Aired on ESPN, UniMás and Univision Deportes, the MLS Cup this past Sunday received a bigger audience than last year. Austin Karp at the Sports Business Daily tweeted that ESPN registered an audience of 964,00 viewers, UniMás averaged 678,000 and Univision Deportes added another 245,000.
The aggregate audience between the three networks is 46% higher than last year when ESPN/UniMás combined for 1,019 million viewers and was the lowest viewership ever for the game. Last year, ESPN could only muster 505,000 viewers for the MLS Cup which was played on a Saturday afternoon opposite college football. UniMás’ audience last year actually outpaced ESPN’s with 514,000 viewers. This year, registered a 48% increase from 2013. This year’s game went against the NFL, but also had big market teams from Los Angeles and Boston. Last year’s game pitted Sporting Kansas City vs. Real Salt Lake.
MLS ends a TV contract with ESPN/NBC and now speeds into a new eight-year deal with ESPN, Fox and Univision. The game registered a 0.6 overnight rating for the league’s showcase game and won’t move the meter, but the TV partners are hoping that 2014 is a building block for the upcoming contract and will lead to bigger and better things.
However, seeing the overall viewership increase by 46% for this year’s game has to give encouragement to ESPN, Fox and Univision and soccer making inroads with the American people, the league and its TV partners will take what they can get as MLS begins a new era with its partners.