It may not be anywhere near the 27% of an entire nation that ITV and Sky got in the UK, but for ESPN, their numbers for the American broadcast of the UFEA Champions League Final on Wednesday has given the network its own reason to celebrate.
According to overnight Nielsen ratings, ESPN2 netted a .8 rating for their broadcast of the Chelsea v Manchester United final, averaging 798,000 homes and 1,097,000 viewers throughout. This is the single highest rating for a UEFA match in ESPN’s history, and marks the first time in 218 UEFA broadcasts on the network that average viewership topped the 1 million mark. The previous record was set in the 2006 final between Barcelona and Arsenal, which got a .7 rating from 613,000 homes and 770,000 viewers.
The numbers are even better if you include the Spanish-language broadcast seen at the same time on ESPN Deportes. According to Nielsen’s Hispanic rating, the Spanish version was seen by 213,000 viewers over 153,000 homes. That would bring the grand total of viewers between both broadcasts to over 950,000 homes and 1,310,000 viewers.
For ESPN, these numbers represent a breakthrough at the best moment possible, with the network’s Euro 2008 broadcast just two weeks away. It also represents good timing for UEFA, as bidding for the next Champions League broadcast contract in the United States is expected to happen in the latter half of this year.
One last note: the game is being rebroadcast as one of ESPN’s instant classics. It will be on ESPN Classic tonight (Saturday, May 24th) at 8 P.M. Eastern time.