2020 Soccer on TV Recap
Mike Koeshartanto

Soccer on U.S. TV – 2020 Year in Review

One of our favorite pieces of annual content is our look back at the previous year and the number of games broadcast on U.S. TV. In 2019 there were just over 3,000 matches across 35 different broadcasting networks. What did 2020 have in store?

Global pandemic equals less soccer on TV

The overarching theme of 2020 was assuredly COVID-19 and, as you’re aware, it affected the sport industry mightily. Soccer was certainly not immune to the affects of the pandemic and, as a result, the number of broadcasts dipped as leagues and international competitions were paused or outright canceled.

Soccer TV broadcasts in the U.S. – something for everyone

Despite the pandemic, it’s not all sour grapes as U.S.-based fans were still treated to over 2,000 broadcasts in 2020. Down from 2019? Sure, but fans still had plenty of options from which to choose and its the diversity in viewing options that really tell the soccer on TV story here in the U.S., not just the number of games broadcast.

I’m continually amazed at the soccer viewing options we have available at our fingertips here in the U.S. There truly is an option for every type of fan, whether you speak English or Spanish, like domestic or foreign leagues, or are a casual fan who drops by for bigger games. Covid aside, 2020 was another great year for soccer on TV. – John Guppy, GESM President & Founder

On an average day in 2020 fans could watch over six games per day. When you consider there were zero – yes, zero – soccer games broadcast on TV in April and only 25 in May, it’s truly a remarkable number given the circumstances.

There were over 60 competitions broadcast on U.S. TV, including everything from Ascenso MX to the DFB Pokal and the Qatar Prince Cup to Euro U-21 Qualifying. La Liga was the most-broadcasted league in the U.S. with 270 individual broadcasts. Liga MX was second with 246 and the Premier League was third with 211.

How about diversity in teams? There were over 600 teams featured in 2020, including the regulars like Real Madrid and Barcelona, as well as the irregulars like Willem II and Union Omaha. Among the ten most-featured teams were four from both Mexico and Spain, as well as one each from England and Ecuador.

What about the soccer broadcast breakdown by continent? We captured this stat for the first time and it likely unfolded as you’d expect – European games accounted for 54 percent of broadcasts in 2020. Rounding out the top three were North America (30 percent) and South America (15 percent).

Yes, the sheer number of games broadcast in the U.S. is something to marvel at despite being down in 2020; however, the diversity in options is just as, if not more, remarkable.

Soccer on TV 2020 RecapThe move from TV to streaming

Recapping the year in soccer broadcasts wouldn’t be complete without a mention of TV rights changing hands. The most newsworthy was Turner abandoning its remaining UEFA Champions League and Europa League broadcast rights, which allowed ViacomCBS to begin their relationship earlier than expected. CBS turned to their streaming platform, CBS All Access, for the majority of broadcasts with only a handful of games put on linear CBS and cable CBS Sports Network.

This trend of moving properties to streaming platforms isn’t new and something to keep an eye on in 2021. Look no further than NBC who, in 2020, began moving many of its games to the newly-launched Peacock platform. Fewer games were available on TV and, now recently announced, NBCUniversal will be disbanding NBC Sports Network many fans tuned to for Premier League games. Instead, fans will need to tune into Peacock for games, as well as the USA Network, which is available in over 90 million homes.

As more and more broadcast networks look to grow their OTT streaming platform subscriptions and use soccer properties as a means to do that, expect fewer broadcasts on traditional TV and perhaps a shift in how we share our soccer on TV insights.

As always, a big thank you to World Soccer Talk and Live Soccer TV for the great work they do in helping make our daily data collection much easier.

Categories: Research, Television Ratings