Nielsen has released its "Year in Sports" PDF which focuses on all the major American leagues, including MLS.
According to Nielsen, last year was actually not a terrible year with regards to the television for MLS. The usual go to criticism for MLS is that, while people are starting to attend games more and more soccer stadiums are being built, the TV ratings continue to drag the league down. While that's still true to a certain extent, 2012 proved that it's getting a lot better. But first, let's look at international games.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the EuroCup final drew the best ratings for soccer in the United States. Spain vs. Italy averaged 4,068,000 viewers over it's air time. The next biggest game, however, was the USA vs. Mexico friendly back in August and it wasn't terribly far off with 3,986,000 viewers. Really even a small margin of error could see these two games flipped. Finally, the UEFA Champions League match with Bayern Munich taking on Chelsea attracted 1,979,000 viewers which just goes to prove that Americans love tournaments featuring high profile teams.
Turning back to MLS, the numbers weren't nearly as high, but signs of growth are definitely noticeable.
The highest rated MLS game in 2012 was the Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders match on ESPN June 24th with that game pulling in 888,000 viewers. It's worth pointing out that the game had a significant EuroCup lead-in. After the the New York Red Bulls vs. DC United game pulled in 611,000 followed by the Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers match on September 15th with 576,000 viewers. This should show perhaps why so many Sounders games and Timbers games are shown nationally. Clearly they're worth some money.
Looking to the demographics, the Nielsen reports that two minority groups saw a surge in interest in the MLS Cup. Asian viewership saw a 267% increase in 2012 over 2010. African American viewership saw a smaller, but not insignificant 130% jump over 2010. Their numbers,combined represent just under a third the total amount in MLS Cup viewership.
Finally, when looking at the business side of things, MLS seems to be doing far better than previous years. According to Nielsen, the amount paid for advertising in MLS went from $3.4 million in 2011 to $7.5 million in 2012. While those numbers are still very small amounts overall, the doubling is certainly encouraging.
What do you think of MLS's rise in 2012. Do you think a similar growth pattern can be expected in 2013?