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MLS weighs its TV options

  • Goal.com, Friday, August 6, 2010 1:33 PM

As MLS's television contract with Fox Soccer Channel expires at the end of this season, and MLS execs have been in preliminary discussions with Versus about becoming a broadcast partner, Goal.com's Seth Vertelney looks at MLS's TV ratings.

Although attendance is up, big-name players are arriving, and new stadiums are springing up across the country, viewership has remained flat on ESPN2. MLS games have averaged a 0.2 household rating through 14 games according to Nielsen. The 0.2 share translates to roughly 251,000 viewers per game and means MLS has lower numbers than the WNBA.

On Fox Soccer Channel, MLS games average about 53,000 viewers according to USA Today. FSC's English Premier League matches averaged 142,000 viewers per match in 2009 and 84,000 in 2008. (The New York Post reported that MLS takes $20 million annually combined from all their TV partners, including a $2 million per year deal with FSC. The Post also reported that MLS games on Spanish-language broadcasts last season averaged significantly higher ratings than English-language broadcasts.)

Vertelney believes Versus, whose sports coverage includes NHL games, college basketball, college football and IndyCar Racing, would be a better home for MLS than FSC, while the league continues its ESPN deal. Versus is a proven commodity when it comes to driving up ratings and would give MLS exposure to a new, more diverse audience.

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