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College Basketball v MLS TV Ratings Battle

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Guess what? MLS wins, both in Seattle and nationally.

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Do you remember that time that an MLS game outdrew the Elite Eight? It will not take you far back in history. It takes you back to this last weekend when Seattle Sounders FC v Columbus Crew on Q13 rocked it.

Now, you're probably saying that's just the local thing. Seattle is soccer city usa and such. You'd be wrong. Last year MLS games had the following total viewership per UniMas

Station Avg Viewers
UniMas 223k
ESPN2 181k
NBSN 104k

MLS fans are used to being told that those are poor numbers. But, what if I told you that 79% of college basketball ratings are right in that same realm?

Cbbratings2_medium

via www.sportsmediawatch.com

While college hoops is not the majority of the monies that drive media interest in TV rights for college athletics, it is the second sport in generating interest and funding.

Taking a sample of November's college hoops ratings and comparing them to the MLS Cup Final you find that MLS compares well to all but the greatest of college basketball games during their "friendly" sessions.

MLS Cup Avg Viewers Hoops games with more viewers % Hoops Better
UniMas 514k 23 16.1%
ESPN ~442k 26 18.2%
Total 956k 7 4.9%

~ESPN's data extrapolated from UniMas.

It isn't NFL numbers. These aren't college football numbers. They aren't MLB numbers, nor NBA, nor NHL. It's just college hoops. It's just a traditional sport that is the center of attention in March. Dig as deep as you want. MLS, which is at best the third most viewed soccer league in the USA, is doing better than a vast majority of NCAA basketball on TV.

In Seattle we beat that number. In November the league beat that number by a lot.

This is why the new TV contract is going to be about double what the old one was. People are watching, not enough to be a great soccer league, but enough to be a better one in four years than it is now. And the MLS/soccer audience is younger, more tech savvy and more diverse than every other team sport on TV in the US.