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ESPN Dumps "MLS Thursday"

From SportsBusiness Journal.....

"After two years of anemic ratings that started low and finished lower, ESPN executives decided to cancel the league's regular Thursday night telecast on ESPN2 this season. In its place, ESPN2 will carry an MLS game of the week, which will air on four different nights during the season. The weekly matches will occur on Thursdays (10 times), Saturdays (eight times), Wednesdays (six times) and Fridays (three times)."


By Steve Goff  |  January 19, 2009; 11:07 AM ET
Categories:  MLS  
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Kind of mixed.

I remember last year there were WNBA games that made the game come on late and I wasn't too happy. And plus I'll like seeing games on Saturdays. So I guess I'm for it.

Posted by: Konoha7 | January 19, 2009 11:20 AM | Report abuse

What are ya gonna do?
I'm more concerned with how Comcast is going to come with their DCU coverage. Any rumors on how that might pan out Goff?

Thursday nights were always a conflict of interest with the Office, 30 rock, etc. anyway... It sounds good to me that they'll be showing at least a game a week though. Hoping this is reflecting a little more thought going into reducing scheduling conflicts with tournament play.

Posted by: DadRyan | January 19, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

I enjoyed those Thursday Night Games (early Friday morning over here PT+9 & ET+6) MLS, Work, Weekend...

Aslong as MLS gets the $ and both, the audience @ the stadiums and in the ratings grow, I don't mind the flexibility.

Posted by: Ben7LA | January 19, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Hail Caesar!

I can't say I saw more than a handful of games on Thursdays this past year. And given that I'm often at a soccer practice until 8:30 pm and then starting dinner every Thursday night during the season, it was unlikely I'd catch a game this year. So no loss on my end.

Posted by: joedoc1 | January 19, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

So if they don't feel like the ratings are good enough when everyone KNOWS when the matches are, how will it help when they are on a different night every week?
Sounds like all this bouncing around might be designed to help The Worldwide Leader stay more in line with a certain team's schedule ... *cough Beckham cough*

Posted by: mjhoya12 | January 19, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse

I'm with you on that mj. I liked the fact that you always knew what night the ESPN game would be on. I always tried to plan my Thursday nights around the game. I'm assuming the Saturday games will be during the afternoon, so as to not conflict with FSC??

Posted by: SonicDeathMonkey | January 19, 2009 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Potentially good, but I'm tired of poker shows.

Posted by: Section117 | January 19, 2009 11:42 AM | Report abuse

I have mixed feelings as well. Having to watch games on Wednesdays/Fridays will be different - but I am looking forward to those Saturday games. Does anyone know if DC game vs LA (1st game on Sunday) will be aired on CSN?

Posted by: AnthonyTheGreat | January 19, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

It's bad news. If the game of the week isn't on during a set day/time, it will have an even harder time finding an audience. I think MLS will translate better to TV when we get a few more soccer specific stadia open.

Posted by: billindmd | January 19, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

To be honest, I'm glad. I guess I can see why having a uniform night for MLS games would be good for people setting a routine, I know that I (and apparently many others) was never really feeling the Thursday nights.

There's just a lot going on for people on Thursday night, and I don't think it's easy to plan around staying in to watch MLS.

The ESPN2 on Saturday will of course be the best bet, but I'm not opposed at all to having MLS tried out on other days when necessary.

Posted by: kingchros | January 19, 2009 12:25 PM | Report abuse

meh, maybe 5 years ago this would have been a bigger deal but lets face facts ESPN is not the first source for most people in this country when it comes to Soccer...but you know what, ESPN has got out of the game EXACTLY what it's put into it.

Posted by: senevada | January 19, 2009 12:29 PM | Report abuse

To quote the great Goff............

Posted by: boda-united | January 19, 2009 12:33 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad that they didn't pull out entirely. While I liked the Thursday night game, I wonder if this way they can see if Wed, Fri or Sat do any better and eventually make that the night. It'll be awhile before MLS will be a big draw on mainstream TV (i.e. we get ESPN on basic cable, but not FSC or Gol), so for now I'm just glad I don't have to watch on my laptop.

Posted by: eadc | January 19, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

@Reignkink: A good TV week... House, 24, a and Burn Notice returns Thursday. Sweet.

Posted by: joedoc1 | January 19, 2009 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like ESPN is experimenting so they can find a better day/time to cover matches.

Still the Beckham rule has gotten stale in the time since the league signed Beckham. MLS really needs to make some changes to encourage more teams to sign high level DPs, to raise the quality of play on the field and to give clubs more flexibility in how they construct their rosters.

Posted by: Eugene7 | January 19, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Thoughts: Goff is above such a headline

Posted by: undrafted | January 19, 2009 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Probably not a terribly big deal in the long run -- I missed a lot of games what with other stuff going on and, as I recall, a lot of the games that they did show had pretty pathetic attendance. A game of the week between teams that are hot at the moment played at attractive venues would seem to be a better idea -- what with TiVo and home recorders it's not going to be that big of a deal.

Posted by: Stevenho | January 19, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

1) I am going to assume the ESPN Saturday games will be during the day in the summer so they are not up against FSC's game of the week.

2) Was this holding up the release of the league schedule? Hard to sell tickets when there is no schedule. I don't see MLB and NFL waiting 10 weeks before the season starts to have a fixture list out.

Posted by: IamAM | January 19, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Thoughts: Goff is above such a headline

Posted by: undrafted | January 19, 2009 1:58 PM

How bizarre....?

I never liked the time slot, and didn't care much for the production, but i do like the Hi-def. As long as they do a weekly hi-def game I don;t care when it is. I also don't think the league needs the consistent time slot, unless it's on the weekend.

Posted by: JkR- | January 19, 2009 2:21 PM | Report abuse

I say F U espn. I am getting verizon fios so I am good for every football match around the globe and I don't give a dame about you and i will buy direct kick for mls games. You stay with your dumb founded sports.

Posted by: DCUnitedFootball | January 19, 2009 2:30 PM | Report abuse

ESPN2?..the game should be broadcast on regular digitized tv lol

Posted by: TheWashDipsSince88 | January 19, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

I find it hard to believe that ratings will go up if the game of the week changes dates every week. I don't know anything about programming a sports network, but it seems to me like Primetime Thursday was barely ever mentioned on ESPN or elsewhere, and that games falling on random days makes the league (something ESPN has invested millions in) look less established. I'd be interested to hear the reasoning behind this, other than change for change's sake.

On the other hand, Thursday night wasn't a good night to show a game. More than half of MLS cities would struggle to get more than 12K out for those games, hurting both ticket revenues and the perception of the league for the casual fan. Of course, ESPN is now adding Wednesday games, which anyone that's been following MLS for a long time will tell you is a bad idea.

Posted by: Chest_Rockwell | January 19, 2009 2:40 PM | Report abuse

I have to say - I don't like this - but I can also say that I'm more for it if ESPN get's the ability to pick selectively from games. Take a stab at the best picks from the first 1/3 of the season and then go on some sort of flex schedule where they look at their current offering and pick the MLS game that they think maximizes viewers.

Y'know - put the games with the best crowd/chance at a great televised contest on versus those Thursday night games rumored to happen at Gillette Stadium or seeing Kansas City playing in the parking lot at a high school.

If it gets the league ratings, that would work - however, this I think is a real sign that the league really needs to invest in it's product and it's players a little more because ESPN might be willing to not sit down like they did last time - especially if they get the Barclays Premier League rights like they are rumored to be interested in.

Posted by: VirginiaBlueBlood | January 19, 2009 2:46 PM | Report abuse

The reason the ratings started low is because FSN does pretty good coverage of soccer and the only thing ESPN could improve on would be HiDef. Most games are shown in HiDef, but the coverage is so god-awful that the pain/pleasure ratio is too low. The point of watching a soccer game is to watch the game. Soccer is so much about flow over a large area - it's not (American) football where the play advances mostly in 3 yard increments with resets in between, with the occassional long run (covered by a gazillion cameras if it happens, along with a dozen officials on and off field) - soccer is about action that can switch from one end of the field to the other in the time-of-flight of a well-placed kick - action that doesn't stop while the commentary quits talking about how wonderful Sir Beckham is long enough to mention what's happening on the field - what's happending on the field - right now - is all that matters. Soccer is not basketball, where people sprint up and down a comparatively small area, with frequent stops and starts - soccer doesn't stop often if the game is being played and officiated properly. Good coverage of soccer is not about the commentators reading from stat sheets -or mentioning how odd a coaching decsion is to them and how great things were back in the day when they played - it's about the setup that appears to be occurring and why a run of play was suddenly reversed - the consistent pressure applied to one side of the field - the switch of a roving player from one side to another - the athleticism of a player in the act of play - not about "color" commentary.

Until ESPN covers soccer as the game it is, then eyeballs will continue to watch games in other venues.

Posted by: cheapthrill | January 19, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

I'm sad that there will be less coverage, but I'm happy that I wont have to deal with the "comercials". I hated the side by side coverage with the comercial preemting the game.

Now that my local watering hole has FSC, I've got all the soccer coverage I need.

Posted by: dogboy | January 19, 2009 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Personally I'm disappointed because I really looked forward to having a HD MLS game every Thursday night. I like having matches spread out during the week so I have a chance to see more games instead of having all of the matches running Saturday night at the same time.

But it's ESPN's money and their decision on what's best for attracting viewership. Obviously they think they can convert general sports fans into soccer fans, so we'll see if this approach helps with that. I hope that they (and MLS) are planning to do more than just change around the scheduling though. MLS needs to make their matches must-see TV. If that means getting a Beckham/Blanco or two on every team, then maybe it's time to increase spending on players, and to not punish teams that do spend a lot of cap space on star players.

Posted by: sobugged1 | January 19, 2009 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Well, I got a nice tee shirt out of it anyway.

Posted by: b18bolo | January 19, 2009 3:17 PM | Report abuse

It's not exactly "less coverage". ESPN2 is showing 27 games, just not all on Thursday.

Posted by: undrafted | January 19, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

This isn't exactly a vote of confidence but there are advantages for both sides. ESPN can better fill its schedule depending on other events. Better games can be chosen (hopefully) with better crowds (probable on Saturdays). With 15 teams this year, having bye weeks on Saturdays made Thursdays doable. But most years MLS will have an even number of teams. So scheduling a Thursday game likely pushes at least 2 games on the weekend to Sunday. Many teams in MLS do not draw well on Sunday compared to Saturday night. The only downside I see is lack of consistency, but it's not likely they had a regular TIME on Thursdays (it was sometimes 7pm sometims 11pm here on the east coast). In this information age, I suspect most can figure out when the games are on if they're really interested.

Personally Thursday is one of the only nights when I have nonsoccer shows I want to watch, so there will be less DVR headaches.

Posted by: undrafted | January 19, 2009 3:41 PM | Report abuse

it's unfortunate and detrimental to MLS. I for one always checked to see who was playing, knowing that there was an option to the endless available games of MLB.

the fox soccer chammel should step up and live up to it's name.

I for one would rather watch a Colorado-Toronto match than some Mexican league game.

It'a all about player recognition,building a bond with the viewer.How can you do that without broadcasting the games on a consistent basis?

IT's doomed.

Posted by: QUASICRITIC | January 19, 2009 3:43 PM | Report abuse

Until the quality of MLS improves, the reception to domestic football in the US will always remain anemic. However, don't be surprised if in 50 years, Football over takes both the NFL and MLB solely due to immigration and the fact that more children are currently playing the classic game of football than American football and baseball combined.

Posted by: papple | January 19, 2009 5:24 PM | Report abuse

I find it amusing that ESPN executives actually expected soccer to get any sort of ratings at all on an night of the week where the casual fan is unlikely to tune in.

I'm actually going to be interested to see which night gets the best ratings in this new scheme.

I'm thinking Friday.

Posted by: roadkit | January 19, 2009 5:38 PM | Report abuse

I am ok with this - any night is good as long as they keep the HD and avoid NE and KC home games (and NY before the arena opens). I never listen to the ESPN commentators - I always have music going on in the background. For what it's worth, I do the same for Ray Hudson on GolTV and Max Bretos/Christian Miles on FSC, so it's not just an ESPN thing.

I enjoy the Comcast SportsNet coverage (especially in HD) and hope they won't tail off in amount of coverage again like they did this year in the second half of the season.

Posted by: Pedalada | January 19, 2009 6:02 PM | Report abuse

Another step in the wrong direction. Is MLS really healthy or is it slowly losing it? This year the Reserve league is dropped, then the team rosters are reduced, now its losing some prime time coverage.

Posted by: TomR143 | January 19, 2009 6:24 PM | Report abuse

No great loss. Footie is a game to see in person. Live MLS is a bit lame on TV (0-0 in front of empty seats) and mid-week matches get worst attendance. Better to have a full slate of games each Saturday. Create a decent hour-long late night highlights show, like the British "Match of the Day" format, goals etc from every game during the day/earlier in the week, 30 minutes or so from one game, some analysis, discussion, league standings etc. Bit more exciting.

Posted by: oz4dcu | January 19, 2009 6:30 PM | Report abuse

I'd like to see a return of a 30-min (not 60-min) weekly highlights show similar to the old MLS Wrap.

Posted by: Pedalada | January 19, 2009 7:56 PM | Report abuse

""Bobby Convey, Reading: Convey didn't make the squad against Reading and in Saturday's 2-0 loss against resilient Swansea. According to his agent, a few clubs in Major League Soccer are interested in bringing the winger back to the U.S., the San Jose Earthquakes apparently included.

Season: 6 (3) -- 0""

If Convey returns to MLS and NOT to DC United, there's something wrong, very, very wrong.

Posted by: delantero | January 19, 2009 7:57 PM | Report abuse

This is emphatically BAD news. Any supporter of professional football in the US should be concerned with "ratings that started low and finished lower." The reported drop in ratings signifies reduced potential earnings for the league -- which translates into lower salaries, etc... We can hope that the revenue is made up through other means but any drop in ratings is bad.

62 days to United's first game!

Posted by: Curious99 | January 19, 2009 7:59 PM | Report abuse

Maybe they should do what the NFL did with Sunday Night Football and try to make the game of the week a flex schedule contest between the better teams as the year goes along. I would rather FSC dedicate a weekday and an afternoon showing on Saturday and ESPN get a Saturday primetime game (a la Hockey Night in Canada).

Posted by: dukestreetkid | January 19, 2009 8:07 PM | Report abuse

We can hope that the revenue is made up through other means but any drop in ratings is bad.

62 days to United's first game!

Posted by: Curious99 | January 19, 2009 7:59 PM

Yo, I'll take this as another vote for a 3rd Jersey for DCU! Come on now people! Until the club earns another star it's the only sensible choice... Also install the "Fenty Lied" Sausage Haus brought to you by Johnsonville Brats...
Unless of course they break ground in DC. Then we'll without a doubt need our own Ben's Chili Bowl up in the spot...;-)

Posted by: DadRyan | January 19, 2009 8:46 PM | Report abuse

I really don't watch anyone but DC anyway. Except playoffs, an occasional good matchup or a good player I might want to check out I usually don't watch anyone else. Just like the NFL i have a hard time watching anyone but the Skins unless its a really good matchup or a particular player I care about.

Posted by: Brian76 | January 19, 2009 8:58 PM | Report abuse

I could never rememeber that a match was coming on Thursday night anyway. The whole "Soccer Night in America" thing just wasn't working. It was doomed from the start so no blame should be placed on its lack of success.

It would be best if they moved the game to the weekend, even if they are at odd times. That is whe I am scouring for some soccer, not on Thursday evening.

Posted by: Palin-McCain2012 | January 19, 2009 9:38 PM | Report abuse

"ESPN2 will carry an MLS game of the week, which will air on four different nights during the season."

These games going to be live or on tape? I hate weekday games. Better the league stick to Saturday/Sunday for attendance purposes.



Posted by: jayrockers | January 20, 2009 1:43 AM | Report abuse

MLS games on ESPN got more raw viewers in 1998 and 1999 than in 2008 when Beckham was not playing. That's the bottom line. More European football on TV has hurt MLS' TV numbers from casual viewers. The good news is attendance is now much higher than in 1998/99.

Posted by: kkfla7371 | January 20, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

re: "This is emphatically BAD news. Any supporter of professional football in the US should be concerned with "ratings that started low and finished lower." The reported drop in ratings signifies reduced potential earnings for the league -- which translates into lower salaries, etc... We can hope that the revenue is made up through other means but any drop in ratings is bad.

Posted by: Curious99 | January 19, 2009 7:59 PM"

Spot on. This is bad. And its not ESPN's fault (though they could feature MLS more on Sportcenter). The only silver lining I see here is perhaps ESPN can select more telegenic games. Hopefully there will be NO televised games with American football lines (should be easier with at least RSL out of a football stadium and NY soon to be). Hopefully NO televised games in venues with history of poor attendance (NE, Colorado, Chivas, Columbus to name a few). This might help ratings in the short term. In the long term, the standard of play needs to get a lot better.

And curious, the countdown routine is still tiresome. We all have calendars.

Posted by: Ron16 | January 21, 2009 9:55 AM | Report abuse

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