By Paul Kennedy
With its television deals with ESPN (eight-year agreement) and NBC (three-year agreement) set to expire after the 2014 season, Major League Soccer enters a critical period on the television front.
Poor national television ratings have been the league's Achilles heel, as evidenced by the low ratings for its return to network television -- MLS's Portland-Seattle debut game on NBC in September 2012 was the lowest-rated sports program of the weekend with a 0.4 -- but MLS did get some good news in the form of a bump in national television ad sales in the 2012 regular season: an increase of 121 percent from $3.4 million to $7.5 million.
The figures were published by Nielsen in its "State of the Media: 2012 Year in Sports" report.
National television ad sales had fallen from from $4.3 million in 2010 to $3.4 million in 2011. MLS moved to NBC and NBC Sports Network after its agreement with Fox Soccer expired after the 2011 season.
-- Other MLS findings of note in the Nielsen report: Asian and African-American viewers of MLS Cup increased 267 percent and 130 percent, respectively, over the last three years.
GUS JOHNSON EXPERIMENT. Gus Johnson's debut on Fox Soccer with his play-by-play of the Real Madrid-Manchester United game dominated the attention of soccer tweeters on Wednesday afternoon. Reaction was generally positive ...
-- Richard Deitsch: "Casual fans and Gus lovers are pumped. Diehard soccer fans not as much. I'd say good news for Fox Sports for Game One." @richarddeitsch
-- Roger Bennett: "And on Gus Johnson front: Superior to Dennis Miller and Rush Limbaugh combined. Gent has 5 years to get into gameshape. He will be golden" @rogbennett
-- Matthew Doyle: "I'm enjoying Gus Johnson. Quite a bit, actually." @MLS_Analyst
-- Jeff Bradley: "In all seriousness, Gus was fine. Did not offend. Only criticism, was yapping about nothing when Ronaldo equalized. Teachable moment." @JerseyJBradley
-- Charles Boehm: "Has he been anointed already? I thought that was twitter's job! RT @sgevans: @cboehm soccer's American voice." @cboehm
My take? I'm still a Jim Nantz man.
One comment: The Johnson hype did overshadow the continuing strong work by the Fox studio crew: Rob Stone, Eric Wynalda and the improving Brian McBride. (But what was Mario Melchiot doing in the studio?)
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