MLS Playoff Ratings on ESPN2 Continue to Beat Premier League


Thanks to Sports Media Watch for this nugget:

ESPN2 averaged a 0.2 U.S. rating and 254,000 viewers for its first two MLS Playoff telecasts. In particular, Dynamo/Sounders on October 29 drew a 0.2 and 274,000, while Galaxy/Chivas USA on November 1 drew a 0.1 and 233,000. ESPN Deportes averaged 63,000 viewers for the same two games, including 86,000 for Dynamo/Sounders and 39,000 for Galaxy/Chivas USA. (ESPN)

So while the ratings are down slightly from the Regular Season, the MLS continues to outdraw the Premier League on ESPN. According to our sister site, EPL Talk, the top flight in England has averaged about 247,000 viewers on ESPN this season, which is less than the MLS playoffs are averaging, and far fewer than the MLS Regular Season averaged.

When you factor in the Deportes audience in Spanish, the two leagues are not even competitive in terms of viewer ship. The Premier League does sell more merchandise in the United States, but clearly based on these numbers, has less casual fans than our domestic first division. Merchandise sales reflect hard core fandom, not mass interest. Much like Fox Soccer’s EPL ratings which are three times the network’s average MLS viewership, the pay channel appeals to hard core football fans, not casual sports fans.

Most EPL matches on ESPN are either non competitive matches involving top four clubs against the rest of the league or simply games that include two unattractive sides. MLS, on the other hand features competitive action and compelling story lines in each telecast. Given this reality, it is little wonder casual American TV viewers are voting with their remote controls for MLS over the EPL.

For those curious, the Mexican Primera Division continues to lead MLS and all other domestic championships on US television. ESPN 2’s Monday Night English Football (Afternoon in the US) telecast does lead MLS in average viewers, but since the majority of ESPN telecasts are on Saturday mornings, the head to head comparison favors MLS, whose fans are willing to flock to TVs to watch matches on several different nights a week.

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About Kartik Krishnaiyer

A lifelong lover of soccer, the beautiful game, he served from January 2010 until May 2013 as the Director of Communications and Public Relations for the North American Soccer League (NASL). Raised on the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the old NASL, Krishnaiyer previously hosted the American Soccer Show on the Champions Soccer Radio Network, the Major League Soccer Talk podcast and the EPL Talk Podcast. His soccer writing has been featured by several media outlets including The Guardian and The Telegraph. He is the author of the book Blue With Envy about Manchester City FC.
View all posts by Kartik Krishnaiyer →

33 Responses to MLS Playoff Ratings on ESPN2 Continue to Beat Premier League

  1. Kartik = MLS Tool says:

    Kartik, WTF has happened to you?

    From being the only respectable blogger willing to take on MLS and the USSF to absolute rubbish posts like this? I do know you like to bash English football, so I have to assume that propping up MLS and in fact misrepresenting what you call reality is part of such an agenda.

    First off, you make huge assumptions that TV ratings somehow point to popularity. These are stastical samples and the 7,000 viewer gap for a Nielson rating is



    The EPL average of 247,000 figures in an outlier game between Hull City and Chelsea that took place without any promotion as ESPN gained the rights to telecast the match less than 12 hours before kickoff. Take that game out, and suddenly you are at 253,000, right at the MLS Playoff number.


    You totally and utterly forget what you yourself have written about in the past which is that matches starting at 7:45 am ET/4:45AM PT, cannot be expected to have anything close to the same viewership of prime time telecasts.

    You forget completely that 0.01 and 0.2 ratings in prime time for any major cable network is a loss of money. Rerun programs do better than those two MLS games did.


    Your continued harping on the EPL being just four teams and MLS being more competitive and compelling is YOUR FREAKING MINDLESS OPINION. It is not fact, it is not even supported by the evidence of people, who like you used to do, actually objectively watch the sport and make judgments based on the evidence in front of them. True observers and analysts do not make statements based on what they want it to be, or in your case your out of control American patriotism and hatred for English football.

    The success you had as a blogger has gone to your head and now you produce utter bollock rubbish like this.

    Heaven help us. I don’t know what happened to you, but soul searching would be in order.

    • You are entitled to your opinion, and I am to mine.

      I have conceded in my post that the Premier League’s Monday telecasts which are not in the early morning do get higher ratings than MLS does.

      But we cannot be selective about which matches we choose. ESPN has shown Saturday EPL matches that start at 7:45 am ET, 9:55 am ET, and 8:45 am ET and on Monday’s at 2:55pm ET and 3:55 pm ET.

      The variety of start times for MLS games have been even more dramatic and have featured telecasts on five different days of the week.

      So fair is fair. MLS is garnering more viewers.

      • So you are conceding that weekday afternoon EPL matches get more viewers than primetime MLS matches?

        If so, why even write this post when you admit you are being deceptive and clever just like your buddies at USL who cited a bunch of leagues in their press release today which are essentially club run because the clubs run the soccer federations in those countries.

        • I am conceding that but please consider some facts since you so methodically lectured to me earlier.

          Monday night EPL games face ZERO live sports competition in the US. ZERO. If you want to watch a live event you are going to watch that. I will grant you that a weekday afternoon doesn’t get many viewers, but those watching are likely to keep watching.

          So the Saturday EPL games which compete with live football from other European leagues on other channels needs to be factored in heavily. I personally like the Bundesliga best of any league I watch (including MLS or USL) and thus watch those games instead of the EPL unless Man City is playing. MLS also loses my attention in primetime if a good FMF match is on. Let’s say Toluca is playing Pachuca, while FC Dallas plays Chivas USA. If that is the case, I watch the FMF.

          So since most soccer fans follow multiple leagues, these sorts of comparisons are valid EXCEPT when games are held when no other event takes places. The outliers would then be 11pm ET/8pm PT MLS matches and Monday EPL matches. In do time, I will pull both of these time slots out of the comparison and do a head to head. I am very confident MLS still comes out ahead, perhaps by an even bigger margin.

          My original thesis on this issue was written years ago, but I am mad at myself for being conned after writing that into believing that I was wrong to say the domestic game would draw more interest than the European one. At the time (2007), I wrote that MLS and USMNT would eventually achieve higher ratings than the EPL and English National Team, and that would create momentum even for USL and PDL clubs to get on local TV or highlights on the local news.

          I backed off that view thanks to the Anglomania of many of my colleagues and friends. I was not strong willed enough to stick with my convictions and that I do regret.

          As far as the USL Press Release, I have pointed out at my personal site the misleading nature of USL’s claim. So yes, we agree on that one.

    • dan says:

      yea you know how ESPN IS SO GREAT ABOUT PROMOTING MLS GAMES AND POSTSEASON. Just in case you havent notice im being sarcastic.

      How can you say that the reason the EPL numbers are down is and MLS numbers are higher them the EPL i s because ESPN doesnt promote the EPL games on ESPN. ESPN doesn’t Promote any Soccer hardly. ESPN doesn’t care about soccer. quit being a EURO SNOB.

  2. Ivan says:

    Kartik: you have made the complete 180 switch from an MLS-basher, extolling the virtues of the USL structure, to the biggest MLS supporter. Why do you think the Premier League is even competing against the MLS? Everyone knows that there isn’t really any point of comparison between the two: from quality, to popularity, to tradition, etc. With statements such as “it is little wonder casual American TV viewers are voting with their remote controls for MLS over the EPL”, and with last week’s article stating that ESPN doesn’t need Martin Tylor as a commentator for next summer’s World Cup, you have pretty much showed the analytical skills of an angry 15 year old girl going through puberty (sorry for the ad hominem, but you really don’t know what you are talking about).
    This blog really has no redeeming qualities. I am done here…

    • I haven’t done a 180 at all. I still prefer the USL structure and don’t like single entity. But I am stating the facts on TV ratings and as far as Martin Tyler, that is an opinion I am entitled to.

      To somehow seem sophisticated about this sport, more and more Americans feel it is required to bash American commentators and American players. This I will not do without adequate cause. I happen to like Max Bretos and Christopher Sullivan’s style of commentary better than I like Martin Tyler OR Andy Gray. If that makes me less “cosmopolitan,” less “sophisticated” and less worth reading, so be it.

  3. Curtis says:

    Yes, I guess those stats make sense. But I think it has more to do with the fact that the EPL games air as early as 5 a.m. in the morning on the East Coast, versus MLS’s cozy primetime slots.

  4. It’s not really surprising to me, actually. The Premier League is the best product of the bunch, but it’s still England’s league and not our league, the domestic league should always trump the others in TV ratings.

    Ratings for all three of the most followed leagues — Premier League, Mexican Primera, and MLS — are all up though, and that’s a good thing for the sport as a whole.

  5. wahleyed says:

    Wow. Lots of thin skinned Anglophiles around here — jumping straight to some sort of value judgements based on the data.

    More interesting to me is: these ARE the important numbers to ESPN, so how does it affect their future behavior? Was ESPN betting on the growth of soccer fandom in the US leading to better ratings than this for the BPL? or was it simply making use of an asset acquired from the Setanta meltdown (I’m certainly no expert on the history of this — feel free to correct me). Are these numbers encouraging to ESPN? or discouraging? are we to expect more MLS and or BPL on ESPN or less?

    Here’s hoping for more of both — especially since I am not currently a premium soccer channel purchaser.

  6. Rex says:

    I grow tired of wading through a ton Kartik bashing comments to get to anything worth reading. If you hate the guy, DONT READ his stuff. If you hate MLS, dont read this site and quite ruining it for me.

  7. Rex says:

    The average american sports fan doesnt care about EPL maybe not even soccer. The only think that matters here is geography and atmosphere. People will watch teams where they have a geographic connection and games that have a good atmosphere.

    BTW any idea of the Telefutura ratings for the Dynamo game?

  8. Rick1977 says:

    Pretty easy to ignore those who write with a hysterical tone. Can’t imagine wanting to pay attention to anyone who gets so worked up over soccer viewership figures.

    Speaking of which, where are the results for FSC? Seems like the last time you reported on these a year ago EPL had about 4x what MLS drew on that channel.

  9. Tom says:

    Kartick- I love the German league, what channel do you get it on?

    As for the article and posts, I’m glad both leagues are getting decent audiences. A good Saturday starts with a European game in the morning and a MLS game at night (ideally in the stadium). Between the two, one can get a life!

  10. Matthew N says:

    I don’t know what the obsession is with showing that the MLS is better in some subjective way, but I really take issue with a lot of the assertions made within this article. Most of it is flat out false and it sounds almost like a PR piece for the MLS. I think it is obvious looking at the numbers that MLS beats EPL on ESPN, but I don’t really know what this shows, if anything. Is the point of this post to ostracize those who prefer the English game or is it to validate the opinions of a bunch of seemingly insecure MLS fans? Either way, it does nothing and has nothing to do with the MLS. The MLS and EPL are NOT competing and the MLS beating the EPL in ratings means next-to-nothing. Could we get actual commentary on the MLS and the domestic game as a whole, because I’m pretty sure that is what most people come here for…

  11. eplnfl says:

    No surprise by me. First of all MLS, FSC, and ESPN did a good job of scheduling the playoff games to appeal to the viewing audience. Second, playoff soccer has a intensity that is just not present in a single table winner take all league. So, lets give the American way of doing things credit for drawing an audience. MLS teams, and mine in particular(Fire) where built with the playoffs in mind. Yes, you will see a lot of meaningless games in the spring but come the fall it’s all good.

    Let’s thank the folks from the EPL for helping the cause of soccer in the US.Many a fan gets their exposure to soccer by way of the EPL. It looks like the time has come for the MLS to stand on it’s own. Many a posts and responders here have attacked the leadership of MLS, and it is understandable some people have hurt feelings who get overlooked by MLS at expansion. Yet when you see the crowds at the playoff games and the the tv audience numbers you have to say well done.

  12. dan says:

    what kills me is that we have some people on here that seem to want USA soccer to fail because it is up to the level of the EPL. Well to all those band wagon euro fans who hate on the MLS just because it is younger and is building their own history right now go to EUROPE or what ever continent of Country of the LEAGUE you support we dont want u. Fans of MLS and USL teams rather be apart of a new history rather the jump on a bandwagon of an old league. now im not saying it is wrong to watch other leagues and support other leagues teams, but don’t make fun of a LEAGUE that is building its history just because you have to have a team that just spends like crazy.

  13. Bolacuadrada says:

    Here are my two cents. ESPN Deportes (spanish) is not getting better numbers because all their programming is directed to cover Mexican Football. They do not promote the MLS. In fact they spend hours talking about FMF rumors and talks almost nothing about MLS. I say the same about ESPN Deportes Radio. As a matter of example, yesterday on an evening program (west coast) in ESPN Deportes Radio, a fan asked why was LA Galaxy hosting the only conference final and whether other teams will be added to MLS the next few years. None of the Radio four hosts at that time was able to answer any of those questions. No only they were completely clueless but they mistakenly answered by saying that no team will be coming to the MLS soon. So I ask, what promotion of the sport are we talking about? I see ESPN daily and all I see is NFL and College Football. That is fine with me since I love the NFl but the truth is that the MLS gets very limited time. It is good to hear that even with no promotion the numbers are going up.

  14. ddtigers says:

    I agree with dan above. Plus there is nothing wrong with pointing out the + of MLS ratings. We should all be happy that things are up…that is if you want MLS to fail and look bad.

  15. tg says:

    I wrote this on the first post of this style and I’ll write it again:

    EPL fans go to pubs to watch games. MLS fans go to their couch to watch games.

    Ergo, viewership for MLS is higher.

  16. Charles says:

    That is inspite of the fact that I go to the ESPN2 bottom line to see who won the LA-LA (Chivas) game, and what do I get the SerieA scores.
    ESPN is pile of sh*t when it comes to soccer. Adding the worthless EPL games to their schedule was just plain stupid.
    To tell them how to run a company, get people interested in soccer in this country, maybe promote the MLS just a little and then bank the money because you were in first.

    Also, it is amazing the number of people that are NOT happy about this small ratings “advantage”. They are like a junior high girl, happy their best friend didn’t do well on a test because it makes them feel better about themselves.

  17. dan says:

    yeah ESPN really does suck at promoting the MLS. i would be nicer to ESPN if i felt like they were at least making an effort. but it just seems like they expect it to suceed with out puting any effort towards it.

  18. Kartik= company man says:

    Skewing numbers to decieve people into thinking this league is relevant, huh?

    This league will never be relevant. you nerds will always be the ignored geeks of the sports world, to be laughed at by the rest of us who are superior to you. Hahaha, you people are pathetic. Fuck your little mickey mouse league. Any adult who follows this shit is as sad as they come

    • dan says:

      the pathetic one is you because u have to come here to make urself feel better about your small ego and the other small things.

  19. pepe says:

    To me the numbers are horrible, who cares if EPL is a few hundred viewers less than MLS?
    Infomercials get more eyeballs than MLS. Personally, I like The Mexican Primera, and apparently so does the majority of the US soccer viewership.

  20. Bolacuadrada says:

    I do not care about what the Europeans say about the MLS. I like the MLS and even gave up the chance to go to the coliseum to watch the USC Stanford college football game on Saturday to go and see the Galaxy game tomorrow. Tha stadium will be packed. GO LA.

  21. Jon says:

    Yeah, it makes perfect sense to compare primetime ratings to early AM broadcasts……..

  22. Bill Gardner says:

    Right then, your MLS bias and cheerleading attitude is commendable, but remember the MLS is a minor league still, and only a few players in MLS can even make a roster in Europe, if any MLS player could play in England they would. So stop bashing the EPL which is the worlds most competitive league, and hope and pray the MLS can sell enough players to Europe to stay in business.

  23. Kevin says:

    Wow. I was just watching the Aston Villa-Wolverhampton game and thought I’d check on the ratings ESPN is getting for these games, and I stopped on this page and noticed the intense discussion.

    I think the bottom line is to each his own. If you like the MLS great, if you like the EPL, Spanish Premiera, Bundesliga, La Liga, hell even the Dutch League, then watch what you want.

    First, we are all soccer fans, so I don’t get this poster’s implied bashing of the EPL because of a small ratings difference. Any soccer on T.V. is a good thing to promote this sport in America. Is it probably better for the MLS if they were the only soccer product you could ever watch in the U.S.? Sure, for the MLS. But the EPL/MLS games don’t compete head to head, so who really cares as long as ESPN is showing soccer. ESPN bought the Setanta rights because it can put the EPL on in a slot where it doesn’t take away time from college and pro basketball and football. We all win since there is more soccer to watch. The MLS’s problem is that it competes against all these leagues, and Major League Baseball, it therefore suffers from competition from more established and well supported American sporting offerings.

    I personally don’t watch any MSL games. I can’t get into the style of play and would prefer to watch the EPL. I do however respect MLS players and teams because they are professionals and play at a level that I can’t dream of (and some like Donovan can play in the best leagues).

    Secondly, I think the time difference is key for ratings. ESPN only has the early Saturday game and some occasional Monday games. Only diehard EPL fans are likely to get up and tune in. And, this is definitely the case for the games between smaller less known teams. Casual fans don’t know that Wolverhampton is in West Midlands, England, and to be honest any of their players. But, they may know that they have a team in Chicago or Columbus to go see every now and then, and therefore watch some games on T.V. But also, most casual fans know who Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, etc… are and that’s why they tune in to watch the games with the Big 4, and now Everton, ManCity, Aston Villa, Tottenham, etc…

    The bottom line is even the Aston Villa game I am watching is a better on the field product. There is no way to debate that. Even Landon Donovan admitted that recently. I think the phrasing of his 10 game stay at Everton as “intense” is enough said. I don’t think that he has said that about LA Galaxy vs. Real Salt Lake.

    I am a huge Arsenal fan and I try to catch every game I can (when family and other obligations don’t interfere), but as you can see I even watch Aston Villa, Tottenham, Everton, ManCity and other games when I am free. Supporting any one of these teams is not band-wagon jumping, its a personal choice (I have been an Arsenal fan for 8 years), its like choosing Wii, PS3, Xbox because you like the games they have vs. another platform. If the only argument you have is that you should support the product in your country then I hope you don’t drive a foreign car, have a foreign cell phone, have foreign investments, because you are by definition a hypocrite.

  24. PP says:

    Stop being an MLS fanboy Kartik, it’s unbecoming.

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