A businessman tearing up a line graph

In almost every meaningful way, MLS is experiencing a boom. Stadiums are going up or are opening to rave reviews, attendance is rising, name players are arriving, and the league has more mainstream resonance than ever before. Even if soccer isn't crossing the threshold into "big time" in America, the domestic game is as healthy as it's probably ever been.

Except for TV. No one watches on TV.

The league's flat TV ratings are a concern, make no mistake. Garber may say otherwise, and job one is to get people in the seats, but TV money will eventually allow the league to push salaries higher and improve the quality of play. Gates just don't bring in enough cash to push the finances to the next level.

So what's the problem? How can everything be trending up but the number people watching on TV?

Sports as a remotely enjoyed experience is dependent on much that has nothing to do with the game itself: atmosphere is incredibly important, to both provide a sense of excitement for those sitting at home as well as to give weight to the proceedings on the field. The more people there in person, the more important the game will seem. Poorly attended matches are naturally going to suffer as a TV product because there is nothing to tell the viewer he or she should care; fans that are not emotionally invested in one of the competing teams take their cues from fans involvement.

I would argue that this is why so many Americans find themselves drawn to the English Premier League first. The stadiums are generally full, the fans are always singing, and every game has an air of massive importance because of those facts. A century and change of playing the game and developing their fan culture mean the English game projects a engaging television image.

I'm less convinced that the "quality of play" issue, and MLS suffering in comparison to European leagues, is a legitimate reason for low ratings, though I admit it could be a factor. I have trouble understanding why people wouldn't watch MLS during the European off-season, when the deficiencies of the league are less directly obvious. Million dollars players are not a prerequisite for excitement.

The production itself matters as well, though I'm not going to attempt a breakdown of ESPN or FSC in this space. It's enough to say that the latter, along with most of the locally produced broadcasts, look cheaply produced (because they usually are) and amateurishly directed. In some cases, that's enough to turn people off. ESPN's problems are harder to pin down, though I'm sure some would point to the quality of their; in some cases that's probably fair, in others, it's tad harsh and likely evidence of a bias against Americans doing that job.

I hardly think it's the announcers keeping people away, however. Maybe we should just sign up a stable of Brits to do all of the MLS games, and see if the ratings skyrocket. Yes, that's sarcasm.

I would imagine MLS is looking for answers. I certainly hope so. While I won't lose sleep over the ratings myself, the league should be proactive in determining why the numbers are stagnant; the sooner MLS becomes a viable TV property, the sooner it takes the next step in its growth.

As part of the search for answers, it's been suggested that dropping FSC in favor of Versus might be a good idea. I posted something to the same effect in February of last year, and would be happy to see MLS "upgrade" their secondary cable home. FSC's production is middling at best, and Versus has proven capable of putting on a high quality broadcast with their NHL efforts. Even if the league takes a hit on the contract price, it might be worth giving a new network a shot at presenting the product.

Consider this an open question - if you don't watch MLS on TV, why not? Maybe there's something I'm missing here.

I should mention that this post was prompted by a Sports Business Journal story on MLS attendance rising while TV ratings stay flat; SBJ is a subscription site, so I didn't bother linking in the body of the post. Here it is if you have a subscription.
blog comments powered by Disqus
    KKTC Bahis Siteleri, Online Bahis



    Privacy Policy