As the World Cup enters its second week, TV ratings for the global soccer tournament are smashing records in the United States.
According to Vox, American interest in the sport has never been higher. ESPN’s broadcast of the U.S. team’s victory over Ghana last Monday marked the network’s largest soccer audience ever — almost double its previous record from four years ago.
But as Vox points out, the number gets even bigger if you include Univision viewers. Then the total audience nears 16 million, which is less than the overall record of 17.1 million for a U.S.-England game in 2010’s World Cup. But that record was set on a Saturday on ABC, compared to a Monday evening cable match.
Men’s soccer has nothing on the women’s game, though. The largest ever American audience for a soccer match was for 1999’s Women’s World Cup final between the U.S. and China, also on ABC.
The run of solid TV numbers isn’t much of a surprise if you’ve been following the ratings news. Earlier this week, we reported that digital viewership for this year’s World Cup has been very strong on its own. And SBNation reports that there are “209,000 viewers who are tuned into the average minute of a match on the WatchESPN app, which means nearly 4 million people are watching the World Cup on ESPN at any given moment.”
Nowhere in the U.S. has the audience been larger than in Washington, D.C., where average (English-language broadcast) ratings for all games (and not just Monday’s U.S. opener) have been higher than every other market in the country.
And it isn’t just English-language broadcasts that are seeing higher ratings. Univision, which is showing all the games over-the-air as opposed to ESPN on cable, also saw records for the U.S.A.-Ghana and Brazil-Mexico games last week.
ESPN averaged 11.1 million viewers; Univision averaged 4.8 million. It’s Univision’s most watched USA World Cup match ever.
— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) June 17, 2014
Univision: Brazil-Mexico match had 6.8M viewers, “its most-viewed group stage match in Univision Deportes history,”
— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) June 18, 2014
Vox says that ESPN’s good fortunes aren’t limited to just the U.S., either:
“ESPN’s broadcasts as a whole are averaging 4.112 million viewers, an increase of 23 percent from 2010. The network says that of the first seven non-US games it aired, four got more viewers than any of the 212 non-US group play matches it’s aired since 1994.
Interest for the U.S.-Ghana game was high in the rest of the world, too. In Ghana, Forbes reports that the match, which started at 10 pm local time, had 2.4 million viewers. In Germany, meanwhile, nearly 50 percent of the late-night TV audience, or 3.61 million, was tuned in to the match even though it started at midnight there.
And other countries saw huge numbers for their matches, too. England-Italy last weekend drew the largest TV audiences in both countries for the year to date, according to the Los Angeles Times. All in all, it adds up to some very good news for FIFA.
“These record-breaking figures show just how popular football and the FIFA World Cup are across the world, from Japan to Argentina,” said Niclas Ericson, FIFA TV’s director, in a press release. “We are seeing highly encouraging growth in interest in markets such as the United States and Australia.”
What do you think of the World Cup TV ratings so far? Have you been tuned in? Does this signal a turning point for soccer in the U.S.? Sound off in the comments below!