The Nielsen Year in Sports Media 2014 Report provides a very good impression of the status of football (soccer) in US broadcast markets. The data confirms that the World Cup is becoming one of the nation’s major sporting events, but that league football is struggling to attract a TV audience.
Superbowl (NFL) 112 million
College Football Playoff Final 33 million
Opening Ceremony of Winter Olympics 32 million
FIFA World Cup final 27 million
NBA finals 16 million
World Series (MLB) 14 million
Stanley Cup (NHL) 5 million
That’s pretty good company the World cup is keeping there. The US – Portugal game also attracted 25 million viewers.
Set against the audience for MLS remains small. The MLS Cup drew the best TV audience since 1997 but was still only 1.6 million. The EPL seems to be outdrawing MLS on average – the biggest audience last year was Manchester United Arsenal which drew 1.5 million. Given that the US is just one of many overseas broadcast markets for the EPL these figures look good; but for MLS to draw so few in its domestic market does not bode well. As it is, MLS relies heavily on gate money to pay its way (up to 90% of revenue according to Todd Jewell); nowadays successful leagues generate one third or less of their revenue from this source. Liga MX was more successful than both, drawing 3 million for its final.