By Paul Kennedy
As mentioned before, lead-ins are hugely important for MLS national broadcasts.
MLS's two biggest television audiences of 2013 happen to have both been on ESPN -- the largest network for sports programming -- but they both also aired directly after Confederations Cup broadcasts.
Sunday's Philadelphia-New York game that followed the Spain-Nigeria Confederations Cup match averaged 323,000 viewers, up from 262,000 for the Portland-FC Dallas game on June 15.
Lead-ins during Euro 2012 and the 2012 Olympics -- events with much larger viewerships than the Confederations Cup -- accounted for some exceptionally large regular-season audiences for MLS games in 2012 that will make it almost impossible for 2013 MLS average viewerships to match last year's final average viewerships.
The Portland-Seattle game on ESPN averaged 888,000 viewers after the Italy-England Euro 2012 quarterfinal went to overtime and then penalty kicks and spilled over into the start time of the MLS match.
Five MLS broadcasts took place during the London Olympics when NBC Sports Network drew record audiences. Benefiting from the lead-ins of Olympic coverage, the five MLS games averaged 286,000 viewers. If you throw out those five games, the MLS average for 2012 would have been 99,000 viewers on NBCSN.
The two most recent NBCSN broadcasts drew average viewers of 149,000 (Seattle-Vancouver) and 133,000 (Portland-Colorado) -- the second and third largest of the year on NBCSN -- and pushed the season average up to 97,000, still down from the 110,000 average after 17 games in 2012.
The great unknown on NBCSN in 2013 is how its coverage of the English Premier League, beginning in August, will impact MLS audiences immediately following or later in the day.
MLS English-Language Viewers:
+/1 NETWORK (2013 AVG.)
+36% ESPN 293,000 (2 games)
-31% ESPN2 178,000 (8 games)
-12% NBCSN 97,000 (17 games)
Note: Percentage change is the increase or decrease over the network's average viewers after the same number of regular-season games in 2012.
CONFEDS CUP TRIPLE-DIGIT INCREASE.The Confederations Cup averaged 1.4 million viewers on Univision networks through the end of the group stage -- up 145 percent from coverage of the 2009 event (when Mexico was not entered). The final Mexico match -- a 2-1 win over Japan -- averaged 2.1 million viewers on Univision.
NWSL TV SCHEDULE.FOX Soccer's coverage of the NWSL regular season will kick off July 14 with a match between Seattle Reign FC and the Washington Spirit, which have all of one win between them in 21 games.
FOX Soccer will televise one game per week over the final six weeks of the regular season. All three playoff matches, including the final, will air on a FOX network to be determined.
2013 NWSL TV Schedule:
July 14 --Seattle vs. Washington. 8:30 p.m. FOX Soccer
July 21 -- Western NY vs. Sky Blue FC. 1:30 p.m. FOX Soccer
July 28 --Portland vs. Chicago. 7 p.m. FOX Soccer
Aug. 4 --Portland vs. FC Kansas City. 8:30 p.m. FOX Soccer
Aug. 10 --Washington vs. Seattle. 7 p.m. FOX Soccer
Aug. 17 --Western NY vs. Boston. 8 p.m. FOX Soccer
Aug. 24 --Semifinal 2 p.m. TBD
Aug. 24 --Semifinal 8 p.m. TBD
Aug. 31 --Championship, 8 p.m. TBD
Note:All times ET.
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