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As the internet grows and other forms of media become more popular, the question of the importance of TV ratings becomes an increasing part of the conversation.
How this relates to MLS is simple: if the success of the league is based on public interest, are television ratings the best measurement of determining it?
Ultimately, the goal should be to estimate the total audience viewing of any given game and then averaged, excluding finals and anomaly games.
WSN hopes to quantify and explain the importance of ratings in the eventual hope that MLS expands as viewers are given more options to watch.
There are two core factors that are major players in the measurement of MLS ratings in the US.
Firstly, the legalization of online sports betting as a means to “view” the games.
Online gambling brings in new audiences, and they can be choosing to view in any number of ways.
It can be deduced that with the introduction of online sports betting that many leagues should see a boost in the ratings.
That’s why streaming has become so prevalent and Nielsen (USA TV ratings association) have confirmed only in 2017 that they will include streaming platforms like Youtube and Hulu.
However, these platforms only encompass a small portion of the streaming market. PlayStation Vue and Twitch Prime are among some other examples of popular sports streaming sites that Nielsen fail to take into account.
Not only that, but illegal streaming has also become very prevalent, with over 65% of young people (16-24) claiming to have used illegal streaming in the last month.
That means that the numbers are somewhat inaccurate, disallowing for the true popularity of a sport to be defined.
The numbers are difficult to decipher as the data still isn’t as accurate as some of the other major league sports.
Despite this, there are a number of things the league must do to improve their own ratings.
Firstly, create flexible scheduling and, secondly, advertise the games frequently.
There’s a severe lack of customer knowledge about when games are occuring. The fans are there but the content isn’t making itself known.
Advertising more frequently will also help the online sports betting industry, which will feed into higher ratings as typically non-MLS viewers may decide to bet and watch.
There is an identifiable increase in viewers per year that is no secret.
But until there is drastic change, MLS has some way to go before it becomes a staple of American sports culture.
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