It's No Wonder ESPN's MLS TV Viewership Has Declined 12%
Watching the MLS Western Conference Final on ESPN2 Sunday night, I couldn’t believe how poor the TV production was. When the ball was on the far side of the field from the camera, it felt like I was watching a game from the nosebleed section of Home Depot Center. When the ball was near the corner flag, I couldn’t see what was happening. It’s hard to believe that this is the same network that carries the English Premier League on Saturday mornings. The difference is night and day.
The production quality of the game was exceedingly poor. Replays of key goal incidents took too long to be shown. There was very little fluidity to how the pictures were shown. It seemed, at times, that pictures were haphazardly thrown together and lacked the polish of a world-class soccer production.
The number of TV cameras used was pitiful when compared to other leagues from the world. The main camera was used more extensively than I would have liked as it panned slowly across the pitch, sometimes losing the ball which was out of camera view. But my biggest complaint about the whole TV production was that the crew showed far too few close-ups. The beauty of soccer is seeing the action close-up. Seeing the incredible skill. Feeling as if you’re part of the action. Not watching a soccer game with the camera zoomed out where you feel disconnected with the game.
Based on this production, it’s no wonder that TV viewership for Major League Soccer has dropped 12% for this regular season compared to 2009. It’s not the quality of soccer on the pitch. Part of the reason is that ESPN is not bringing it’a A game to this league.
While ESPN’s production quality for this particular Major League Soccer game was well below average, I thought JP Dellacamera and John Harkes did a decent job, but the overall production value by the rest of the behind-the-scenes crew was incredibly disappointing especially when we know they’re capable of bringing us a better produced game.