World Cup TV ratings up in U.S. over 2010

World Cup 2010 Logo

Dempsey Celebrates

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.

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.

  • Like_the_River

    There is more exposure to soccer matches since 2010. This past year with NBC having the US rights to the EPL, viewership & exposure exploded.
    Soccer isn’t a back burner/niche sport anymore. People 18-35 are the large majority of those viewers, & they are going to pass their love of the sport onto their kids & friends.

  • ClemJax

    How much of this is attributable to:

    1) Brazil being in a time zone that’s far more accommodating to watching live? and
    2) Being able to watch a game withing the freaking buzz of the vuvuzelas dominating everything?

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Craig Lyndall

    Very good point. Hadn’t thought of this.

  • mgbode

    USA v. England sounds great and all, but Ghana is our World Cup rival.

  • CB Everett

    Yes. A nasty case of Ghana-rea if you will. No? OK I understand. (Excuses self out)

  • Michael Goldman

    Afterthought sport? Maybe in the minds of sports journalists who don’t want to learn the sport to cover it.

  • guy

    ooooo, a whopping few million people watched? that almost beats bill o’reilly

  • vespo09

    Or in the eyes of networks that are more interested in making a profit off of their existing TV rights deals with the “top 4″ sports than they are in spending the money, time and effort on a 5th.

  • mgbode

    globally futbol is king, but nationally, it is still behind NFL, college football, NBA, NHL, and college basketball.

    it has definitely made significant gains. heck, when i was a kid, i think more people cared about tennis (sampras v. agassi) then soccer. and, EPL being broadcast on television here definitely helps. but, yes, it is still and afterthought sport nationally other than the World Cup (for now).

  • maxfnmloans

    am I the only person in the world who doesn’t mind vuvuzelas?

  • mgbode

    they annoyed me the first time in ’10, but after that they became a soothing background noise much like the beating of John Adams’ drum during Tribe games.

  • ClemJax

    Nah – I mean, you’ve at least got soccer fans on the whole African continent in your corner as well. :-)

  • http://www.flyhifilms.com Andrew Tuttle

    Among young adults, soccer is the second most popular sport behind football. Also – “In 1974, the U.S. Youth Soccer Association registered only about 100,000 players. Today that number is over 3 million.”
    From:
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/daniel-cox/soccer-in-america_b_4740668.html

  • joseph devassy

    You just stick with your womens’ figure skating and mens’ gymnastics.

  • saggy

    i like the din.

  • saggy

    700 million people across the world watched the Spain/Netherlands final in 2010. The best Super Bowl was 111+ million people.

  • nj0

    Pet peeve: China and India don’t care about soccer. That’s a good 1/3 of the world population.

  • mgbode

    what sport does China care most about? NBA is making in-roads, but I honestly am not sure swimming/diving doesn’t still top it there. India is a cricket first country (IPL baby), but I am not sure if either is significant enough to overcome most of the other 2/3 that is soccer crazy.

  • maxfnmloans

    OH YEAH?!?!? Well….well…how many of them were paid subscribers? All I see in those snappy ESPN commmercials is cable piracy in country after country

    /s

  • nj0

    From the Indians I have known, cricket is basically the only sport they care about. Badminton and field hockey are sort of secondary. Athletics in general aren’t valued very highly there as one can tell by looking at their Olympic performances over the years – 26 medals in 100+ years.

    The Chinese, from what I’ve been told, chiefly likes ping pong, badminton, and basketball. As far as soccer goes, I’m just going on what I’ve been told by natives and how the national teams have fared. Maybe it’s not fair to say they “don’t care”, but I still stand by my original point: the top two most populous countries are not “futbol countries” ergo this whole notion that the US is weird/alone in not loving the sport is wrongheaded.

  • mgbode

    the Chinese people I work with HATE that they are labeled as loving ping-pong and badminton as sports. those are the things they do for fun and, while they take it seriously, they are not professional sports even there.

    also, I think you can add the Aussies to the mix. from those I know from there, the country doesn’t seem to care nearly as much about soccer as it does rugby or basketball (and swimming is high up there too).

  • Pat Leonard

    Yep depending on the area of the country, either Aussie Rules Football or Rugby rules. New Zealand is all about rugby. However, I’d be willing to bet that soccer is the highest rated televised sport in China. The Chinese people I’ve known aren’t into sport so much as they are into global stars. They’ll watch soccer just to see Ronaldo, Messi, Van Persie, etc.

  • Pat Leonard

    The only thing I didn’t like about them was that they drowned out the songs and chants. I always like hearing those as they’re part of each nation’s soccer culture.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com/ Scott @ WFNY

    From what I’ve been told, soccer is the second-largest sport in India in terms of popularity behind cricket. Issue is that the money talks more than the talent—corruption leads to an extrapolated version of the coach’s son getting all of the spots.

  • nj0

    I’ve heard Canadians don’t care about soccer either, but oddly most of the Canadians I know love it.

  • nj0

    I get that, but a nation usually ends up pretty good at a sport when you’ve got a whole populace playing the sport for fun.

  • nj0

    I guess it’s hard to draw generalizations of 1B+.

    And I guess it begs the question – what makes a sport popular? Most Americans don’t care about gymnastics or figure skating except for the Olympics. Baseball draws massive raw attendance figures, but it’s mostly a love/hate thing even amongst sports lovers.

    I just take solace in the fact that America is not alone in its general lack of intense passion for a game I find pretty ill-conceived (sorry).

  • jewpants47

    anyone see this guardian article bashing espn? http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jun/16/espn-world-cup-coverage-2014-analysis

    “..dumbs down its coverage of every other sport to which it owns the broadcast rights. Anchors holding a tenuous familiarity. Soft-focus features high on emotion and low on data. An aversion to analytics and a commitment to game breakdowns based on intangibles, delivered by the “authority” of ex-jocks. A pathological fear of politics or social context…”

  • mgbode

    having watched quite a bit of sports coverage in England, it’s pretty funny to see them bash American sport coverage (even though it is warranted).

  • saggy

    Hector Marinaro would disagree.

  • saggy

    i live on the Guardian website though, and their WC coverage is freaking amazing. add to that fact that Guardian knows Americans read their site, and thus always have something for US consumption, including some good reads on the Ghana game yesterday.

  • vespo09

    I thought I read somewhere that table tennis was #1 in China, but I could be wrong.

  • Michael Goldman

    It is not behind the NHL. No NHL finals game got a 7.0 nationwide and neither did Olympic hockey on NBC. I am so sick of hearing about hockey being bigger than soccer. Again, that’s only because behind the times sports radio people don’t want to learn the game. U.S. v. Russia in hockey got a 3.3. And that was the biggest game of the tournament. A 3.3! Yes, basketball, American football, and, for now, baseball (but not for long since the average baseball fan in the U.S. is *54*) are bigger but get with the times, man.

  • Michael Goldman

    Baseball also has to resort to $5 and $10 tickets to fill stadiums. You’ll never find anything lower than $20 for a soccer game. Even a crappy MLS game.

  • mgbode

    is that a good thing (if true)? shouldn’t MLS be making soccer accessible to all with cheap tickets in at least limited amounts? growing the sport and all?

  • mgbode

    as something to play. they don’t have professional leagues though. the people I know from China get sensitive when it’s brought up is all I really know.

  • mgbode

    you would need to compare NHL finals to MLS finals (or EPL I suppose). Olympic hockey outscores Olympic soccer.

    the World Cup is more watched for the spectacle by even the most casual of fans (like myself). get the stakes high enough and people will watch.

    i would guess that in Southern states soccer might outdraw hockey now though and I suspect it will overall in the next generation of fans in the USA. just not quite yet.

    —————————-

    I don’t know why you seem so angry and frustrated though. The great thing about this age is that you can watch whatever you please no matter where in the world it is played. I watch a bit of IPL (Indian Premiership League) and it’s quite fun to watch.

    Watch what you want to watch and enjoy it.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Craig Lyndall

    I agree with MG. No need to be angry. You’re commenting on a site that decided to commit considerable time to covering it. We’re on board even if you disagree with my statement that the sport is still something of an afterthought in U.S. culture.

    We’re singing in the choir! :-)