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.
Mike Golic Responds to Negative Comments on Drew Brees’ Broadcasting
“Unfortunately, you get judged early and then you get tagged with that.”
Drew Brees made his NFL playoff broadcasting debut in the broadcast booth last weekend. The future Hall of Famer was alongside Mike Tirico, a legend in his own right, for the Raiders-Bengals Wild Card game.
But an NFL playoff game draws a lot more attention than a regular-season contest and Brees received some criticism for being “vanilla” with his color commentary.
Responding to the heavy negative feedback online, former ESPN personality Mike Golic shared his thoughts with The Athletic’s Richard Deitsch on his sports media podcast regarding Brees’ first year in the booth.
Golic stated that it’s harder to make the transition from the field to the broadcast booth in today’s industry than in the past because people are much more hypercritical today.
“When Drew started doing the Notre Dame games, people would tweet at me, ‘What do you think?’ I said listen, I’m not judging a guy when he just starts,” Golic told Deitsch, via Awful Announcing. “He’s a walk-in Hall of Famer. But he’s now in a different world of learning timing and everything that goes with a TV broadcast, which he’ll learn.”
Golic continued on Brees’ upcoming career journey.
“He’ll learn in time… your first and then your hundredth is a different person. But unfortunately, you get judged early and then you get tagged with that. ‘You’re supposed to be great at this.’ Man, that’s unfair but, you know what, unfair or fair, that doesn’t come into play. You’re gonna get that opportunity and you’re gonna be judged immediately on it.”
Brees will no doubt continue to be in the NBC booth for high-level games. But his improvement and overall performance will surely be something to keep an eye on.
ESPN’s MegaCast Draws Over 23.1 Million Viewers for MNF Wild Card Weekend Debut
The Cardinals-Rams playoff game became the most-watched Monday night NFL game during ESPN’s Monday Night Football era.
The first Monday night Wild Card playoff game proved to be a successful one. In fact, it became the most-watched Monday night NFL game during ESPN’s Monday Night Football era (2006 – present).
ESPN’s MegaCast presentation (across ESPN, ABC, ESPN2, and ESPN Deportes) recorded 23,150,000 viewers for the Los Angeles Rams’ blowout victory over the Arizona Cardinals. The audience peaked at 27.9 million viewers while the Rams led 21-0 in the second quarter (from 9:30 – 9:45 p.m.).
The game puts a bow on top of a season during which Monday Night Football finished the regular season with its best viewership since 2010, up 16% from 2020 and 13% from 2019.
As part of ESPN’s MegaCast, NFL Super Wild Card with Peyton and Eli continued its massive success that viewers have grown accustomed to. The “ManningCast” was again one of the network’s most-watched alternate telecasts, with the duo’s most recent shows now among ESPN’s nine most-watched alternate broadcasts. The audience on ESPN2 for the Wild Card game registered 1,419,000 million viewers.
The successful debut adds to an entire season of bests for ESPN. During the 2021-22 season, including the Monday Night Wild Card debut, ESPN delivered two of the four most-watched NFL Monday night games and three of the six during this era of MNF (2006 – present).
NBC 2022 Winter Olympics Broadcast Teams Will Not Go To Beijing
NBC’s Olympic broadcasters will work remotely from the network’s Stamford, Connecticut facility.
On Wednesday, NBC announced that Olympic gold medalist and Alpine skiing legend Lindsey Vonn is joining the network’s coverage for the Beijing Winter Games. Unfortunately, any excitement over an Olympic star getting into broadcasting and providing analysis was soon undercut by a reminder that the world is still dealing with a global pandemic that is preventing life from returning to normal.
As reported by USA Today‘s Christine Brennan, NBC has decided not to send any of its Olympic broadcast teams to China and the announcers will cover their respective events remotely due to COVID-19 concerns.
Most of NBC’s Olympic announcing teams were already going to broadcast remotely from the network’s Stamford, Connecticut facility. But the original plans were for broadcasters to be on-site for figure skating, Alpine skiing, and snowboarding. That has obviously changed with the Omicron variant causing breakouts throughout the world.
Host Mike Tirico will still travel to Beijing for the opening ceremony on Feb. 4 and the initial few days of the Winter Olympics. But he’ll return to the U.S. to host NBC’s Super Bowl coverage on Feb. 13.
“We’ll still have a large presence on the ground in Beijing and our coverage of everything will be first rate as usual,” NBC Sports senior VP of communications Greg Hughes told Brennan. “But our plans are evolving by the day as they are for most media companies covering the Olympics.”
Viewers who have watched any sporting event with broadcasters working remotely have noticed the difference in how the action is called. Announcers can’t get a feel for how the reaction of the crowd influences the event. And in some cases, watching from a monitor rather than the usual on-site broadcast position can inhibit proper view of a play.
So NBC’s Olympics coverage will certainly suffer from broadcasters not being on-site, especially for the events mentioned above in which spectators can be a factor. That could make some showcase moments feel less compelling at times. But the excitement of an Olympics and standout athletic achievements should still be enjoyable to watch, regardless of where the announcers are situated.
The Beijing Winter Olympics begin Feb. 3 with broadcast coverage on NBC, USA Network, and CNBC, and streaming on Peacock, NBCOlympics.com, and the NBC Sports app.
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