12/15/21: ESPN’s carriage of the MLS Cup scored the best viewership since 2009

Medias First Morning Read
Wednesday December 15, 2021

Saturday’s 2021 MLS Cup presented by Audi, which saw a win for New York City FC over Portland Timbers, averaged 1,140,000 viewers to rank as the most-watched MLS Cup match on ABC and ESPN networks since 2009. The audience peaked in the final quarter hour during a portion of the penalty shootout with 1,630,000 viewers. The game came in 38% higher than the 825,000 viewers who watched Seattle Sounders vs. Toronto FC on ABC in the 2019 MLS Cup – the last Major League Soccer title match on an ESPN network. Philly led all markets with a 1.6 rating, followed by Albuquerque-Santa Fe (1.2), Cincinnati (0.6), Pittsburgh (0.6), and Portland, Ore. (0.6).

PROGRAMMING

Barreling through a bevy of viewership notes… the Packers’ 45-30 Sunday Night Football victory over the Bears on NBC and Peacock became the most-watched Sunday night game since Tom Brady’s return to New England in Week 4 with a Total Audience Delivery average of 19.4 million viewers across its platforms, up 10% from last year’s Week 14 SNF game. NBC’s TV coverage averaged 18.6 million viewers, with a national TV household rating of 10.2/23 – up 6%.

With the regular college football season in the books, ESPN networks are reporting viewership growth, up from both 2019 and 2020, with ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 averaging 1,976,000 viewers, up 19% from 2020 and 2% from 2019. ABC registered its most-watched season since 2017, averaging 4,042,000 viewers this season, up 25% from 2020 and 2% from 2019. For the first time since 2015, ESPN networks are the top two most-watched networks for college football on cable. ESPN averaged 1,733,000 viewers in 2021, up 16% from 2020 and on par with 2019. ESPN2 experienced its most-watched season since 2018, up 65% from 2020 and a 27% increase from 2019.

CBS Sports’ coverage of Army/Navy averaged 7.575 million viewers for the network, up 54% vs. last year’s game. The audience peaked with nearly 10 million viewers for the game’s conclusion. With the season done, CBS Sports’ college football season viewership led all networks, averaging 5.341 million viewers per game.

Univision TUDN’s coverage of the Liga MX 2021 Clausura Final on Sunday night between Atlas and Leon averaged 2.4 million Total Viewers 2+ and 1.2 million Adults 18-49, and peaked with 2.8 million Total Viewers 2+ and 1.3 million Adults 18-49 during the 11p quarter hour, according to Nielsen.

There were 963,000 viewers on ESPN2 who watched Max Verstappen edge Lewis Hamilton on the last lap to capture the 2021 Formula 1 World Championship on Sunday in Abu Dhabi. Overall, with races airing on ABC, ESPN and ESPN2, the F1 season averaged 934,000 viewers per race in 2021, shattering the previous season record average of 748,000 that was set in 1995. That was up 54% over the 2020 season average of 608,000 viewers and up 39% vs. the 2019 season average of 672,000 viewers.

Finally, the Super Bowl will come to Las Vegas. Multiple reports state that the city’s Allegiant Stadium is poised to be announced as the site of Super Bowl LVIII in 2024 at the NFL owners meetings in Dallas on Wednesday. The next two Super Bowls are scheduled to be played in Inglewood, California, at SoFi Stadium on Feb. 13, 2022, and in Glendale, Arizona, at State Farm Stadium on February 12, 2023.

ESPN will deliver Monday Night Football: Doubleheader Saturday on Jan. 8 (4:30p and 8:15p) before launching into its new Monday night NFL Super Wild Card presentation on Jan. 17 (8:15 p.m.). ABC and ESPN+ will simulcast ESPN’s offerings of both the Monday Night Football: Doubleheader Saturday and the Super Wild Card matchup with ESPN Deportes airing the Spanish-language telecast of all three games. In ESPN will have two broadcast booths for Monday Night Football: Doubleheader Saturday. The voices of Monday Night Football – Steve Levy, Brian Griese, Louis Riddick, Lisa Salters and John Parry – will call one game, as the group concludes their second regular season and prepares to call ESPN’s NFL Super Wild Card game.Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit will also call a game.

NFL Network locked in broadcast teams for the Week 15 doubleheader on Saturday. Joe Davis and Kurt Warner, along with Melissa Stark and Steve Wyche on the sidelines, will call the Raiders/Browns game at 4:30p. Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen, along with Pam Oliver and Kristina Pink on the sidelines, will call the Patriots/Colts game at 8:15p.

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SPONSORSHIP & PROMOTION

The NHL announced attractions and hockey interactives planned for the free Truly Hard Seltzer NHL PreGame, the official fan festival of the New Year’s Day 2022 Discover NHL Winter Classic, between the Wild and Blues at Target Field in Minneapolis. The Truly Hard Seltzer NHL PreGame will be a free, non-ticketed event, open to the public on Jan. 1 inside Target Center, offering hockey attractions, live musical performances, and much more. On the outdoor music stage, Viva Knievel will perform and inside Target Center local DJ, DJ Mad Mardigan will perform. Among the brands on deck to activate will be Truly, Bud Light, Clorox, Discover, Dunkin’: GEICO, Great Clips, Honda, Pepsi Zero Sugar, and Verizon, among others.

FIFA is introducing a new commercial partnership structure designed to offer “more tailored opportunities to partner with the sport of football, leverage the FIFA brand and support its competitions.” Three distinct partnership verticals are being launched this week with a range of packages available across Women’s football, Men’s Football and esports/gaming. “As we continually work to make football truly global, accessible and inclusive, we recognized the need for a nimble and customizable commercial structure that enables brands big and small, global and local, to connect with all aspects of the beautiful game,” said Kay Madati, FIFA’s Chief Commercial Officer. “The new model will allow our partners to create more tailored programming and marketing activations that align directly with their strategic business goals, and connect them to the world’s most passionate fans, in the world’s most engaging sport.”

Voyager Digital, a cryptocurrency platform in the United States, announced a multi-year agreement with The National Women’s Soccer League, making Voyager the NWSL’s first-ever cryptocurrency brokerage partner. The partnership calls for much of Voyager’s investment in the league to be used to fund individual crypto accounts for each rostered player in the NWSL. Each player will be eligible to receive an equal portion of the Voyager-established NWSL players’ fund, deposited in an account accessible via the Voyager app. Voyager will also provide NWSL players with financial education on crypto.

The University of Wisconsin announced that LEARFIELD will continue to represent the university in an extended agreement and pursue naming rights for Camp Randall Stadium’s south end zone renovation. The deal will run through June 30, 2029.

Sinclair Sports Group announced a new partnership with snack brand Takis to become the title sponsor and “official snack partner” of its early National Signing Day event. Additionally, Takis will sponsor live streaming coverage and exclusive content on Stadium and Bally Sports’ digital platforms.

The Golden State Warriors agreed to an international rights sponsorship with crypto platform FTX. CNBC reports that the multiyear pact is valued north of $10 million. “FTX is a company that caught our eyes a couple of months ago,” Warriors president and chief operating officer Brandon Schneider said in an interview with CNBC, adding “We think we’re at the beginning of the beginning. We’re all learning, and this space will evolve quite a bit.”

DIGITAL, DATA & TECH

Google is telling YouTube TV subscribers that Disney-owned channels, including ESPN, could be removed from the service with the carriage deal set to expire this week. “If Disney offers us equitable terms, we’ll renew our agreement with them,” YouTube posted in a blog. “However, if we are unable to reach a deal by Friday, the Disney-owned channels will no longer be available on YouTube TV and we will decrease our monthly price by $15, from $64.99 to $49.99 (while this content remains off our platform).”

Frequency, a cloud-based video SaaS platform powering linear channels for content providers, announced a partnership with Overtime to launch Overtime’s free ad-supported streaming TV offering. Overtime will utilize Frequency’s Studio platform to create a linear channel for OTT distribution.

ESPORTS

Major League Soccer and Electronic Arts unlocked the schedule and details for the 2022 season of eMLS, the official esports league of Major League Soccer. Play will begin in January, with 27 pro FIFA players, each representing an MLS Club including the addition of Charlotte, on the virtual pitch. If ongoing pandemic conditions allow, this year’s eMLS will see a return to in-person competition hosted at MLS Club stadiums and local concert venues in Cincinnati, Chicago, and Austin, where the eMLS Cup will be an official event of SXSW. For the first time, all participating MLS Clubs will stream each of their season qualifying matches on their respective official social channels, providing Clubs with new competitive content representing up to a record-setting 350 hours of live coverage. Coca-Cola, Cheez-It & Pringles, JLab, and PlayStation will return as official partners of eMLS.

Nintendo’s 30-year history will be showcased during B/R Gaming’s four-night celebration of Nintendo games and systems — B/R Gaming’s Nintendo Switch Winter Challenge. Hosted by Erin Ashley Simon and Jordan Kent, the event will feature teams that include SNL star Melissa Villaseñor and New York Mets pitcher Trevor May, competing in classic Nintendo games while raising money for charity. The event will run on TBS from Dec. 20-23 the first three episodes at midnight and the finale airing at 11p.

DreamHack is cancelling DreamHack Anaheim, previously scheduled to be an in-person event at Anaheim Congress Center from Feb. 11-13, 2022. The decision was made “due to increased difficulties in hosting the festival in a qualitative way.” “We were all really looking forward to our first in-person festival in the United States in two years, so canceling DreamHack Anaheim was not an easy decision,” said Krzysztof Pikiewicz, SVP of Festivals, ESL Gaming. “However, DreamHack creates a space for our community to connect, explore, win, play, and be themselves through an interactive, gaming lifestyle experience and we simply didn’t feel like Anaheim would be able to live up to that in February. We are now focusing on DreamHack Dallas and DreamHack Summer in June and can’t wait to welcome our community back at those festivals.” DreamHack is working with 343 Industries to offer the North American Regional Championship — originally planned to take place at DreamHack Anaheim — as a stand-alone event on the same dates at the same venue.

INDUSTRY & ROSTER MOVES

Good Karma Brands is picking up ESPN radio stations in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago in a slate of acquisitions. The company already owns ESPN Radio affiliates in Milwaukee, Madison, Cleveland and West Palm Beach. The new stations – ESPN 1050 (WEPN-AM) in New York, ESPN 710 (KSPN-AM) in Los Angeles and ESPN 1000 (WMVP-AM) in Chicago – will remain ESPN Radio affiliates and broadcast ESPN Network Radio content and locally produced programming.

Sirius XM Holdings announced that Joseph Inzerillo is joining the Company as Chief Product & Technology Officer effective January 10. In this expanded role, Inzerillo will set and lead the implementation of SiriusXM’s product roadmap, satellite infrastructure enhancements, and technology vision and strategy to drive innovation and growth across all SiriusXM platforms.

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