With the stretch run to the playoffs upon us, NBC Sports has gone back to the old Fox Soccer "Soccer Night in America" Friday night window for an MLS game of the week. Lately it's featured high profile Western Conference match-ups, such as last week's Seattle Sounders vs. Real Salt Lake matchup that put the Sounders into the Supporters' Sheild lead. Unfortunately, the time slot hasn't been ratings gold:
MLS on TV: NBCSN's Real Salt Lake v Seattle drew 177K viewers.— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) September 17, 2013
Relative to NBC Sports' MLS ratings for the year, 177k isn't that bad. It's around where the last Friday broadcast fell (171k for Real Salt Lake - Portland), and the high for the year for MLS on NBC Sports remains only 209k for a Seattle - Portland tilt. It only looks not as good when compared to the EPL numbers NBC Sports puled on the same weekend.
Sunderland v Arsenal drew NBCSN's biggest audience last week (445K viewers). Southhampton v West Ham averaged 346K. ManU-Palace had 302K.— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) September 17, 2013
If we're going to break down TV numbers now's the perfect time to learn a few classic TV fan excuses. Anyone who loved Firefly deeply should know these two by heart right now: Friday night is an impossible slot and NBC Sports hasn't promoted MLS properly.
When it comes to the Friday night slot the excuse doesn't really hold up as the higher profile match-ups have performed 100% better than some of the low profile Saturday match-ups. The advertising holds some water, as the EPL on NBC coverage has benefited from an extensive advertising campaign both on TV and physical advertising in the nation's biggest TV market.
If there's something encouraging about the EPL numbers it's that NBC Sports' decision to prioritize matches that feature Americans (Jozy Altidore's Sunderland highest rated on NBC Sports, Tim Howard's Everton was the match of the week on NBC) has worked out.
Top sports nets in prime last week: ESPN (3.1M viewers), NFLN (973K), ESPN2 (480K), FS1 (227K), MLBN (192K), ESPNU (112K), NBCSN (75K).— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) September 17, 2013
ESPN has college football back, plus Monday Night Football, so not surprising that they're so far out ahead of the other networks. When it does decide to air MLS (ESPN is going on match 14, NBC Sports broadcast match 29 over the weekend) it tends to do quite well. NBC Sports has bulked up daytime with their EPL coverage, but outside of hockey season they lack the sort of property that can make them a contender like Fox Sports One.