MLS (that’s soccer, for the pro-American Americans out there) hit the TV ratings jackpot this weekend, when the league’s most decorated team, LA Galaxy, secured a place in the quarterfinals against the phenomenon known as LAFC. (Full disclosure: the Reader holds front row season tickets to the LA newbies.)
The Gals and the Laffs (the Reader’s affection for haterism runs deep, even when clever nicknames are used against its favorite teams) have already been a national success for MLS, giving American soccer’s favorite cartel the derby (pronounced “darby”, you Yankee louts) it always wanted.
For context, a late July LA-LA clash garnered a sweet 0.16 in the cash-money demographic of 18-49 year-olds, despite airing on a Friday night at 10:30 pm in the east. The other coast’s wannabe rivalry, NYCFC vs. the Red Bull New York Red Bulls of New York, snatched a paltry 0.04 in its prime, 7 pm Eastern Saturday slot a month later.
Of course the sports media media (that is to say, bloggers, local news columnists and TV take artists) will say it’s a shame that the league’s two biggest teams share a conference (and a city, for that matter). Hogwash.
A little known fact about sports television viewership is that intra-division rivalries are the rising tide that lifts championship ratings boats.
For example, the most-watched AFC Championship game remains the 2011 matchup between the Jets and the Steelers. Sure, the game had a New York team, but so did the previous year’s. Sure, the Steelers have a national audience, but they appeared in a half dozen other AFC title tilts during the Big Ben era. What triggered audience overload was the Jets’ scintillating rivalry with the Patriots, which climaxed in the divisional round the week before.
Same principle applies elsewhere: epic Auburn/Alabama games leading to big SEC Championship game ratings, the Caps/Pens rivalry triggering high Finals ratings for Vegas/Washington, and more.
MLS won the added good fortune of having their biggest Playoff game fall on an off night for the World Series, and having a low-wattage Vikings/Redskins matchup in the Thursday competition window. Add it all up, and the Laffs/Gals clash should stir a demo rating above 0.20; perhaps even reaching 0.25. Considering last year’s LAFC demo rating of 0.08 for its playoff loss to Real Salt Lake, a quarter of one percent would be a big win for everyone involved.
The Worldwide Reader likes to keep it bold, knowing full well that boldness is sometimes served with a slice of humble pie.
Last week the Reader ranted and raved about Fox Sports’s hot streak (Big Noon college football, increasing NFL ratings, Yankees’ postseason run) coming to an end. It took all of three days for yours truly to eat some crow.
Fox’s first Sunday of a four-week run of Cowboys-less NFL games posted a smashing viewership number of 23 million. What’s more, an astounding 41% of all adult (18-49 year-old) males who were watching TV between 1:25 and 4:30 pm PDT had their televisions tuned to either Bears/Saints or Seahawks/Ravens.
Here’s the topper: Fox’s late afternoon NFL window beat NBC’s Cowboys game! (In viewership, at least. In the 18-49 demo, NBC squeaked out a 6.6 to 6.4 win. [Really puts those MLS numbers in perspective, no?])
Sure sure, Fox’s late Sunday NFL had a few things going for it. The Bears are red-hot (interest-wise, not quality-wise) in Chicago, which is a huge market. Green Bay, Minnesota, Detroit and San Francisco all had early games, thus freeing up those fans to watch Fox’s doubleheader game. The head-to-head competition on CBS was light (Tennessee against the Reader’s frustrating Chargers), and only one local market — Nashville — had the game blacked out. (The NFL allows home teams to black out games that oppose the home team’s game in a local market, and the aforementioned Titans were the only such game.) Lastly — and conveniently dovetailing with the crux of the Reader’s above essay on rivalry game fallout — Fox was surely the beneficiary of football fans catching an earlier game in anticipation of the big Cowboys/Eagles matchup on Sunday night (which was over halfway through the 3rd quarter, thus deflating its own ratings).
So, congrats Fox Sports! Your good luck (and skill) extended longer than the Reader thought. Better hope for a tight World Series tonight to keep it rolling.