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2014 MLS TV ratings trending up across networks

Season averages are out for MLS on ESPN and NBC Sports, though Univision is yet to release those figures. Ahead of a restructured TV package next season, how healthy is MLS on TV?


SoccerAmerica published an article yesterday which showed average ratings for several US networks, and in general the trend is good. While UniMas' average has yet to be released, ESPN and ESPN2 combined saw a 9 percent increase while NBCSN went up 27 percent in the final year of their MLS TV package.

Since the article didn't show was UniMas numbers, here's a comparison the numbers from 2013 showing the strength of UniMas relative to the other networks. ESPN had seven matches on the big network in 2013, and actually did better in 2014 with all but one match on ESPN2. With ESPN/2 numbers near a quarter million on average in 2014, I expect UniMas to turn in an especially healthy figure.

Network Rating
UniMas 229,000
ESPN/ESPN2 (combined) 222,000
ESPN2 197,000
ESPND 32,000
NBCSN 112,000

2013 was actually a down year for the English language networks, which is why the bounce back year in 2014 was so important. NBC Sports Network broke records this season on their way to their best ever average in their final season with the contract, while ESPN still isn't above their 2012 numbers.

We'll assume with just about everyone trending up that UniMas is still MLS' no.1 board cast outlet. It has been the only network with a consistent timeslot, Sundays at 3 Eastern, and MLS made an effort this season to give UniMas high profile matches while still providing an English language option through MLS Live. Hopefully English language networks will take some notes from what works for Univision.

Next season UniMas will switch from Sunday to a Friday night game of the week, while ESPN and Fox take over Sundays. NBCSN did 17 Friday night matches starting on July 4th, and those performed better than their yearlong average.  Consistency is the thing, moreso than a particular timeslot.

Fox Sports 1 followed the NBC Sports example this year putting playoff baseball games on the cable network in an attempt to force additional pickups. This isn't a return to the Fox Soccer days, even if it can feel like Fox's soccer packaging hasn't changed since then (it hasn't).