We all know the Big Four sports leagues: MLB with baseball, the NFL with football, the NBA with basketball and the NHL with hockey. But what people don’t know as much about are the smaller sports leagues that need to be considered as big-time leagues, and maybe some big sports leagues that are declining.
Everyone knows that the NFL is declining in viewership, thanks to the commissioner Roger Goodell ignoring the risks of football amid increased concerns about the dangers of concussions and leveling controversial suspensions such as one for a hard hit to a wide receiver by Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman last year. President Donald Trump even pointed out the declining ratings, saying “Football has become soft.”
Instead, the other football, soccer, is increasing in popularity in America. Major League Soccer (MLS) has increased in viewership according to the official MLS website, and each year since its inception in 1996. Not only that, D.C. United has been one of the most successful teams in the league’s history, winning four MLS Cups, good for second all-time after the LA Galaxy. MLS, according to Forbes is “closing the gap” to becoming the next league in the Big Four.
The NBA’s ratings dropped substantially last season, and no one knows why. Even the high-flying San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors have dropped in ratings locally. Overall, the NBA’s ratings dropped 28% It may be because the basketball market is crowded between the professional and college games, but even the NCAA are taking a small hit in viewership when it comes to basketball. You pretty much have to be a March Madness winner to have a bigger market, but here’s what you should be watching that’s rising in the market.
Would you be surprised to hear that the WNBA is rising in the basketball market? NBA stars LeBron James and Chris Paul wouldn’t be.
“It’s amazing to see the growth of women’s basketball,” James said in a WNBA promotional video.
“They have a huge collection of talent,” Paul said in the same video.
Last season, the WNBA broke league records in attendance and TV viewership, and down a level, the NCAA Women’s March Madness championship increased in viewership by 46% compared to the 2015-2016 season.
While it is still considered a Big Four sport, the NHL has the smallest share of the sports market out of the four major leagues. But thanks to their use of Major League Baseball’s MLB Advanced Media to upgrade their mobile app and TV network, the NHL is on the rise. This season’s NHL All-Star game was the highest-viewed All-Star game in the league since 2004.
MLB has the most increasing market share out of any Big Four sport. The World Series last year, featuring the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians, is considered the most-watched and probably the most exciting World Series of all time. MLB also increased its viewership by 5%, according to FanGraphs. Baseball equipment is also the most-bought equipment out of any of the Big Four sports. The 150+ year old sport is still around through its ups and downs, and is experiencing a renaissance.
Now, everything is subjective, but just because you have never watched a certain sports league does not mean it is boring or that the athletes are untalented compared to the Big Four. There are lots of leagues increasing in popularity for a reason, and it is good to give them a chance.