Last week's MLS TV ratings proved two trends we've noticed for awhile now: NBC Sports Network has been steady if not brilliant and the midseason friendlies aren't the draw they once were. LA Galaxy vs. Portland pulled solid numbers for their Saturday night broadcast.
MLS: ESPN2's Chicago-Club America game had 127K on Weds; NBCSN's Galaxy-Portland had 126K on Sat. ESPN2's DCU-Chivas had 97K on Fri.— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) July 16, 2013
That 126k for Portland-LA continues a few trends for NBC Sports Network. It's the fourth straight match with over 100k viewers. NBC Sports Network has broadcast seven matches this year which included a Cascadia Cup participant (three of which were Cascadia Cup matches) and only the preseason Desert Diamond Cup final between RSL and Seattle came in under 100k. Especially considering these NBC Sports west coast broadcasts don't kickoff until almost midnight on the east coast, the ratings aren't bad.
The numbers for ESPN2 are not as positive, however it's important to remember that although they involve MLS teams they're both meaningless friendlies. Messi and Friends was outperformed by MLS two weeks ago, and now these two friendlies with Liga MX teams were outperformed by all but one of ESPN2's MLS regular season matches this year. The bloom is off the rose on these friendlies. They won't go away so long as the gate receipts are good, but interest in MLS as a whole has surpassed interest in the friendlies nationwide.
It's also important to remember that Confederations Cup gave MLS a big boost recently and now MLS is going to have to carry it's own weight. Last week's ESPN broadcast of KC-Chicago drew 331k, ESPN2s last MLS broadcast drew 393k. That's all Confederations Cup bump; no one would argue that Sporting Kansas City has more of a fan base in the US than Club America.
That Fox Sports has Gold Cup coverage without an MLS to go along with it is a missed opportunity for synergy. I haven't seen US vs. Cuba ratings yet, they should be high since they were on broadcast TV, but I'll update this article when they come in.