Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Ten Facts That Might Be Wrong: Part 2

Ugh, am I going to have to come up with a snazzy intro every time I do this?

I hope not. Instead maybe just look here.

Basically, that author of that post, Ric, made 10 claims, claims which on the surface seemed a little counter to what the average person—whoever that is—might think. I'm all for bucking conventional wisdom, but without any data to back it up, the facts were kind of hard to believe on face value. And apparently with good reason.

So I stupidly decided to do the work. Part 1 is here.

This is Part 2.


And it deals with the following claim (again, his emphasis and italics):

Soccer is watched on TV by more Americans than any other sport outside of the Big 3 major league sports, yet it is treated by most mainstream media as though it is of less interest than sports like golf, auto racing, tennis, ice hockey, etc. Again, pro soccer is watched on TV by FAR more people here in the U.S. than any of those.

Getting an apples-to-apples comparison between sports might be a little difficult here. Specifically, what is "soccer"? Is that the MLS? Is it the US Men's National Team? Is it Mexican soccer on Univision? Is it the EPL (suck it, Barclay's) on FSC?

We'll tackle each of these to some extent, except maybe FSC because I'm lazy and I know those weekly numbers are relatively tiny.

To start let's look at good soccer numbers. By all accounts (and here "all" means "Disney") the ratings for the 2006 World Cup were exceptional. The USA v. Ghana match pulled a 2.6 rating for ESPN, making it, at the time, the second most watched soccer match in the network's history, behind only the 2002 US v. Germany quarterfinal in the 2002 World Cup.

So soccer, when it does a dynamite number in the US, it pulls a 2.6. Let's compare that 2.6 to golf, auto racing, tennis, and ice hockey—the sports Ric singled out.

So picking just a random week—Feb. 4-Feb. 10 of this year—here are the numbers (and all of these are for Sunday ratings). Yes, I understand that there's over 18 months between the two, but I'm trying to give soccer a chance here, so I'm looking for a relatively recent but strong showing for soccer.

Auto Racing: Daytona 500 Pole Qualifying. It drew a 2.9. That's obviously higher than the US v. Ghana 2.6 from '06. And that's not the actual race, just the qualifying for it. The actual Daytona 500 on the following Sunday pulled a massive 10.2 rating.

Golf: AT&T Pebble Beach. Final Round. It earned a 2.5 rating. This is just slightly below the 2.6 being used here. But, it's worth noting that this was not a major and, more importantly, had no Tiger Woods. Tiger Woods is golf right now. And when he doesn't play, people don't watch. So when nobody is watching golf, it still draws just below the second highest rated soccer broadcast ever on ESPN (at the time).

Tennis: No tennis that week. And I'm feeling too lazy to go look up ratings for tennis (hey, I'm already doing someone else's work, and I'm not getting paid, so sue me).

NHL: Ducks v Red Wings. On NBC this got a .8. Ugh. That's bad. But again we're comparing it to a highly watched soccer broadcast. How does it compare to a random MLS match?

For the 14 MLS games on ESPN prior to Beckham's arrival, the average rating was a .2 (and that was flat compared to the previous year, which also drew a .2)

So a random regular season game for MLS draws a .2 and a random regular season game for NHL a .8 number.

How is .2 > .8?

It's not. It's four times smaller.

But what about Spanish-speaking people in the US? What are their numbers like? Good question. The US v. Mexico friendly played February 9, 2007 in Glendale, AZ., was at the time the number 2 most watched Spanish-language sports broadcast ever, beating every Super Bowl ever among Hispanics.

And in L.A., nearly 1.2 million people watched the local Spanish-language broadcast, beating out American Idol and Lost.

That's good, yeah? Actually it is. It's very good. But that's the US and Mexican national teams. It's the most heated rivalry in CONCACAF. And frankly, the longer the American dominance of Mexico on our home soil continues, the more interest the rivalry draws. As for plain old Mexican Primera DivisiĆ³n, the New York Univision affiliate attracts about 29,000 viewers for weekly Sunday matches. And unlike a US v. Mexico friendly, that is not an impressive number. Hell, tennis might beat that (again, too lazy to look).

Basically, I can't even really construct an argument using the best case for soccer and the worst case for other sports that would support a statement like "pro soccer is watched on TV by FAR more people here in the U.S. than [other sports]."

I'm not trying to bash soccer. Hell, I love it. This is a soccer blog, but really even the biggest fanboys don't do the sport any favors in the US when they make claims that simply aren't supported by the numbers.

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