Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Is ESPN Right Not to Push MLS on EPL Viewers?

Kartik Krishnaiyer believes ESPN missed a big opportunity by not pushing MLS telecasts during their early morning Premier League broadcasts:
Does ESPN simply assume that viewers of the Premier League and La Liga will not watch MLS so they do not waste their time promoting it? Or is this a tacit admission that MLS has maxed out as far as viewers in its current form, and the network is more concerned about building the brand of international football entering a World Cup year?
Kartik has a point. Yet as I've pointed out in the past, it might be best to sell European football on its own rather than bombard viewers, some of whom may never have seen a club football match before, with ads for MLS fixtures in the afternoon, as if they were one and the same entity.

I was and still am a European football fan; but I am also a Toronto FC supporter who bought season tickets because I wanted to be part of the growth of something at home I had already witnessed at a highly-developed level overseas. I suspect there are tens of thousands of other TFC and Seattle Sounders early franchise season ticket holders for example who share my story.

Why does this matter for MLS telecasts? Because in my experience most regular MLS television viewers follow a particular MLS club, and most MLS fans began following their club because at some stage they were European football fans first. They fell in love with the quality of play, with the fan culture, with the various Cup competitions, the history etc, and wanted some simulacra of that experience at home. MLS helps provide that, something I know many North American hardcore MLS and USL advocates don't like to hear.

MLS and European football telecasts are not interchangeable; ESPN likely knows that. They may also know it's better at this stage to let European football speak for itself, drawing more and more American viewers who will eventually want to see the growth of the sport at the club level in their backyards. MLS will be waiting for them. It's an organic process and it shouldn't be rushed. Show European football, and they will come.


Ryan said...

I never watch the MLS unless I'm really bored. The quality of play is wretched.

I live in Chicago and have been to Toyota Park once (to see a US qualifier). I've tried to be a Fire fan, but the games just aren't fun to watch.

Dongshow said...

Great piece, I agree fully.