PORTLAND, OR - SEPTEMBER 15: Michael Gspurning #1 of Seattle Sounders FC stands in front of the goal as members of the Timbers Army wave a giant flag during the first half of the game against Portland Timbers at Jeld-Wen Field on September 15, 2012 in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
According to SoccerAmerica, Saturday's Cascadia Cup match showing the Portland Timbers vs. the Seattle Sounders did not impress American audiences at large. In fact, it didn't even come close to the previous Portland vs. Seattle game on ESPN which drew a respectable .8 in the ratings. So just what did Saturday's match pull exactly on the first over the air nationally televised game since 2008? A .4 ... the lowest rating for a live sports game for the entire weekend. To put that into perspective, the USWNT vs. Australia drew a .5 on Sunday.
It's a little difficult to say what this will mean exactly in the long run, but it's certainly going to have NBC execs looking a bit nervously heading into the last few weeks of the season. There are still two more NBC games to be broadcast so hopefully something can be tweaked to make sure more eyeballs are on MLS instead of elsewhere. It could just be that the Cascadia Cup rivalry isn't that important to a national audience. Seattle and Portland aren't hugely large markets, after all.
The bad news in all this is that if ratings don't improve on NBC then don't expect to see many more games on the network channel next season. An MLS spokeperson I spoke with prior to NBC's game mentioned that this year was being used to see if there was a market for MLS on the primary network channels, with the hopes that if NBC performed well, then ESPN/ABC would want to start picking up more time as well.
There is one other bit that could be the saving grace, of sorts, in an excuse for why the game did so poorly: college football. The unfortunate truth is that football season is coming around and MLS is going to suffer in the ratings because of it, even when it's on a large network.
Here's what was on during or around the same time as the Cascadia Cup broadcast:
12:00 p.m. EST, Wake Forest at Florida State (ESPN)
12:00 p.m. EST, Virginia Tech at Pittsburgh (ESPNU)
12:00 p.m. EST, California at Ohio State (ABC)
12:00 p.m. EST, TCU at Kansas (FX)
12:00 p.m. EST, William & Mary at Towson (NBC Sports Network)
12:00 p.m. EST, Western Michigan at Minnesota (Big Ten Network)
12:00 p.m. EST, Arkansas State at Nebraska (ESPN2)
12:00 p.m. EST, Northern Illinois at Army (CBS Sports Network)
12:00 p.m. EST, Charleston Southern at Illinois (Big Ten Network)
12:00 p.m. EST, Bethune-Cookman at Miami (FL) (ESPN3)
12:00 p.m. EST, Eastern Michigan at Purdue (Big Ten Network)
12:21 p.m. EST, Louisiana-Monroe at Auburn (SEC Network, ESPN3)
12:30 p.m. EST, Connecticut at Maryland (ESPN3)
12:30 p.m. EST, Presbyterian at Vanderbilt (ESPN3)
3:00 p.m. EST, Furman at Clemson (ESPN3)
3:00 p.m. EST, Tennessee Tech at Oregon (Pac-12 Network)
3:30 p.m. EST, Alabama at Arkansas (CBS)
3:30 p.m. EST, Massachusetts at Michigan (Big Ten Network)
3:30 p.m. EST, North Carolina at Louisville (ABC, ESPN2)
3:30 p.m. EST, Virginia at Georgia Tech (ESPNU)
3:30 p.m. EST, Boston College at Northwestern (Big Ten Network)
3:30 p.m. EST, Navy at Penn State (ABC, ESPN2)
3:30 p.m. EST, Morgan State at Akron (ESPN3)
3:30 p.m. EST, Northern Iowa at Iowa (Big Ten Network)
3:30 p.m. EST, East Carolina at Southern Miss (CBS Sports Network)
4:00 p.m. EST, Miami (OH) at Boise State (NBC Sports Network)
4:00 p.m. EST, Stony Brook at Syracuse (ESPN3)
4:00 p.m. EST, Portland State at Washington (FX)
4:00 p.m. EST, Howard at Norfolk State (ESPN3)
6:00 p.m. EST, Florida at Tennessee (ESPN)
It's an impressive list filled with quite a few big name schools on nationally broadcast games. Is it really such a surprise that outside of Portland and Seattle not many people bothered?
The good news is that the games on NBC Sports Network are still up 101% over Fox Soccer last year and the games' ratings have been steadily improving throughout the year. It's just that the network television channels seem a bit farther away than they did just a few hours ago.
What do you think of the ratings?
[via Sports Media Watch]