By Paul Kennedy
Saturday's MLS Cup drew the fewest English-language viewers on record, so few in fact that the Spanish-language broadcast on UniMas outdrew drew the ESPN broadcast for the first time.
The average of 505,000 viewers for Sporting Kansas City-Real Salt Lake on ESPN was less than half the ESPN audience two years ago for what was supposed to be David Beckham's farewell game. He ended up playing another season for the LA Galaxy. This year's average viewership was down 37 percent compared to last year's audience for LA Galaxy-Houston II.
One small consolation: strong audiences in the Kansas City and Salt Lake City markets: peak ratings of 7.6 and 6.2, respectively (h/t: @stevelepore).
The Spanish-language audience on UniMas increased almost 6 percent from last year's audience to 514,000 viewers, more than double what they were only three years ago on another Univision network, Galavision.
The numbers are consistent with the trend during the 2013 regular season. Univision reported that the average viewers on UniMas' MLS regular-season broadcasts (223,000) topped those on ESPN2 (181,000).
Sports Business Daily had reported that the average viewership dropped 29 percent on ESPN/ESPN and 8 percent to 112,000 on NBCSN (which had benefited in 2012 from usually high viewerships due to lead-ins from its London Olympics coverage).
The rebranding of TeleFutura as UniMas and its strong soccer programming lineup -- including many of the Mexico national team games -- have made it a strong destination for Hispanic soccer fans -- a trend from which MLS is benefiting.
According to Univision, the UniMas MLS regular-season viewer had a median age of 38 years, younger than the MLS viewer on ESPN2 (40 years), NBCSN (41 years), NBC (46 years), ESPN (43 years).
MLS Cup Viewers (English-language)
YEAR: AVG. (NETWORK)
2013: 505,000 (ESPN)
2012: 797,000 (ESPN)
2011: 1,039,000 (ESPN)
2010: 748,000 (ESPN)
2008: 907,000 (ABC)
2007: 1,097,000 (ABC)
2004: n/a (ABC)
2003: 876,000 (ABC)
MLS Cup Viewers (Spanish-language)
2013: 514,000 (UniMas)
2012: 485,000 (*TeleFutura)
2010: 232,000 (Galavision)
*Rebranded UniMas in 2013.
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