It is no secret that Serie A has been lagging behind its peers for several years now when it comes to its popularity on the international stage.  The same can be applied to TV viewing numbers in the USA, where Serie A is ranked second last, just ahead of Ligue 1 according to a Nielsen National TV View ratings (NNTV) study for IMG.

NNTV performed the analysis on behalf of IMG, who recently acquired the international Serie A rights for the 2018-2021 seasons. This was part of a presentation used by IMG as it prepares its business plan for Serie A broadcasting abroad, in which Calcio & Finanza has obtained a copy. The data presented is for English language viewership in the USA, and does not factor in the Italian broadcasting of matches via RAI Italia.

IMG Benchmarking Serie A compared to other leagues

Serie A TV viewing USA

What we notice from the table above is the correlation between ease of access and viewing numbers. It is no coincidence that the Premier League, MLS and Champions League are ranked top three (with an average viewership in the thousands of 369, 268 and 184, respectively) since they are broadcast on channels that almost everyone has or can access at a relatively low cost, and thus has a much wider distribution.

The Serie A has an average viewership of 22,000 just ahead of Ligue 1 at 16,000.

La Liga, despite having the top three ranked UEFA teams (Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid) and the two biggest football stars on the planet in Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, rank fourth. This is mainly because the matches are broadcast on beIN Sports, a specialty channel you have to subscribe to at a significant cost ($15 per month) compared to the other sports channels, and not as available – thus limiting the amount of potential viewers.

When adding the Spanish language in comparision, the Liga MX jumps out ahead significantly with an average viewing of 942,000 per match.

IMG Serie A beIN Sports 3 year trend

bein sports USA

The telecast counts show a downward trend however part of the reason is due to improper program coding by beIN. Nontheless, the numbers pale in comparison to the other leagues and are consistent with the low counts noted above.

IMG Comparison of audience of each league and channels

USA all leagues viewing

Interestingly, every league has seen a decline in viewership numbers except for MLS (+12%) and Liga MX (+29%).

In order of decrease, Ligue 1 drops the most (-30%) followed by Serie A (-26%), La Liga (-25.9%), Champions League (-24%), Premier League (-18%) and Bundesliga (-16%) however only two seasons of data available as it started in 2015.

This trend is somewhat consistent with an overall trend on what is happening to traditional TV as “cord cutters” are turning more and more towards digital content.