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FOX Thanksgiving MLS Game Sets Viewership Record For League

“It turned out to be the most-watched MLS match on English-language TV since 2004, and the most-watched MLS match ever on FOX.”

Jordan Bondurant

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It was a record viewership day for Major League Soccer and FOX on Thanksgiving Day. The network saw nearly 2 million viewers tune in to an MLS Cup Playoff match following the Chicago Bears victory over the Lions in Detroit’s traditional holiday NFL game.

Thanksgiving Day is usually the NFL’s day, outside of Super Bowl Sunday, to shine on America’s televisions. MLB has the 4th of July, the NBA over the last decade and a half has claimed its stake on Christmas Day, and one could argue that New Year’s Day is one of the NHL’s biggest TV days with the Winter Classic. But typically NFL games are always associated with Thanksgiving Day.

MLS continues to grow its viewership, especially as the league expands into new media markets. In recent seasons you’ve seen expansion teams pop up in Minneapolis, Miami, Nashville and Austin, with Charlotte set to become the league’s newest franchise home in 2022. The league around this time of year is finishing its postseason and crowning a champion, and this year, MLS decided to have an MLS Cup Playoff game played on Thanksgiving Day in a tight window between the end the start of the NFL’s two marquee annual holiday matchups.

The Western Conference first round match between the Colorado Rapids and the Portland Timbers on Thanksgiving turned out to be a success for MLS in terms of viewership. FOX Sports, which is the primary English-language broadcast rights holder for MLS, benefitted greatly from having the Lions game this year. The network was able to seamlessly transition from its NFL post-game show into a quick pre-match show for MLS, allowing the table to be set before kick-off.

According to FOX, the early afternoon game in Colorado, mid-afternoon on the east coast, drew a record 1.85 million viewers. It turned out to be the most-watched MLS match on English-language TV since 2004, and the most-watched MLS match ever on FOX.

That number outdrew the Copa America final that aired on FS1 over the summer, which saw international soccer star Lionel Messi claim his first major tournament title with Argentina. An audience of 1.836 million tuned in for the battle between Argentina and Brazil.

While a tad below 2 million viewers didn’t make the contest the most-viewed sporting event on Thanksgiving this year, it appears MLS seems to have discovered something that could only get better in future years if the league wants to make futbol part of the football-dominated holiday media landscape.

Sports TV News

ESPN’s NFL Programming Sees Big September Growth

For ESPN, September has been a really strong month with their NFL programming.

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For ESPN, September has been a really strong month with their NFL programming.

Sunday NFL Countdown is averaging 1.4 million viewers per show thus far in 2022. That up 15% from 2021’s first three shows of the NFL season. The season premiere – Sunday, Sept. 11 – averaged 1.6 million viewers, tying the network’s best Week 1 audience for the show since 2016 and is up 35% year-over-year.

NFL Live experienced large growth too. The episode airing after the first NFL Sunday, on Monday September 12, averaged 664,000 viewers which beat every NFL Live episode last season, including the most-watched episode on 2021 (December 17) which grabbed 635,000 viewers.

Monday Night Countdown is averaging 1.3 million viewers for its two, non-staggered September episodes, which aired in its traditional timeslot (6-8 pm).

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Sports TV News

ESPN Assigns Broadcast Teams for MLB Wild Card Round

In preparation for the postseason, ESPN has assigned the broadcast teams for the series forthcoming.

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Wild Card
David Berding/Getty Images

There are just a few games left in the MLB season and the postseason begins this weekend with the Wild Card round. In preparation, ESPN has assigned the broadcast teams for the series forthcoming.

Andrew Marchand reports that the team assigned to the presumptive New York Mets Wild Card series will be Karl Ravech, David Cone and Eduardo Perez. The Mets still mathematically can win the NL East but they trail the Braves by two games with three to play.

He also reports that the St. Louis Wild Card series will be called by Michael Kay and Alex Rodriguez. The Cleveland series will be broadcast by Boog Sciambi and Doug Glanville while the Toronto series will be called by Dave Flemming, Jessica Mendoza and Tim Kurkjian.

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Sports TV News

Stugotz: ‘Sean McDonough Hates The Aaron Judge Cut-Ins’

“If you look at the numbers, if you look at the interest, if you look at the revenue that it generates for the networks, it makes more sense to have an Aaron Judge at-bat interrupted by an Iowa State field goal attempt than it does the other way around.”

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College football fans are not being shy with how they feel about Aaron Judge. Whether it is private conversations or social media posts, people are making their disdain for the cut-ins to college football games on ESPN networks when the Yankee slugger comes to bat known. On Monday morning, Stugotz added that it isn’t just fans that are unhappy.

The Dan Le Batard Show discussed the second straight week of cut-ins on Monday morning. Stugotz pointed out that one of ESPN’s primary college football voices sounds just as annoyed as fans are.

“Sean McDonough hates the toss to Aaron Judge,” he said. Hates it!”

Last week, ESPN and ABC cut into games when Judge was sitting on 60 home runs. This week, he was sitting on 61. A 62nd home run would be the most in American League history.

Stugotz added that has to be part of McDonough’s frustration.

“In his defense, what are we cutting in for? I have no idea if [Aaron Judge] is breaking a record, what record he’s breaking, if he’s clean. I have no idea!”

Producer Mike Ryan Ruiz said the fact that Judge is yet to deliver is making the cut-ins more frustrating for fans.

“I think what hurts the whole thing is that Aaron Judge has been terrible during these cut-ins,” Ruiz said. “He’s been God awful during these cut-ins. I haven’t seen a single home runs during one of these cut-ins. There was genuine fury at a watch party I was at. Fury! At Aaron Judge.”

A popular criticism of ESPN has been that this kind of attention would not be paid to Aaron Judge if he was chasing a mark that wasn’t the home run record if he played anywhere other than New York. According to Ryan, the mistake is bigger than that. Why would regular season baseball ever interrupt college football?

“If you look at the numbers, if you look at the interest, if you look at the revenue that it generates for the networks, it makes more sense to have an Aaron Judge at-bat interrupted by an Iowa State field goal attempt than it does the other way around.”

There are four games left in Major League Baseball’s regular season. You can bet college football fans will make plenty of signs for College GameDay if Judge cannot hit number 62 before the playoffs start.

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