I think maybe you should remove your cranium from your rectum before you speak. But you are probably just another Johnny-come-lately Barca/Chelsea fan. Oh, did I make an assumption? That’s because you come off as an absolute a$$.

    • No, the problem is people like YOU! Being a soccer fan in US, you should support your league or at the very minimum not be excited about its failures. If all people like YOU followed the league, the league would have 3 times more money to work with.

    • “Further proof that MLS is a sad league. People only show up to games because they like to jump around and yell not to actually to watch the sad display of “professional soccer””

      A bit harsh, but probably true to a certain extent. I was in Portland last week and a couple of friends of mine to my surprise said they were planning to go to a Timbers game. They said they weren’t Timbers’ fans but just wanted to join in with the chanting and singing. It makes me wonder how many in the stands are actual soccer fans and how many are there just for the atmosphere.

      • I guess I’d argue, does it matter? I mean, sure we want more “truly engaged” fans of soccer, but think about it from this angle, how many people go to watch a baseball game in person are actually FANS of baseball? I don’t know about you, but in LA it’s certainly the minority.

        Let’s get people into the sport to any degree possible, the game will come to them.

    • The amount of people that “jump around and yell” at MLS games is a very small minority in every stadium I’ve ever seen.

      So this post is pretty pathetic, frankly.

  35. Not surprising. MLS experiencing intense competition for eyeballs with lots of leagues that have superior players and better programming packages. Unless you have a defined rooting interest with an MLS team, there are probably 20 live games on TV per week that are higher quality than the best MLS game.

    If MLS wants to compete on TV, they have to get the quality on the field up to EPL/La Liga/Bundesliga standards. Or….MLS can just go with what they have that is special which is access to live soccer in their local markets. When you’re actually at the game, it’s a blast and those first touches don’t look so bad. The Euro leagues cannot offer than same attachment for the local fan.

  36. Nielson ratings are wildly inaccurate, but part of the problem is that MLS doesn’t seem to have a constant schedule on TV. I know NFL games are Sunday 1pm, 4pm and 8pm, plus MNF and maybe a surprise Thursday game. MLS is sometimes Friday night, sometimes Saturday and sometimes Sunday. Depending on what game is scheduled to be aired, it may be 4pm, 8pm, or 11pm. Personally, this makes me not plan to watch, like I do with NFL games.

    How about MLS chooses one day for weekend games and some set times and stick with it?

    • They should move them to the day, right after EPL games. They could have a East Coast game followed by a West Coast game with flexible scheduling so you get the best game on TV.

      Its kinda weird that their biggest demographic is people in their 20s and they put the games in time slots reserved for going out at night.

      • I would say that is not a bad idea, but then you compete with college football and NFL on weekends. The best might be Thursday and Friday nights.

      • agree, other than a big NBA match up when the seasons cross, I have often wonder, why MLS does not claim Friday nights 7:30, as well Monday night when NFL season is over, which they cn have from April up to September, also more day game on saturdays & Sundays. MLS need to spend time to claim the calender when other leagues are down.

    • I think you’ve hit the nail on the head so to speak. I try to watch MLS games when I can, but I have to go out of my way to check teams schedules and start times and then hunt and find what channel a game is on. The NFL became the dominant force in American sports for a variety of reasons, but one of them is for sure the consistency in when games are on. Before branching out with different days and times in the past decade you had YEARS of knowing that football matches were either Sunday at 1 or 4 pm and one game Monday night.

      MLS needs to settle on a day/time schedule for their games and then own it if they ever want to get anywhere with tv viewership. Human beings are creatures of habit, and there’s few things more habit forming than tv schedules.

    • while i still think this is pathetic, there are plenty of factors for this. like you said, Nielson ratings can no longer be counted on as accurate or representative of TV viewership. i’d like to see the numbers for legal online streaming as well.

    • This is absolutely right. There should be a national game every Friday evening, and Saturday games should be in the afternoon when possible, to take advantage of Premiership lead ins.

  37. Have you seen the timeslots that MLS has? Sundays at 11 PM?

    First off, an MLS fan doesn’t know when the games are on, as it is a different time every week. Plus, seems like a LOT of the games are on “TV dead time” – late Saturday and Sunday nights.

    I am surprised though that the WNBA is beating it. Wonder why WNBA is getting 8k fans a game when there are so many people interested in tuning in? How can a game only get 8k to attend if there are 250-300K people watching on tv?

    • Article says that most wnba viewers are african-american men. Makes sense, they are too ashamed to say that they go to a game but will watch it on tv at home, haha.

      • Entertaining theory but in my case, it’s got nothing to do with being ashamed to go to attend WNBA games.

        Honestly, between MLS, NASL, USLPRO, NWSL, early season NCAA soccer–then throw in other NCAA sports, of course, NFL–I just don’t get out to see my local WNBA team, the Washington Mystics the way that I would like to. I wish that I did. But I do enjoy watching them on tv when I can. Every year, I say the same thing—I’m gonna take my kid to. Mystics game and I’m gonna pick a NASCAR driver to be “my guy” and really give a Cup chase a try without falling by the wayside.

        I think it’s cool that there other Bruthas checking out WNBA games. I wouldn’t have guessed that. Nice surprise, in my book.

  38. Embarassing but true, most ppl who watch a mls team are at the stadium or a bar watching it.

    A lot can be improved, better timespots more nationally recognizable players..

    • What bar are you at? I was once at the a bar in San Francisco watching a Quakes-Galaxy game (aka, the local team against it’s arch rival) and they changed the channel in the middle of the 1st half for a random mid-conference college football game.

  39. The article should also say that most WNBA teams average less than 8,000 people attending the games. Many less than 7000, and some less than 6000.

    People like basketball, but opt to watch on TV than take the time to go to the WNBA games.

    • You’re missing the point. It’s not a one or the other situation. Both attendance and ratings are vital to league success. It’s the difference between the NBA and NHL. NBA has good attendance and good ratings on a huge network like ESPN. Hockey has similarly good attendance but not so good ratings on a smaller network like NBCSN.

      That difference TV money is huge, it’s even bigger to a fledgling league like MLS.

  40. Flashy headline. Not exactly fair. Definitely a little apples to oranges. Different timeslots, different competition for viewers, etc. That said, it is a little concerning for MLS in terms of landing a decent contract going forward.

    Since MLS is still pretty regional, I would be curious to see how WNBA teams did in their own markets. Would also be interested in their attendance numbers. I also doubt they have anything like the fan support seen for MLS games.


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