NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman presents the MVP trophy at the 2023 final to Gotham FC's Midge Purce. Photo: Michael Janosz/ISI Photos
Viewership for the NWSL final between Gotham FC and OL Reign on CBS (817,000) was down 10.7 percent from the record viewership for the 2022 final also on CBS (915,000).
Top 5: Most watched NWSL broadcasts (CBS)
1. 2022 Championship Portland vs. KC Current, 915,000 (304,000)
2. 2023 Championship Gotham FC vs. OL Reign, 817,000 (327,000)
3. 2020 Challenge Cup Houston vs. Chicago, 653,000 (197,000)
4. 2020 Challenge Cup NC Courage vs. Portland, 572,000 (178,000)
5. 2021 Challenge Cup Portland vs. Gotham FC, 534,000 (134,000)
Note: In parentheses are viewers 18-49. Source: Skedball. Sports Media Watch.
But there was encouraging news in the viewing numbers for the 2023 final.
There were 327,000 viewers 18-49 on CBS for the final, breaking the previous high for an NWSL broadcast on CBS.
The 18-49 demo is the most coveted audience for advertisers and should be the core audience for a young and growing sport like women's pro soccer. But historically the share of viewers 18-49 to the total viewership has been relatively low, though not surprising given the network and the usual NWSL time slot. CBS? Saturday afternoons? Think golf.
Paramount+ streaming numbers for the final, according to CBS Sports, were up double digits from 2022, making the 2023 final the most-streamed NWSL match ever. At her state-of-the-league press conference on the eve of the final, NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman said there was an 83 percent increase in viewership for matches streaming on Paramount+.
While network television is important for a young league like the NWSL to get before new eyeballs, its media partners will look for the new subscribers it can gain or current subscribers it can retain on its pay platforms because of its NWSL coverage. Which makes those 2023 Paramount+ numbers important.
The $240 million broadcast agreement the NWSL reached with CBS, ESPN, Amazon and Scripps (Ion) includes a variety of free-to-air, cable and streaming platforms.
Berman was asked about the confusion of trying to find NWSL broadcasts on different networks, depending on the day, and the cost of paying for multiple cable and streaming platforms.
"This is an unfortunate reality for the consumer and the fan," she said. "Taking off my NWSL commissioner hat for a minute, I have two kids at home, and there is no sporting event that we go to watch without checking on the internet to see where it's going to be broadcast."
She termed that the "current reality, which is that everything is everywhere," but added that she was encouraged that the NWSL's new broadcast partners will work to ensure that fans can find league broadcasts.
Or go here, to Soccer on TV.
* Messi effect. MLSSoccer.com's Charles Boehm reported from Soccerex in Miami on the panel discussion with MLS commissioner Don Garber and Apple Senior Vice President of Services Eddy Cue on the first season of MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.
Cue, who lived in Miami 40 years ago, is the man behind iTunes, Apple Music, Maps and iCloud as well as Apple TV and Apple's MLS partnership. He spoke about the impact Lionel Messi's arrival has had.
“We've had more than a million viewers to watch the biggest games this season; no one expected that,” Cue said. "And it's always been, ‘Soccer is just around the corner.’ It's not around the corner now – it’s here, it’s now. And everyone in the world now knows about MLS, everyone knows about Inter Miami, thanks to Messi and the work that the league is doing."
• MLS Conference Semifinals
Saturday, November 25
No. 2 Orlando City vs. No. 3 Columbus, 5:30 pm. ET (Apple TV/MLS Season Pass)
No. 1 FC Cincinnati vs. No. 4 Philadelphia, 8 pm. ET (Apple TV/MLS Season Pass)
Sunday, November 26
No. 4 Houston vs. No. 8 Sporting KC, 7 pm. ET (Apple TV/MLS Season Pass/FS1/ Fox Deportes)
No. 2 Seattle vs. No. 3 LAFC, 9:30 pm. ET (Apple TV/MLS Season Pass)
• 'Next Goal Wins' update. SA's Scott French, easily the most knowledgeable movie buff we've ever known, did a deep dive into the making of "Next Goal Wins," the Hollywood treatment of the story of the American Samoa men's national team and its coach, Thomas Rongen.
French reported that "Next Goal Wins," which opened in movie theaters in Friday, has added value: Its release has spurred the streaming relaunch of the documentary (Nov. 24 on Apple's, Google's and Amazon's platforms, Dec. 1 on Vudu). He calls the documentary, which was released in 2014, a vital entry in soccer's film library and something of a counterpoint to the new film.
• The Coaching Academy locked in. Glenn Crooks' coaching show on SiriusXM FC 157 now airs every Wednesday at 1 p.m. ET and is repeated five times. It's also available 24/7 on the SXM app, which is free to subscribers.
Crooks has been hosting the show since 2016 and conducted over 1,000 interviews along the way. This week's guest was Steve Fell, a member of Gregg Berhalter's USMNT staff talking about recovery and injury mitigation. Upcoming guests will include MLS coaches Pat Noonan and Peter Vermes, whose teams are both in the conference semifinals
• Abrazos, Roberto. Our thoughts go out to longtime Spanish-language journalist Roberto Abramowitz, Crooks' colleague on NYCFC's broadcasts.
Abramowitz tweeted that he suffered a heart attack on Wednesday and is scheduled to have bypass surgery on Monday