SBJ/October 29 - November 4, 2007/This Weeks News

Beckham helps kick up some MLS numbers

Chalk it up to the David Beckham effect.

Though he played in only five of the Los Angeles Galaxy’s final 18 regular-season games, the English soccer star delivered big at the gate and on television for MLS. His arrival helped the league increase its average attendance 9 percent from last season and delivered the two highest-rated MLS games ever on ESPN2.

“Beckham had an impact over the course of the year — there’s no question about it,” said MLS President Mark Abbott. “But I think there’s been a general overall increase in awareness around the league.”

Average league attendance was up only 1.6 percent before Beckham joined the Galaxy in July. MLS attracted 1.46 million spectators during that period. But during the second half of the season, with Beckham in tow, the turnout was 1.8 million, delivering a total of 3.26 million spectators.

Beckham’s 11 away games alone, which began in August, accounted for about 10 percent of the league’s overall attendance. Despite playing in only four of those because of injury, Beckham and the Galaxy attracted 344,000 spectators.

The Los Angeles Galaxy drew crowds even
after an injury sidelined David Beckham.

The New York Red Bulls and Kansas City Wizards, which averaged less than 11,500 spectators over the first half of the season, saw 66,237 and 32,867 turn out to see him play, respectively. (He played against New York but was injured against Kansas City.)

Crowds also turned out to see Beckham at home. The Galaxy led the league in attendance with an average of 24,252 spectators — a 16.5 percent increase from 2006.

Beckham delivered on TV as well. His first game on ESPN2 on Aug. 9 received a 0.5 cable rating and 422,000 households. His next game on the network topped that with a 0.6 and 522,000 households.

Those numbers allowed the league to average a 0.3 and 267,000 households over the second half of the season — a 50 percent ratings increase and 36 percent household increase from the first half of the year, when it averaged a 0.2 rating and 196,000 households.

But Beckham wasn’t the only one delivering for MLS in 2007.

Designated player Cuauhtemoc Blanco’s arrival boosted average attendance for the Chicago Fire from 14,550 through mid-July to 16,490 by season’s end. Six of the Fire’s final seven home games were sellouts once Blanco joined the team.

Beyond Beckham and Blanco, overall attendance was strong primarily because gains for teams such as the New England Revolution, which increased attendance 42 percent to an average of 16,742, offset drops by others such as Chivas USA, which slid 28 percent to 14,305.

While the league made gains at the gate and during televised Beckham games, it still struggled on TV for the entire season. Through 25 games on ESPN2, the league averaged a 0.2 cable rating and 229,000 households. It earned the same rating, for 197,000 households, over 21 games in 2006.

MLS averaged a 0.38 cable rating over 19 live games on Fox Sports en Español. TeleFutura’s Sunday afternoon broadcasts of MLS averaged 175,000 households and a 0.15 national Nielsen rating.

“All of our jobs is to do a better job next year than the year before,” Abbott said. “TV is an area where we will try to achieve that.”

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