ABC Gets 3.1 Overnight Rating For Spain-Germany Final: So What's Next For ESPN?

abc-sports.gifSunday afternoon’s Euro 2008 final between Spain and Germany on ABC was watched by 2.4 million overnight households according to numbers announced by Nielsen Media Research.  That gives the broadcast a 3.1 overnight rating based on the 77 million households in America which make up the overnight numbers.  That number is a little more than double the 1.5 overnight rating ABC got for its broadcast of the Netherlands v Russia quarterfinal last weekend.

So, first, a quick dose of reality; the number obviously pales in comparison to the 8.6 overnight rating the network got for the 2006 World Cup final between France and Italy.  That’s not a surprise given the higher profile of the World Cup, but it shows there were a considerable number of casual sports viewers who have watched soccer and did not tune in.  Also, that number is certain to go down once the last batch of households with televisions, mostly in rural areas, are counted up later in the week.  For example, the Netherlands-Russia match saw a 20% drop in its rating once these were added, going from 1.5 to 1.2.  Assuming a similar percentage drop for this match would put the final rating down to around 2.5.

However, that number also gives ESPN and owner Disney a reason to smile.  At 2.5, ABC’s performance for the Euro 2008 final would equal the national rating picked up by Univision for its American broadcast of another continental championship: last year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup final between the United States and Mexico.  What this shows is that there is a noteworthy, if smaller, audience on American television for big event international soccer outside the World Cup, both with and without local teams to drive it.

So, what does ESPN do now?  Well, while these results are good, it’d be hard to justify using them for the purpose of adding European league soccer, given they are far more dragged out events (months instead of weeks) and can’t guarantee big star affairs every single time.  On top of that, most of the European leagues already have deals for this season tied up.  And for next season, the only contracts due to run out in the US are for Spain’s La Liga and Germany’s Bundesliga.  It’d be hard to capitalize on the momentum of this tournament without any big leagues coming straight away to the network.

What ESPN could do next, however, is try to solidify their position as the home of big event international soccer.  The network already has the rights to next year’s Confederations Cup and the 2010 World Cup.  2011 could see the network try to pick up the Gold Cup or Copa America, either of which offer English and Spanish language possibilities, and then ESPN would finish the cycle by getting Euro 2012.  Another move might see ESPN expand its portfolio when it comes to online broadcast rights through ESPN360.  They already have the online rights to Serie A and the Russian Premier League, and most American broadcasters have done little in this area to make use of those rights.  The other networks might be receptive to parting with their online rights to pick up some additional cash.  ESPN360 was a major success during the tournament, with eight of it’s 10 most watched single events being Euro 2008 matches, and it’s an area they can try to expand on right away.

Wherever it goes from here, Euro 2008 represents a step forward for soccer on ESPN, and is a moment worth celebrating.  Now fans will have to wait and see for what the network’s next step ahead is going to be.

10 thoughts on “ABC Gets 3.1 Overnight Rating For Spain-Germany Final: So What's Next For ESPN?”

  1. I’m sure is great — if your ISP is among those are “allowed” to let you view the service. My ISP — which is one of the bigger Internet providers out there — is not.

    This is one of the things that worries me when I read “ESPN” and “Premier League TV Rights” in the same sentence.

  2. Name names, Charlie. Who’s your ISP? What happens when you try to access the site?

    My advice to ESPN would be to partner with FSC/Setanta to show the highlights show on ESPN in a regular time slot. Or, produce their own highlights show with American announcers and an ESPN presentation. Maybe two per weekend, a Saturday and Sunday night fixture.

    Most Brits would point to Match of the Day highlights, rather than live games, as the way we cut our teeth on football. Let’s face it, any single game can be boring but a weekend guarantees some great action and great goals.

    A highlights show is the gateway drug, something most people need to get hooked on the real thing.

  3. My ISP is Charter and when I go to ESPN 360 it says sorry your cable provider does not carry espn 360, when I go to a friends house who had AT&T it works like a charm and the picture is fantastic.

  4. Phil, I can answer that one. He’s either refering to Comcast or Time Warner. I know becuase I’m on the same boat.

    Quick lesson on ESPN360: ESPN is treating the thing as being similar to it’s cable channels. An ISP provider has to pay ESPN in order to offer the service to its customers. If an ISP doesn’t want to pay, they don’t get access to the service.

    So far, Comcast and Time Warner have both balked at this, feeling it’s an added cost that they don’t need to sell their service. ESPN’s response has been to try and stuff everything they’ve got into 360 and hope customers complain often or switch to other providers enough to get the two to back down. For the moment, it remains a stalemate.

  5. Traffic Sports owns the rights for English language for both the Gold Cup and Copa America. My guess is ESPN will want the Gold Cup for the US but might pass on the Copa. A problem does exists that didn’t for the Euros with both events:

    Both the Gold Cup and Copa America are broadcast over the air on Univision and Telefutura leaving ESPN to concentrate on secondary markets. FSC and GOL TV I believe picked up fans who were from non top 40 markets than did not have univision or telefutura affiliates.

    ESPN already splits US National Team telecasts with the Univision family of networks (who have exclusive rights to all US National Team matches in Spanish) and I know they have been unhappy that they cannot put any US matches on Deportes as they try and build that brand.

    My guess is the Gold Cup is a possibility but Copa stays with Traffic and is sold to GOL TV or FSC.

    Keep in mind in the U-20 WC of 2007 ESPN had to split US games with telefutura, and I understand that some hard feelings came from that as ESPN felt they had some exclusivity to the event and were shocked so many US fans opted to watch the match in Spanish. (As I did for the HD feed which ESPN was NOT providing for the U-20s)

  6. HD. That’s the tipping point. I’m almost tempted to watch MLS in HD.

    I said almost…

    I haven’t tried ESPN360 yet, but will defintely check it out as I have AT&T service.

  7. Pompey:

    As soon as you see 360, you will be hooked, it’s expanded and better now. BTW, HD makes all the difference.

    It’s the one thing that FSC/Setanta/Gol TV all must do to stay in the game as ESPN soccer coverage grows.

  8. Phil… I have DSL through Qwest, which provides telephone and internet services to 14 states in the Rocky Mountain region.

    What happens to me when I try to access is as Ryan described in his post.

  9. People in the U.S. are just starting to wake up to Soccer..err…football. It is an exciting sport, and physical. ABC TV is just starting to get people involved as and their ratings are showing for it. My tv show blog shares little insight on sports like you, but more on ABC television and their standard programming. Europe and the U.S. eventually will feel the excitement like the World Cup. Baby steps with the MLS.

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