EPL Week 1 on NBCSN: what the numbers tell us

By Paul Kennedy

The impact of English Premier League programming on NBCSN was evident in Week 1 of the EPL as the seven most-watched programs on the network the week of Aug.  12-18 were either live EPL matches or the weekend Premier League Live Studio show -- and the top six drew more average viewers than anything on NBCSN the week before.

Top NBCSN Programming (Aug. 12-18):
450,000 (1) Arsenal-Aston Villa (Saturday)
443,000 (2) Chelsea-Hull City (Sunday)
359,000 (3) Premier League Live Studio (Saturday)
298,000 (4) Premier League Live Studio (Sunday)
287,000 (5) Liverpool-Stoke City (Saturday)
279,000 (6) Premier League Live Studio (Saturday)
238,000 (7) Crystal Palace-Tottenham (Sunday)
Source: Son of the Bronx

What's the effect of the EPL on MLS? The lone MLS game of the weekend on NBCSN was the Saturday night New York-Philadelphia game, which averaged 110,000 viewers, up slightly from the average of 101,000 viewers for the 2013 season through 24 MLS games, but it kicked off long after the EPL programming ended so there was little spillover in terms of EPL viewers.

But the third airing of the excellent MLS Insider series right after the last Premier League Live Studio of the day on Saturday averaged 174,000.

Without the EPL lead-in, MLS Insider's first two airings averaged only 4,000 and 21,000 viewers on Friday.

SUNDAY SPORTS RATINGS.  The much-anticipated Seattle-Portland MLS game (10 p.m. ET start) pulled a 0.3 overnight rating on ESPN2. Some other Sunday sports ratings: 2.6 for the Little League World Series championship game on ABC (3 p.m. ET start), 1.9 for San Francisco-Minnesota preseason football on NBC (8 p.m. start) and 1.7 for Dodgers-Red Sox on ESPN (8 p.m. start). (ratings via @Ourand_SBJ)

WORTH READING. Jonathan Tannenwald of recently traveled to Bristol, Conn., and talked with ESPN executives John Skipper (president) and Brian Kweder (senior director of programming and acquisitions) about ESPN's soccer properties and plans going forward. (It will lose the FIFA rights after 2014 and MLS and U.S. rights are up at the end of next year.)

Some points worth emphasizing from the interview with Kweder, who handles soccer rights deals:

-- ESPN FC the website was the driving force behind getting ESPN FC the TV show on the air;
-- Rights of valuable soccer leagues are unusual in that they are generally for much shorter terms (three years for the EPL) than those offered for major American sports leagues (nine years for NFL);
-- While ESPN would love have more flexible scheduling of MLS games, Kweder "doesn't envy the challenge that Major League Soccer has with the soccer calendar."

ESPN FC on ESPN2 (Aug. 11-18):
68,000 Sunday Aug. 11 (FC Dallas-LA Galaxy postgame)
68,000 Sunday Aug. 11 (midnight)
104,000 Monday Aug. 12 (5:30 pm)
100,000 Tuesday Aug. 13 (5:30 pm)
162,000 Wednesday (Bosnia-USA postgame)
101,000 Wednesday Aug. 14 (5:30 pm)
169,000 Sunday Aug. 18 (midnight)
Note: ESPN FC was pre-empted by Little Little World Series coverage Thursday and Friday.
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