The TV rating for this past Sunday evening's Major League Soccer match on ESPN failed to match what was the average viewership for league games showing on the ESPN family of networks. When you look at what that game was going up against, though, you'd have to consider the evening to be a success for the league and American soccer.
John Ourand of Sports Business Journal reported on Tuesday that Sunday's Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers match, a contest that kicked off at 9:00 pm ET, drew in a TV audience of 290,000 viewers. This figure is well under the reported average of 345,000 viewers for league matches airing on the ESPN family of networks, a number that was released at about the midway point of the 2012 season. MLS was hardly the only gig in town this past Sunday evening, however, and thus nobody should be too concerned about the TV rating for that game. Truth be told, 290,000 is actually a rather solid number when you examine all of the stats.
The San Diego Chargers at New Orleans Saints NFL Sunday Night Football game, which was significant for several reasons, began on NBC roughly 30 minutes before the MLS match kicked off on ESPN. That football game, according to a story posted on the TV By The Numbers website earlier this week, attracted over 18 million viewers. The same website also reported on Tuesday that Major League Baseball playoff games airing on two different networks right as the MLS match was taking place drew in over 5 million total viewers.
It would appear on the surface that MLS directly competing with both the National Football League and the MLB Playoffs is a bad idea. While I'd normally agree with such a statement, it does need to be pointed out that over 66,000 fans made the trek to CenturyLink Field for the Seattle vs. Portland showdown. That number combined with the 290,000 who watched the game via TV makes for a figure that is greater than the average viewership for league contests that was announced in the summer. It's also not known how many people watched the MLS match via ESPN3/Watch ESPN.
I find the number of viewers for Sunday's MLS match to be especially impressive because of the teams involved. Portland are currently near the very bottom of the league table and have no chance of making the playoffs this fall. Seattle have clinched a postseason berth, but they are hardly a side filled with star players who are recognizable to casual sports fans. Eddie Johnson and Fredy Montero are undeniably very talented footballers, but you can't compare them with the likes of Thierry Henry, David Beckham or Landon Donovan when it comes to marketability in this country.
One could argue that the biggest attraction that catches the eye of a non-fan whenever Seattle or Portland host a match is the atmosphere created by the rabid fans at the contest and not the action that's taking place on the pitch. It honestly means little to me why people tuned into ESPN and not NBC or TNT/TBS on Sunday night. I just like that so many made that choice. Critics and MLS fans who don't live in Seattle or Portland can say whatever they want about "cardboard" or "hipster" supporters. The Sounders and Timbers are two franchises that do it right when it comes to turning league matches into can't miss events, and I have no problem with either team being featured on national TV multiple times during a season.
- Sports & Recreation
- Portland Timbers
- Seattle Sounders
- Major League Soccer