In many ways I dislike talking about TV ratings in sports. TV ratings are usually used as a reason why Cleveland teams would torture television executives if they advanced to either the World Series or the NBA Finals. The NFL doesn’t care much which geographies are represented in the Super Bowl, I don’t think. That aside, I am interested in the TV ratings for a national team representing one of the after-thought sports in the United States sports culture. So far, soccer is proving to be more popular on TV than it was four years ago.
ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC have combined to average 3,740,000 viewers (based on a 2.3 US HH rating) for the first 11 matches, marking a two percent viewer increase over the 2010 World Cup – which included the United States vs. England match on the second day of the tournament. (Note: The 2014 vs. 2010 audience increase is 37 percent higher when ABC’s 13,130,000 viewers (7.4 US HH rating) for the 2010 United States opening round game is removed.)
Additionally, WatchESPN has averaged 209,000 viewers in the average minute across 11 World Cup matches, which represents a six percent lift over the ESPN Networks’ TV audience for a total of 3,949,000 viewers across TV and WatchESPN.
What’s amazing to me is that viewership was up 2% over 2010 for the first 11 matches, without the United States being involved in those first games. So, even without a country-driven spike that the USMNT provides to U.S. TV ratings, viewership is up.
And about that spike? It was a good one.
Impressive 7.0 overnight for USA-Ghana. ESPN #WorldCup up 16% thru 14 games.
It’s hard to draw a conclusion, but interesting to note. Maybe Klinsmann’s program is working and people are taking notice. Maybe the team’s marketing has improved? Maybe it has to do with population dynamics? Maybe people were happy to watch their soccer without all that din of vuvuzelas. Maybe all of the above.
We’ll see how the next game goes from a ratings standpoint. I’m guessing there were a lot of casual fans watching last night’s game against Ghana, but from my standpoint it wasn’t a particularly great game from a pure entertainment standpoint. The U.S. played sloppy and conservative while being out-possessed for much of the match. Will that drive away some of those casuals from watching game two on Sunday against Portugal? We’ll see.
Maybe it has to do with social media. Check out this amazing map showing the reaction to the game-winning goal last night.