Big jump in MLS viewers on ESPN2 and NBCSN

[SOCCER ON THE AIR] Both ESPN and NBCSN experienced a big jump in viewers for their 2014 MLS regular-season broadcasts as compared to those during the 2013 season. Average viewers were up 9 percent for ESPN and ESPN2 combined, while the jump on NBCSN was 27 percent.

ESPN/ESPN2 Combined Viewership
2006 263,000 (23 on ESPN2)
2007 289,000 (25 on ESPN2)
2008 251,000 (27 on ESPN2)
2009 299,000 (1 on ESPN, 25 on ESPN2)
2010 253,000 (1 on ESPN, 25 on ESPN2)
2011 292,000 (4 on ESPN, 17 on ESPN2)
2012 311,000 (10 on ESPN, 10 on ESPN2)
2013 220,000 (7 on ESPN, 13 on ESPN2)
2014 240,000 (1 on ESPN, 17 on ESPN2)
ESPN2 Viewership
2006 263,000
2009 290,000
2010 249,000
2011 238,000
2012 232,000
2013 197,000
2014 225 000

ESPN Deportes Viewership
2014 42,000

While these numbers, which come in the final year of MLS's existing agreements with its media partners, are encouraging, they are tempered by several factors.

-- ESPN aired only 18 games, and just one on its flagship network, ESPN, in 2014. That's the fewest games its aired during the current term of the eight-year agreement that expires at the end of the year.

According to ESPN, the household U.S. rating held steady at 0.2 -- for a statistical increase of 1 percent -- while the average P2+ viewers jumped from 220,000 a game to 240,000 a game for an increase of 9 percent.

ESPN aired only one game on ESPN, down from seven in 2013, putting the increase in viewerships for the MLS broadcasts on ESPN2 alone at roughly 15 percent.

According to ESPN, the average viewers on ESPN Deportes, while still modest, jumped 31 percent to 42,000 a game.

The ESPN figures do not include the AT&T All-Star Game in which the MLS all-stars beat Bayern Munich, 2-1. The game averaged 863,000 viewers on ESPN2, the most for any all-star game ever on ESPN or ESPN2.

NBCSN Viewership
2012 125,000
2013 112,000
2014 142,000

-- This is the last year of MLS's agreement with NBC Sports Group, which has been able to boost its MLS viewership to record numbers because of the lead-in from its coverage of the English Premier League.

The  2014 MLS season was the first that began and ended during the 2014 season, and the 17 games NBCSN aired on Saturdays or Sundays during EPL weekends averaged 173,000 viewers.

As a matter of comparison, all other broadcasts -- during the summer, on Friday nights and one Saturday during the September FIFA fixture weekend -- averaged just 116,000 viewers.

Looking ahead ...

In 2015, Univision networks will air a Friday night game of the week, while Fox and ESPN will each air a game on Sunday nights.

NBCSN's series of 17 Friday night broadcasts that began on July 4 averaged 115,000.

ESPN2 aired five Sunday night games since the start of the NFL season, and they've averaged 178,000 viewers.

Both Friday and Sunday nights remain tough nights for programmers to break into, Friday because it is traditionally a low viewing night and Sunday because of the host of popular series on networks like HBO, Showtime and AMC.
5 comments about "Big jump in MLS viewers on ESPN2 and NBCSN".
  1. Clayton Davis, November 4, 2014 at 11:42 a.m.

    Pathetic ratings. They're actually worse than in 2006. I hope they have some kind of strategy for taking on the NFL next year. So far it just seems like the only thing they're doing besides improving the quality of play (apparently this has had no effect on ratings) is to create a new logo. I'm Skeptical that the new deal will bring much higher ratings because of the timeslots since all the casual fans of soccer that I know are big NFL fans. Some day things will click I'm sure, but I'm pessimistic after the high World Cup ratings failed to bring any lasting gains.

  2. Clayton Davis, November 4, 2014 at 12:47 p.m.

    If NBC had done tried to boost ratings like it did for the EPL, ratings would be higher. If ESPN did anything to boost ratings, I'm not aware of it. If MLS wants higher ratings it's going to have to get them itself.

  3. Footballer Forever, November 4, 2014 at 2:18 p.m.

    I am an avid football supporter of the US National team, MLS, Premier League. Football, proper football, not that eggball fake stuff, is my favorite sport. Even though I have not direct gain other than seeing a beautiful and exciting sport grow, I make sure to support it other than watching on tv. Due to the fact tv ratings can be flawed, besides watching on tv I even tune games via the broadcsster internet feed. More hardcore football fans, aka "soccer", should support and increase tv ratings by doing things that are ouf of the conventional than just complaining or comparing with other sports who have either monopolized the sporting landscape in one way or another. Only 1 football is in my heart and support it as such.

  4. James Froehlich, November 4, 2014 at 5:57 p.m.

    After nearly 20 years, I'm still waiting for the on-field product to improve! Please hurry I am in my 70's!!

  5. Footballer Forever, November 4, 2014 at 10:59 p.m.

    @James Froehlich

    Drop dead and go to hell already with such statement like that.

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