Soccer

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After Faltering in Early Rounds, World Cup Comes on Strong in U.S. Ratings

25 Jul, 2018

By: Michael Popke

No Team USA? No problem. At least that appears to the be case with television ratings for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. According to Nielsen, TV viewership in the United States on both Fox and Telemundo was down 44 percentduring the first round of group play, compared to the same span for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Of course, Brazil is only two hours ahead of the United States; Russia is eight hours ahead, requiring early-morning viewing commitments for fans wanting to catch some early-tournament games live.

You may recall that Fox paid $400 millionfor the English-language broadcast rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup. Which is why Fox executives were no doubt thrilled when Germany’s stoppage-time win over Sweden on June 23 netted 5.4 million Fox viewers — making it the most-watched non-U.S. men’s group stage game on English-language television in 28 years, according to Yahoo Finance.

Then, on June 26, Argentina’s 2-1 win over Nigeria generated 2.6 million viewers — making that game the most-watched non-U.S. men’s third-round group stage game on English-language in (again) 28 years. Do the math, and you’ll realize that 28 years ago was 1994, when nine U.S. cities hosted the quadrennial tournament.

“Total viewership on June 27, which was Day 14 of this year’s World Cup, was up 34 percent over Day 14 of the 2014 World Cup, and up 22 percent from Day 14 in 2010,” Yahoo Finance reports. “The bump was driven by big games between Mexico and Sweden, and South Korea and Germany. ... By the end of the full group stage [on June 28], Fox says, viewership on Fox was up 1% overall compared to the average of the last four World Cups, including the U.S. matches from past years.”

A World Cup field prone to upsets this year, along with what might have been the final opportunity to watch such veterans as 33-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal and 31-year-old Lionel Messi of Argentina compete on a World Cup pitch, no doubt helped boost viewership.

“The improvement after the first round suggests that the U.S. team being absent only damaged U.S. interest during the early stages,” writes Yahoo Financesenior writer Daniel Roberts. “Now that the stakes are higher and the games are closer, viewers are paying attention. Fox is also touting big growth in its streaming viewership: June 27 was the highest day for authenticated streaming viewership in the history of Fox Sports.”

Roberts also noted that Major League Baseball on Fox and FS1 is seeing a World Cup bump. During the first 10 days of the tournament, MLB ratings hit a five-year high on Fox and a record high on FS1.

As the World Cup entered the knockout stage on June 30 and headed toward an up-for-grabs final, FIFA revealed some impressive digital data, too — including news that more than130 million fans used FIFA.com and the FIFA apps, and more than 120 million followers were on FIFA social media platforms.

Qatar hosts the 2022 World Cup, a decision that shocked the sports world and may have started the ball rolling with the FIFA corruption investigations. The United States, Canada and Mexico will co-host the 2026 World Cup.

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