How much is enough?
Kartik had a pretty scary post on his blog last night. The basic statement in the post was that EPL broadcasts on ESPN the last couple of weeks have basically blown away anything MLS is doing. Worse, MLS ratings in 1996 were better than they are now…bad news potentially.
Of course there’s always a different way of looking at things—not that I’m going to paint a better picture of things.
Why don’t we start with this opinion from Kartik.
MLS should have higher TV ratings than the EPL or La Liga. Only the Mexican League should have more viewers on US TV. But despite being a domestic league, which you can actually watch in person as compared to matches taking place a continent away, MLS struggles to hold the attention of fans in markets with team in the league, not to mention the large markets without teams.
Who can tell me how many countries have domestic leagues which have better TV ratings than the top leagues. I honestly don’t know the answer. If someone has that data, please share. But the EPL, Serie A, La Liga I’m betting can attract more viewers in just about every other country than the domestic league.
Ok, perhaps Mexico would be the exception.
On top of that, how many countries have access to as many foreign leagues on TV (I’m not talking internet streams) as we have? Again, I don’t know the answer but I’m willing to bet at least a pint (I use a Stella about now) that there aren’t many people outside the US who can view as large and diverse a match selection as someone with FSC, Setanta and GolTV.
How well would MLS be doing now if TV viewing options in the US were restricted and as small as the league is, there was more MLS content than any other league? Do you think a few more would watch because there were no other soccer viewing options?
No, I’m not saying that should happen. Geez, as much as I enjoy MLS, I’d hate it if that was pretty much the only option. That would be a bit like taking a talk radio show off the air cuz you don’t like their opinion.
No, the thing is, 10 years ago I watched any MLS I could. If there was an MLS match on, I would be watching. Today, I’m 10 years older. I’m married. I have a kid not too. I don’t have the time to spend hours in front of the TV watching what could be easily 30+ hours each week (I would if I could) of soccer action from around the globe. I’m more likely to get 1 or 2 matches a week now. Usually that’ll be LA and if Ipswich are on, them. Anything else is a bonus regardless of weather is on ESPN, Fox or where ever.
I’ve a feeling many that made up the numbers 10 years ago have done much the same. But here’s the problem, why aren’t the next group of young single guys watching MLS? Are they watching something else? Are they too busy on the Internet? Is there something else? I honestly don’t have an answer…but that’s, in my opinion, where the problem exists.
We always knew it would be a problem for MLS to gain a foothold in the US.
- American’s don’t like Soccer
- MLS won’t be the best league there is
Here’s the thing, hurdle 1 seems to be coming down. Yeah, there’s still a ton of resistance but it’s nothing like it was 20 years ago.
How does MLS tackle problem two? If you were to ask me (well, this is my blog you are reading so I’m assuming you have) you don’t. Seriously, forget about setting that as a goal.
A year or so ago MLS had this marketing campaign which centered on MLS being ‘your league, with your teams” or something like that. I thought it was genius and need. Dig back through the archives on here (there’s a little drop down menu on the right) and you see I’ve been preaching that if MLS is to ever gain loyal ticket buyers, it needs to forget about the gimmicks and each team focus on representing their local community on the sports field. Stop selling the teams as “Rick Pimplehead and FC Springfield Athletic United” and focus on being Springfield’s team–A team that will bring glory to the city, and, with luck, some silverware.
Nope, we still get these money making tours from the top teams in Europe and Mexico in the middle of the season. Stadiums fill up, US fans now becoming familiar with the sport and learning to love it now realize that, wow, look at that guy from that team which calls some place 5000 miles away home. They are awesome, I’m gonna buy their shirt and I get a channel which will allow me to see most of their matches live.
For less than the price of an MLS season ticket, that kid can see just about every top EPL, La Liga or Serie A team’s matches and still have money left over for a couple of replica jersey’s. Oh, and thanks to the internet, he can also find other fans to discuss yesterday’s match.
If course, I could throw in another regular rant of mine here about how MLS missed the boat by spending so much time and effort trying to attract the soccer mom (one match/season and they are happy) and the American Sports fan (who didn’t give a damn so why bother) rather than paying more attention to the crowd of 18-30 guys who were buying season tickets and got fed up with treatment.
Focus on putting the best teams on the field who will win. Look for ways to bring more American and local players (why not have more player represent their hometowns?) on to teams. Forget the circus-like media which will go away with all the buyers of overpriced tickets the second that ‘star’ leaves. Create a loyalty to the team. How else can you explain how Notre Dame still sells out every game? Or the Cubs for that matter? They aren’t going to see stars. They are going to see their team…regardless of how well they have been playing.
Sell the team, put as good a ‘team’ on the pitch as you can and things will happen. I suspect that’s what Toronto and Seattle have done…it’s not too late for the rest. Yeah, that might make MLS a ‘feeder league.’ So what? Teams in Brazil still do well. As do teams in Argentina, Portugal, Germany and Russia. The J-League in Japan doesn’t see to hurt from the fact that Man U and Liverpool are so popular there. Heck, even clubs relegated from the EPL still get pretty darn good attendance even though there are EPL teams just down the road.
The thing is, with the size and the money in this country, the league will grow into something much bigger. The question is, how to do it. The current course isn’t right.
I wonder what those poor MLS TV ratings look like when you break down the numbers by city. Oh well, we’ll look at that another day.
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