ESPN Boots Primetime MLS

ESPN Boots Primetime MLS

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On January 19, 2009
  • 10 Comments
  • ESPN, MLS Primetime Thursday, Soccer on TV

The weekly MLS Primetime Thursday is now no more, or for at least the time being it is no more. The World Wide Leader decided today to cut the weekly telecast of the American soccer league citing its lack of ratings as a problem.

“We didn’t see the kind of ratings climb we’d like to, so we’re trying something different,” said Scott Guglielmino, ESPN vice president of programming.

The decision to cancel the regular Thursday night game marks a stunning turnaround for a league that two years ago believed it was creating destination programming that would increase interest in MLS. But even the 2007 arrival of David Beckham couldn’t boost MLS ratings.

MLS games averaged a 0.2 rating and 289,000 viewers on ESPN2 in 2007. Those numbers dropped to 0.2/253,000 viewers the following year. Its highest rating during that period was Beckham’s second regular-season game in August 2007 that earned a 0.6/658,000 households.

Instead ESPN will now carry a MLS Game of the Week on it’s telecast. The Sports Business Journal cited today that it will be aired on four different nights throughout the season. The weekly matches will occur on Thursdays (10 times), Saturdays (eight times), Wednesdays (six times) and Fridays (three times).

Its a tough blow to the league but in all reality I kind of see this as a blessing. Thursday nights and really week night games anymore in American sports carry little in terms of ratings. Pushing to get more weekend telecasts of their games is where the league needs to be anyways. You see this in terms of attendance right now, the mid-week matches stuggle to sellout (except for a couple locations) while the weekend number typically do much better.

What do you all make of this news? Think it could be damaging to the league or will it help it out in the long run?

  • soundersfan

    This is good for me, my games were on thursdays and I always missed the thursday game.<br />
    <br />
    SSFC games are all going to be on local NBC, KING-5 or KONG-6, when they don't interfere with a national broadcast, so I could care less what ESPN does. It does make it look like ESPN will be losing their credibility when it comes to broadcasting 'footie' do they still have a chance at getting the EPL rights?

  • Jason D

    I'm not sure this is a bad thing at all, and I said as much today on my blog. It's really just a shuffling of the broadcast schedule, which amounts to a new approach for ESPN. As long as they're tied into the contract and MLS won't completely go away, this is a probably a good move. I'm hoping they've learned a few things with how poorly Primetime Thursday has done, and that those lessons will serve the new version well.

  • Media Man

    The numbers SBJ are using are flawed. 289,000 viewers isn't anywhere close to a 0.2 national rating or a 0.2 coverage area rating (@ ESPN 2's 95mm hh).<br />
    <br />
    I'm pretty sure they meant households, not viewers.<br />
    <br />
    Household = around 2.6 viewers.

  • soundersfan

    This is good for me, my games were on thursdays and I always missed the thursday game.

    SSFC games are all going to be on local NBC, KING-5 or KONG-6, when they don’t interfere with a national broadcast, so I could care less what ESPN does. It does make it look like ESPN will be losing their credibility when it comes to broadcasting ‘footie’ do they still have a chance at getting the EPL rights?

  • I’m not sure this is a bad thing at all, and I said as much today on my blog. It’s really just a shuffling of the broadcast schedule, which amounts to a new approach for ESPN. As long as they’re tied into the contract and MLS won’t completely go away, this is a probably a good move. I’m hoping they’ve learned a few things with how poorly Primetime Thursday has done, and that those lessons will serve the new version well.

  • Media Man

    The numbers SBJ are using are flawed. 289,000 viewers isn’t anywhere close to a 0.2 national rating or a 0.2 coverage area rating (@ ESPN 2’s 95mm hh).

    I’m pretty sure they meant households, not viewers.

    Household = around 2.6 viewers.

  • Cannon Girl

    What I want to know is…when's the 2009 MLS schedule going to be released?

  • Cannon Girl

    What I want to know is…when’s the 2009 MLS schedule going to be released?

  • Steve

    This will definatly be good. Instead of dumping soccer onto a Thurs. night which is a weak night for sports that doesn't have a following, this makes those flipping through channels notice that a game is on alongside other sports such as baseball. I'm guessing that people will be more likely to stop and watch a game for a bit.

  • Steve

    This will definatly be good. Instead of dumping soccer onto a Thurs. night which is a weak night for sports that doesn’t have a following, this makes those flipping through channels notice that a game is on alongside other sports such as baseball. I’m guessing that people will be more likely to stop and watch a game for a bit.