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Despite Toronto FC’s dominance, ratings slide for MLS Cup in Canada


The favourite post-MLS Cup tradition in North American soccer media is to pick apart the ratings for the big game.

So, let’s dive in.

In 2016, with the game on in  prime time for Eastern viewers, MLS Cup drew 1.43 millions viewers on TSN, and 92,000 more on RDS. From the 2016 TSN release on its ratings: “Overall, 4.2 million unique viewers watched some part of Saturday night’s championship game on TSN and RDS. Audience levels peaked at 11 p.m. ET with 2.7 million viewers as Sounders defender Román Torres slotted home his penalty kick to seal the victory for Seattle.”

In 2017, with the game moved to the afternoon, and the same two teams — Seattle and Toronto FC — playing in the same venue, the Canadian numbers were down slightly. TSN reported Monday that it got a viewership of 1.3 million for MLS Cup in 2017, with the peak coming in at 2 million (down from 2.7 million last season).  The number of Canadians who watched some part of the game came in at 3.4 million, down from 4.2 million the year before.

That downward trend for the final bucked the season trend for the season. TSN says its ratings for the MLS season in total for 2017 was up 25 per cent over 2016’s numbers.

Now, there are a lot of factors to why the 2016 game did better than 2017; cord-cutters, the move to an afternoon game and the fact that 2016’s game was one of most boring things ever, maybe that scared a fraction of the audience away for 2017 (“fool me once, shame on me, fool me twice, shame on you”). The fact that Toronto FC put up one of the most incredible seasons in MLS history didn’t help increase the reach of the big game.

With no extra time or penalties, the 2017 game took up a smaller window than the 2016 game, which would hurt peak viewership and the number of total views.

But, even though the numbers were down in Canada, 1.3 million is a very healthy number, and it continues to show that MLS is seen as more of a major league in Canada than it is in the United States, where the MLS Cup broadcast drew a 0.7 rating on ESPN, down from Fox’s 1.0 in 2016. Fox has a larger footprint than the we-can’t-make-cuts-fast-enough ESPN, but the MLS PR staff will point to the fact that ESPN’s ratings for MLS Cup in 2017 were actually up over the last time the Disney-owned network broadcast the league’s championship match.

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One Comment

  1. italk2u

    December 12, 2017 at 8:53 am

    Too bad they didn’t break down the numbers to show viewership outside the GTA.

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