Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Soccer on US TV: Number of subscribers to each major channel

Subscribers of each major TV channel

From January 2020 to January 2022, the number of subscribers for each major channel decreased on average. Of course, in that time frame, the COVID-19 pandemic changed people’s TV viewing habits and hobbies in general.

Nielsen, a data and market measurement firm, recently reported its monthly estimates for television channel subscriptions. The findings look bleak for the network. Overall, multichannel services, meaning traditional cable, satellite, streaming, fell more than 10% over the past two years.

Cord-cutting isn’t necessarily something new in the American television landscape. However, Americans increasingly switched from traditional forms of multichannel TV to specialized paid-streaming services. Undoubtedly, this has happened in recent years at a much faster pace than anticipated.

Large traditional entertainment television channels suffered a steep decline in subscriptions during this time frame. For example, TBS, TNT, truTV, and USA saw tremendous declines. However, as many soccer fans in the United States know, NBC switched its home of the Premier League to the USA Network. It will be interesting to see the channel numbers go up due to the potential increased traffic. Still, sports networks at large are not losing subscribers at the same rate as these entertainment channels.

Although ESPN, ESPN2, FS1, and the now defunct NBCSN also have fewer subscribers, they have declined by only 2-4%. Comparatively the above entertainment channels have declined by 6-9%. FS2 and beIN Sports, on the other hand, have really seen an increase in viewership over the past two years.

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One interesting thing to note is that the number of subscribers to each of the major channels in Spanish has declined. While both FS2 and beIN Sports rose, FOX Deportes fell 11% and beIN Sports en Espaol sank 24%. The same applies to ESPN Reports, which fell the most in the past two years, down 31%.

Number of subscribers for each major channel from 2020 to 2022

Soccer on US TV: Number of subscribers to each major channel

Graphic via Sports Business Journal

The difference in subscriber rates may be partly due to the need to watch sporting events live. Many viewers access television shows the next day through streaming services such as Hulu or Peacock Premium. Certainly, some sport-specific streaming services offer next-day replays of games. Still, the added benefit of watching matches live is more important to the audience.

Soccer on US TV

As far as soccer in the US is concerned, each major channel has a mix bag when it comes to subscriber statistics. ESPN, FS1, FS2, NBCSN, and beIN remain relatively stable under sports conditions. However, this is in contrast to the trends seen for Spanish-language channels, such as Sports en Espaol and ESPN Deportes.

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Streaming service ESPN+ appears to be a major contributing factor to the downfall of these two channels. ESPN has acquired the rights to distribute Spain’s hugely popular LaLiga ahead of the current season. Generally speaking, all games are only available through ESPN+. There are exceptions when games are also on TV, such as season-opening games, but the streaming-only trend remains the same. Such was the case of El Clasico. Some LaLiga aficionados missed the game because of its broadcast on ESPN+ instead of one of ESPN’s linear channels.

beIN SPORTS previously held the US television rights to La Liga. The Spanish-language sports channel, beIN Sports en Espaol, also broadcast several fixtures over the years. Despite losing La Liga, beIN Sports still holds the rights to several competitions. For example, the French Ligue 1, the Turkish Super Ligue, the African Champions League, the African Cup of Nations and the CAF Confederations Cup all run on beIN Sports. However, the absence of La Liga now clearly affected its total number of subscribers.

Even as more football content, and apparently other live sporting events, transition to streaming services, traditional television networks will likely see their subscribers drop.

Soccer on US TV: Number of subscribers to each major channel
Nation World News Desk
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