NBC's MLS challenge

Welcome to Soccer Business Insider, the weekly Soccer America e-newsletter with all the latest news and analysis on the soccer business front, from television to social media, MLS and the national teams to the grassroots.

By Paul Kennedy

Major League Soccer still has its work cut out to attract television viewers. Jon Miller, who is in charge of programming for NBC Sports, termed the overnight ratings for the first MLS game on NBC Sports Network "terrific," but the national viewing audience for FC Dallas-New York was still only 82,000. That's a fraction of NBC Sports Network's average audience for its coverage of the NHL (333,000).

But don't think for a moment NBC isn't high on MLS. Miller admitted he was blown away by the atmosphere at Monday's Portland-Philadelphia game played in a downpour.

"But I’ll be honest with you," he told reporters at halftime, "I’ve been with NBC for 34 years and I have never seen anything like this tonight. This has blown me away."

Miller added that it was incumbent upon NBC to capture the atmosphere at MLS games -- Portland was just one of five announced sellouts during First Week 2012 -- and transfer it to television.

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MORE TELEVISION. By contrast, Saturday's Vancouver-Montreal game was the most-watched MLS game ever in Canada, drawing an average audience of 541,000 viewers for the Impact's debut game on TSN (288,000) and RDS (253,000), according to BBM Canada.

-- Fox Soccer Plus has added the Scottish Premier League, reaching an agreement with Sportfive International for television rights for the remainder of the 2011-12 season through the 2013-2014 campaign. The first Old Firm derby between Glasgow powerhouses Celtic and Rangers will be carried March 25 (8:00 a.m. ET).

DEEP BENCH. Such is the growing recognition of the strides soccer is making that six executives working in soccer were cited on Sports Business Journal's annual Forty Under 40 listing of the sports industry's top 40 executives under the age of 40:

-- Chris McGowan, COO, Los Angeles Galaxy
-- Robb Heineman, President, CEO and co-owner, Sporting Kansas City
-- Bill Hogan, Managing Director, Fenway Sports Management
-- David Nathanson, Executive vice president and General Manager, Fox Soccer
-- Merritt Paulson, President and owner, Portland Timbers
-- David Wright, Senior vice president, global sponsorship, MLS/SUM

(Click here for the complete list.)

WANTED: UPSCALE FANS. The Chicago Fire is looking for 150 well-heeled soccer fans to plunk down $6,500-$7,500 per year to watch games from a new luxury stadium club at Toyota Park. The Second Star Club will offer valet parking, a private dining room and bar and exclusive box seating at midfield. The team is hoping to bring in upward of $1 million per year in annual memberships, which should more than offset revenue losses from the eight luxury suites, which lease for between $20,000 and $35,000 each per year.

FACEBOOK WATCH. Which MLS club did the best job of creating pre-season buzz? Gilt Edge Soccer Marketing  has all the FB figures.

NBC ONLINE. NBC has added ProSoccerTalk to its online sports properties. Long-time soccer journalist Steve Davis, who covered the Dallas Burn in the early days of MLS for Soccer America, has been pumping out an average of five stories a day at the new site.

CORPORATE SIDELINES. Wendy’s is now accepting applications from high school seniors in 27 sports, including soccer, for the 2012 Wendy’s High School Heisman Award, a program in conjunction with the organization that selects college football's Heisman Trophy.  Six female and six male national finalists will also receive an all-expense paid trip to New York City to attend the Wendy’s High School Heisman Awards Ceremony with their families in December. One male and one female national winner will earn $10,000 for their school. Winners are selected all the way down to the school level.

VIDEO PICK. Manchester City opened its third soccer field in the United States and second for the Boys and Girls Club of America with the unveiling of a field built in Miami in partnership with the UAE Embassy.

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1 comment about "NBC's MLS challenge".
  1. Ann Stanley, March 15, 2012 at 11:43 p.m.

    NBC needs to do some better advertising. I know some people who will watch any soccer at any time that did not know that NBS Sports would be carrying MLS games. I only knew from one commercial I saw.

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