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Volume 26 No. 227
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MLS Sees Uptick In Digital Metrics In '19; TV Viewership Lower

The ’19 MLS regular season saw another uptick in digital metrics, as the league’s social channels received 2.2 billion impressions, a 27% increase from '18. Since '15, MLS' social following has grown at a higher rate than any other major sports league, with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram up 96% during that time. "We have a lot of tailwinds at the end of the regular season, based on the growth that we've seen throughout the year," MLS Senior VP/Media Seth Bacon said. "We give fans options in multiple screens, multiple devices, multiple platforms and multiple languages to engage with our content, and it's really been very successful for us and very powerful for us." MLS partnered with Philadelphia-based Socialie this season to provide social content to players, influencers and partners. Socialie delivered close to 10,000 pieces of content, which helped players and partners develop their social media presences and allowed MLS to track social posts 'performances. Year 2 of MLS' partnership with Twitter, in which Univision broadcasts were streamed in English on the platform, saw double-digit audience growth. Bacon said the league's deal with Twitter has been renewed through '22 thanks to its success thus far. The league's video content drew 777 million video views in '19, a 132% increase from the previous year, and fans spent 461 million minutes on MLS video content, a 66% increase over last year's record-breaking season. The MLS app increased users by 27%, sessions were up 22% and screen views grew 31%.

VIEW FINDER: On linear TV, MLS viewership for the regular season was lower in '19. Last season, the league benefited from a few men's FIFA World Cup game lead-ins, which generated big audiences. The combined Fox and FS1 viewership was down 23% from '18, but up from two years ago when there was no World Cup. Last season was Fox/FS1's best viewership since Fox Sports re-acquired MLS rights prior to the '15 season. The Fox broadcast net averaged 862,000 viewers, down around 13%. Fox this season did draw the second-best audience in MLS history -- 1.2 million viewers -- for its July airing of Atlanta United-Red Bulls, which followed the Women's World Cup Final. FS1 alone averaged 161,000 viewers in '19, up 8% from '18. Meanwhile, for 31 games across ESPN and ESPN2, the networks averaged 246,000 viewers, up 2% from 241,000 last year. But that number is still below the 261,000 viewers seen two seasons ago. ESPN alone averaged 266,000 viewers, up 7% from '18, while ESPN2 averaged 164,000, down 4%. Over on Univision networks, games averaged 238,000 viewers in the fourth year of an eight-year deal with MLS. That figure is down 17% from '18 (289,000 viewers). The '19 Univision figure is closer to '17, the last non-Olympic year, when Univision nets averaged 244,000 viewers.