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Volume 25 No. 28
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MLS Has Best Regular-Season Audience Yet On ESPN/ESPN2; NBCSN Off To Good Start

MLS finished the regular season on ESPN/ESPN2 with the league's best audience on cable TV since MLS' inception in '96. Meanwhile, the league's first season on NBC Sports Network was up significantly compared to the same package on Fox Soccer last season. ESPN/ESPN2 finished the season with an average of 311,000 viewers for its games, up 6.5% from 292,000 last year. The gains reflect a large number of games moving to ESPN this season. During past seasons, MLS games have primarily aired on ESPN2. The nets' average audience dipped during the second half of the season, as no MLS telecast on ESPN or ESPN2 averaged over 300,000 viewers. The large majority of those games began at 9:00pm ET or later. ESPN’s June 24 Timbers-Sounders FC took the top spot among game audiences with 888,000 viewers, marking the league’s third-best regular-season cable audience ever, behind only the inaugural MLS match in ’96 (DC United-Clash) and a Revolution-DC United match in ’98. The Timbers-Sounders game got a big boost from its lead-in telecast -- an Italy-England Euro 2012 quarterfinal -- which went to penalty kicks before handing off to MLS.

NEW PARTNER: NBC Sports Network aired 40 MLS regular-season games during its first year as an MLS TV partner, averaging 125,000 viewers. That figure is up 79% from Fox Soccer’s package of games last season (70,000 viewers). The net’s top telecast this season was FC Dallas-Timbers on Aug. 5, which drew 405,000 viewers. That game was boosted by the net’s lead-in coverage featuring the London Games. Meanwhile, MLS aired three regular-season games on broadcast TV this season for the first time since ‘02. However, those NBC telecasts did not draw a particularly large audience. NBC averaged a 0.4 rating and 521,000 viewers for those games.


NOTES: Figures exclude All-Star Game, World Football Challenge matches and friendlies involving MLS teams.