08 December 2005


Commenter K on yesterday's quick wrap wonders aloud why the NHL gets ESPN SportsCenter coverage, but MLS gets excluded. He's got a point that I'm not sure would have existed six years ago. I don't want to pick a fight with our estimable NHL friends, so I'm not going to say that MLS is better or more popular than the NHL. I don't think that argument would hold water. But certainly MLS and the NHL are in the same tier of popularity in the post-lockout world? So why does NHL get game recaps in SportsCenters, and MLS doesn't?

K wonders if the new TV Deal with ABC will help things, and I think again he's got a very good point. While most of the focus on the TV contract has been "Wow, maybe they'll show commercials for upcoming games!" it might even be more effective just to have highlights shown Saturday night. Saturday night during the summer doesn't have much competition from sports other than baseball, so getting 5 minutes of "In MLS Action, a wild-one out in Columbus..." would be great. The local sports show, Comcast SportsNight is willing to do this, so it is not impossible to fit it into the format. Not only that, MLS lends itself to this sort of packaged editing. For everyone that complains about soccer's length, you'd see just the highlights, and soccer highlights are often breathtaking displays of athleticism that might actually make the league look good. Sure, long-time fans are just as excited by possession building to a crescendo, only to be thwarted by a well-timed tackle from a DMid, but that takes some experience watching the game to appreciate, and we need more eyeballs at this point.
So perhaps there is a chance. The new TV deal's most effective marketing might not be ads, or game-time placement, or anything like that. It might just be 5 minutes a night where over-excited, lingo-spewing, slang-inventing pseudo-hipsters recap games. I think we deserve it.
Then again, if I have to listen to Stephen A. Smith explain how Freddy represents the "NU SKOOL" of MLS, I might just have to shoot myself.


At 08 December, 2005 10:38, Anonymous Anonymous said...

K here, I wouldn't quite put MLS on par with hockey, NHL has a lot of history and a very cool championship cup. But in 10 years I could see it closing the gap. (of course I have no idea about the actual numbers) If ABC/ESPN is serious about its support of soccer, (as it seems to be on its website-- soccer coverage far exceeds what cnnsi does despite the worthy efforts of Mr. Wahl)Sportscenter would be a logical step...
-K (male by the way)

At 08 December, 2005 12:02, Blogger D said...

It is not on-par, but is within the same level, if you will. The way I see it, sports leagues break down the following way:

Tops: NFL


Special Case: NASCAR (Tops in SE America, niche sport elsewhere)

Then: PGA, NCAAB (non March)

The Niche Sports (in order): Tennis (Majors), NASCAR, NHL, MLS, Tennis (WTA and the like), PGA (Champions Tour), F1

Fringe: Rugby, Aussie Rules, Lacrosse, etc...

So I think MLS has moved from fringe sport to niche sport, which while the NHL is larger, MLS is certainly within the same weight class.

At 08 December, 2005 12:14, Blogger Scott said...

well put.

At 08 December, 2005 13:10, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, I could go along with that. But I still think hockey is more popular -- for now, and only as a spectator sport. (As a participatory sport, soccer still beats all the rest.)

I believe the NHL's per-game attendance is roughly equivalent to MLS -- BUT MLS plays once a week, and hockey is two or three times a week, in more cities.

At 08 December, 2005 13:16, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I should dig up the links, but I'm pretty sure I've read numerous comparisons of Nielsen ratings (yes, they have their own faults) between MLS and NHL and there isn't much of a difference in TV audiences. And since ratings drive what the sports shows cover, there shouldn't be much of a difference in the two. I think locally, in DC this is true. But there aren't enough MLS teams at the moment, so most markets will ignore the league.

At 08 December, 2005 13:26, Blogger D said...

K - Sorry about the gender confusion. I've made a correction. Completley and totally my fault for assuming.

And I am more than willing to concede that the NHL had a bigger fanbase than MLS right now. But I do think if the NHL has earned the nightly recap on the Choice National Sports Network of most college students, then MLS has also finally earned that position as well.


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