We’ve already waxed poetically about the quality of NBCSN’s coverage of the English Premier League in its debut season. Now it’s time to take a look at some of the hard data that proves the EPL is trending very much upward as a television property stateside.
There’s no question the EPL on NBC(SN) broadcasts were quite successful this season. An increase in viewership and reach is to be expected because of the fact that more games were televised than ever before and some were even broadcast on network television on Saturday afternoons. NBC saw numbers go up in both total and average viewership for EPL games this year. Some of the highlights from the peacock’s glowing announcement:
- A record 31.5 million Americans tuned in to NBC Sports Group’s 2013-14 Premier League coverage – more than doubling the 13.3 million who watched last season on ESPN, ESPN2 and Fox Soccer, according to The Nielsen Company.
- NBC and NBCSN combined to average 438,000 viewers – up 99% from last season’s combined average on ESPN, ESPN2 and FOX Soccer (220,000). On a cable-only comparison, NBCSN averaged 395,000 viewers, an 80% increase over the ESPN, ESPN2 and FOX Soccer average.
- 15 games (5 on NBCSN and 10 on NBC) averaged more than 750,000 viewers – up from 0 live games reaching that figure last year.
- Viewers consumed a total of 259.2 million minutes of live Premier League action via NBC Sports Live Extra during the 2013-14 season.
Now, if you asked what the most watched games of the season were, you would be greatly surprised. Surely it would have to involve two of the league’s major powers. Something like Liverpool-Chelsea or the Manchester derby. Alas, the most watched game this season was the South Wales derby between Swansea City and Cardiff City. Here’s the Top 10 most watched games of the 2013-2014 season on American television:
|2/8/14||Cardiff-Swansea City||NBC||1.24 million|
|1/11/14||Swansea City-Man United||NBC||1.10 million|
|2/22/14||Man United-Crystal Palace||NBC||1.06 million|
|1/19/14||Man United-Chelsea||NBCSN||1.02 million|
|9/22/13||Man United-Man City||NBCSN||852,000|
As far as the top local markets go, the east coast was well represented in some of the biggest markets in the country. Washington DC led the way followed by New York, Baltimore, Boston, and Seattle to round out the Top 5. In what might be an encouraging sign for MLS’s future expansion to the southeast, Tampa, Orlando, and Miami cracked the Top 15.
We’re finally beginning to see some of the hard numbers validate the perception of soccer’s growth in America. The fact that the EPL’s average per match audience almost doubled in its first year on NBC is extraordinary. This summer, a World Cup largely played in primetime from Brazil should lead to record ratings. And although MLS still lags behind in viewership, the investment from Fox & ESPN on their new television deal is very encouraging.
The debate is over – soccer has made it in America as a major sport. Now the only question is just how far it can go.