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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Is Living Room TV Big Enough for MLS?

If you have basic Time Warner Cable, last night you got a chance to see 3 Mexican First Division games, 1 Friendly from the Herbalife Ultra Challenge between Chivas of Mexico and Barcelona of Spain, and 1 CONCACAF Champions League match between a Mexican club and Honduras club.  And, this was all from 8p.m. central time till 11p.m.  These matches were seen on Telefutura, Galavision and Telemundo, all Spanish TV stations.

MLS clubs played league matches last night and some teams were participating in CCL play, but none of the teams were televised last night on basic TWC. 

For obvious reasons, today's big headline in Soccer is Klinsmann's roster for the National team.  Thus, we have Friendlies, Exhibitions, Challenges, the Mexican pro league, CCL play and the U.S. National team all in the news at the same time.  Also, let's not forget the U-20 World Cup in Columbia is in group play.

With such an abundance of Soccer available on so many channels, on the internet and at all hours of the day, every day, catching games spontaneously is an option.  Can MLS get lost in the shuffle?

It appears it can, from a national perspective.  It seems just the opposite for the other 'big 4' team spectator sports.  They get plenty of national coverage.  Just about every sportscaster from local news goes over the scores and some highlights (in season) of MLB, NHL, NBA and the NFL, as does every sports section from the local newspaper.

Local support for MLS teams, though, is getting better with every year.  The sports pages of the local paper and sportscasts from the local newscasts are giving more in-depth coverage of their respective MLS teams.  So, what gives?  If the national coverage is lame, but the local coverage is improving, how is MLS judged?

Attendance is a critical aspect towards the success of spectator sports.  Any excellent turnout to a live ballgame boosts revenue and stature in the community.

But, ticket revenue and attendance figures only go so far.  Ultimately, ratings, whether its radio, television, the internet or the newspaper, provides everything one needs to know about success, beyond just the statistics from the game.  Advertisers want to hook more than just the 15-20,000 (or 35,000 at Sounders games) in attendance, they are looking to go after big fish and schools of fish.

If Soccer from different leagues other than MLS is being shown on basic cable television consistently in the U.S. and is always available on expanded cable television, as it has been for a number of years, then the most efficient measuring stick for MLS' popularity will have to come from a local perspective. 

Ratings from each MLS market must be analyzed and dissected when trying to understand the MLS phenomena.  National TV ratings may not tell the whole story. 

It could be a very, very long time before any major changes occur for MLS in terms of national ratings.  There is simply too much other Soccer being shown on U.S. television outlets at this time.  MLS doesn't have the presence with sports consumers to compete with all of its Soccer competition.

For some other countries, the first division league makes national news always, regardless of all the other Soccer happenings.  For MLS, local headlines will have to do.

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