SBJ/July 23 - 29, 2007/This Weeks News

Average attendance up at MLS but television ratings flat

A blend of new stadiums, new players and a new market has pushed MLS’s average attendance up 1.6 percent — to 15,057 a game — at the midpoint of the season. At the same time, the league’s success at the gate was tempered by flat television ratings.

Toronto FC had an average game attendance of
nearly 20,000 at the season’s midpoint.

Four teams were instrumental in the attendance growth: Toronto FC, the Colorado Rapids, Los Angeles Galaxy and New England Revolution.

Expansion franchise Toronto FC sold out its first seven home games, drawing an average of 19,994 fans; the Colorado Rapids saw 15.5 percent attendance growth from last season, averaging 14,926 at their new stadium, Dick’s Sporting Goods Park; and the Galaxy, which saw season-ticket sales top 11,000 after signing David Beckham, led the league with overall average attendance of 22,586, a 14.5 percent increase from 2006.

The biggest year-to-year growth, however, took place in New England, where the Revolution is up 40 percent at 14,689. That growth follows a second-place finish in 2006 and comes after the team hired a new director of ticket sales, James Mullins, who formerly worked for the Galaxy.

Despite that growth, the league struggled in several markets. Kansas City saw an 18 percent drop in average attendance, which sits at 9,512; Chivas USA dropped 14 percent to an average of 13,013; and New York saw attendance fall 32.1 percent to an average of 11,170.

New York’s fall came despite spending more than $2.5 million in the offseason on designated players Claudio Reyna and Juan Pablo Angel. The Red Bulls’ front office expects growth in the second half of the season from a new marketing partnership with The Daily News, which will see the team wrap 50,000 issues of the tabloid at Grand Central, Penn Station and other locations before every home game during the rest of the season.

On the media front, Univision, which is televising the league for the first time since 1999, earned a 0.1 average household rating and 229,000 viewers through 12 broadcasts at 3 p.m. on Sundays.

ESPN, which is in the first year of an eight-year, $64 million commitment to the league, averaged a 0.2 for its “MLS Primetime Thursday” through 12 broadcasts. The total number of households dropped 2 percent from 2006 to 197,000, but ratings among males 18 to 34 were up 50 percent, according to the network.

Fox Sports en Español, the only other broadcast partner for which ratings figures are available, also averaged a 0.2 through nine weekend broadcasts.

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