On Wednesday @MLS tweeted the following:
So it is kinda funny that I was looking at some numbers recently and some of them compared the footprint of MLS on soccer in the US, how much of the dollars generated by TV did MLS capture and how much of the live event dollars did MLS capture? Now the numbers were generated in 2009 but I think they are revealing as a guideline to how the gap between the fans who buy tickets and come out to matches and the overall lack of TV ratings.
now those might be a bit hard to see with such a small image but let me explain what you are seeing the yellow section on each chart represents the portion of the revenue pie that MLS gathers from various sources. So the first is a break down of the $126,000,000 cumulative US TV spend. MLS claimed $9,000,000 of that pie, which was dominated by Mexican League soccer, Premier League soccer, and La Liga soccer, who had $50,000,000, $20,000,000 and $16,000,000 respectively. In fact MLS generated the same amount of revenue 7% as did the FMF rights.
Now we all know that MLS has struggled with their TV ratings and we have talked about that in the past, but it is the second chart that spells a much better story for MLS, that is the breakdown of the $136,000,000 cumulative US spend on tickets to live soccer events. Here MLS owns 45% of the market, and generated a whopping $61,849,765, the next closest rival was the Gold Cup which claimed $15,000,000 in total ticket sales, the combined international friendlies from CAA and SUM generated just under $25,000,000 in ticket sales.
After the jump a much deeper look at some of the numbers from both the live event side as well as from TV:
So from this we can clearly see that for MLS revenue is generated via live events at almost 7 times the amount of money brought in by TV. Now this is a great thing as it means lots of people are coming out to watch MLS, and in 2007 and 2008 the average number of paid attendance was at its highest level since 1996.
So here is a chart that looks at both the TV ratings and average paid attendance from 1996 to 2008:
The live numbers have continued to go up as the league has grown since 2009, and while many teams have added to their fan base, the overall average is clearly impacted by the Seattle Sounders and their ability to draw over 38,000 each week. The number that was 12,604 in 2008 was up to 17,872 last year and so far this year it is up to 18,775.
So while the number of fans showing up and paying for tickets has gone up since the league started expanding again, the TV numbers are a whole different matter, and as a result you can see that the overall TV ratings are simply flat for MLS, which is why the league can't find a way to get more money for their TV rights. I have written in the past about the issues with MLS and their inability to draw decent ratings with their national TV partners, the reality is that the league with the exception of their first year has been simply unappealing to a national TV audience the ESPN number of 0.21 in 2008 is as of last year a 0.24. This despite adding the Sounders to the league, despite big names like David Beckham and Thierry Henry and the millions spent on DP's the league simply is unable to get the attention of the larger sports market and thus larger TV ratings.
in that same edition they revealed that MLS is less likely to have "avid fans" among Hispanics than the Winter Olympics:
I think if MLS is waiting for fans of the World Cup or of the USMNT or FMF to start watching MLS, they are barking up the wrong tree. Often I have been reminded that World Cup numbers like the Olympics get a huge boost from casual fans who follow out of nationalistic pride, more than a dedication to soccer.
Perhaps the answer lies in what has driven the one area that I think Major League Soccer has shown real leadership and growth in, and that is ticket sales. In particular Season Ticket Holders (STH). So here is what I know from an internal MLS document as far as the full STH sales for each team in MLS as of April 2009:
- Seattle Sounders - 18,977
- Toronto FC - 16,074
- Real Salt Lake - 5,385
- LA Galaxy - 5,161
- Houston Dynamo - 4,480
- D.C. United - 4,231
- New England Revolution - 3,781
- New York Red Bulls - 3,652
- San Jose Earthquakes - 3,156
- Columbus Crew - 2,881
- Kansas City Wizards - 1,749
- Colorado Rapids - 1,458
- Chivas USA - 1,395
- FC Dallas - 1,232
- Chicago Fire - 498
Now those numbers are troubling to me but remember this was in the depth of when the economy was tanked, so via big soccer (which actually linked various sources), here are the most current numbers:
- Seattle Sounders --------- 32,000 (2010)
- Toronto FC ------------------- 16,000 (2012)
- Portland Timbers FC --------- 14,750 (2012)
- Vancouver Whitecaps FC ---- 13,000 (2012)
- Philadelphia Union - 12,000-13,000 (2011)
- Houston Dynamo ------------ 12,000 (2012)
- Sporting Kansas City --------- 11,000 (2011)
- Montreal Impact -------------- 8,000 (2012)
- Los Angeles Galaxy ----------- 7,500 (2012)
- Real Salt Lake --------- 7,000-8,000 (2011)
- Chicago Fire ------------------- 6,000 (2012)
- Columbus Crew --------------- 5,000 (2012)
- San Jose Earthquakes --------- 4,000 (2012)
- Colorado Rapids -------------- 3,500 (2012)
- New York Red Bulls - 6,776
- D.C. United - 3,704
- New England Revolution - 3,660
- Colorado Rapids - 1,729
- Chivas USA - 1,709
- FC Dallas - 998