Record Ratings for ABC and Univision World Cup TV Broadcasts

If anyone doubted if soccer is a mainstream sport in the United States, they only have to look at the eyepopping numbers of people who watched the World Cup this weekend to see how ABC and Univision both had record TV ratings for soccer.

Saturday’s broadcast of the United States against Ghana game on ABC drew an outstanding 14.8 million viewers. The U.S.-Ghana game ranks as the most-watched Men’s World Cup game ever, with only the 1999 Women’s Final (U.S.-China) averaging more households and viewers for a soccer game (11,307,000 households and 17,975,000 viewers). Combined with the Univision viewing audience for the USA versus Ghana game, the total viewing audience was close to 20 million people in the States.

Sunday’s broadcast of Argentina against Mexico on Univision drew a record 9.36 million viewers, which is an all-time record for any genre of Spanish-language television programs ever in the United States. The previous record was 6.7 million TV viewers for the 2006 World Cup game also featuring Argentina and Mexico. ABC, meanwhile, drew a 3.9 overnight rating for Mexico vs Argentina on Sunday afternoon, the network’s highest overnight of the World Cup for a match that did not involve the United States.

For ABC on Saturday, San Diego was the top market for Saturday’s Team USA game, delivering a 15.4 rating. San Diego was the top market for all three previous U.S. matches – vs. England (11.5, ABC), vs. Slovenia (8.5, ESPN) and vs. Algeria (8.9, ESPN). Rounding out the top 10 for Saturday’s match were Washington, D.C. (13.8), San Francisco (13.3), Cincinnati (12.9), Las Vegas (11.7), Austin (11.4), Columbus, Ohio (10.6), Norfolk, Va. (10.6), Seattle-Tacoma (10.6) and West Palm Beach (10.5).

Through 50 games of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the ESPN networks (ESPN/ESPN2/ABC) are averaging a 1.8 U.S. rating, 2,081,000 households, and 2,781,000 viewers. The rating is up 48% from 2006 (1.2), while household impressions are up 54% (from 1,349,000) and viewers are up 60% (from 1,740,000).

17 thoughts on “Record Ratings for ABC and Univision World Cup TV Broadcasts”

  1. The soccer fans deserve the pat on the back but so does ESPN. Many of us here on this site where always hoping that ESPN would cover soccer like it does other American sports, it has and look at the results.

  2. I agree about Lalas. He’s annoying to watch. Bring on more of Macca and Martinez!

    On a side note, I hope ESPN does as good a job, or better, with the Women’s World Cup next year.

  3. San Diego really needs an MLS team, they’ve had the highest ratings for all of the USA games, relative to the rest of the major cities. I think a team would be really popular down there.

    1. It’s interesting to note how few of the cities listed, that had the highest TV ratings, do *not* have MLS teams. By my count, only 3 out of the top 10 have a Major League Soccer team in their city.

      That’s good news for MLS expansion hopes, but bad news for MLS because I don’t believe they’re considering MLS teams in Cincinnati, West Palm Beach, San Diego, Norfolk, San Francisco or Austin. Maybe they should?

      The Gaffer

      1. Norfolk and West Palm Beach don’t even any professional soccer teams, even at PDL level. Though 40 miles away from San Francisco, the Bay area already has an MLS franchise. Cincinnati has a PDL team that plays in another state (10 miles south in Wilder KY). Austin might seem like the next possible market, as the USL team is starting to draw crowds, but I only see it happening if Dallas decides to relocate. Vegas would be interesting, but would need an indoor, air-conditioned stadium, because who is going to play in 120 degree heat in July and August? And with the economy there in the toilet, no way I can see that happening.

        With the franchises that have just been awarded to Seattle, Montreal, Vancouver, and Portland, I think the league will reward fans in cities that stand by their local soccer teams, regardless of level of play. If those cities want an MLS franchise, they need to get to the nearest stadium. Otherwise, you end up with the problem plaguing some areas where there are soccer fans that could care less about their local MLS side.

        Either that or MLS needs to see about playing certain games “on the road” in these markets. Have a Galaxy or Chivas match in San Diego and/or Vegas, or a Crew match in Cincinatti, and see what kinds of crowds it draws. It got Oklahama City an NBA team, it could work for one of those cities getting an MLS franchise.

        1. Moved from Cincinnati to Austin last year, so I can speak to both cities a bit. Cinti has always had a pretty high percentage of youth soccer involvement but there’s never been any clamor for an MLS team. The Crew are invisible in the market, as are the PDL Kings, who do play in Northern Kentucky but are no further out than any in-state suburb. They’d have to compete against the baseball Reds, and that dog won’t hunt.

          Austin, on the other hand, plays in a high school stadium adjacent to downtown and bars/restaurants. MLS would be the only major league franchise you could put here that won’t draw the ire of the University of Texas, much like the Crew in Columbus with OSU. The town’s rapidly growing, with an upwardly mobile, generally well-off population and would be ideal rivals with Houston and Dallas. It’d be a smart, sexy choice.

  4. i don’t think soccer is mainstream per se, just the World Cup. When EPL games start pulling similar numbers in the same timeslots as some of these games are in (7:30am, 10am) then we can say soccer is mainstream.

    1. Agreed. Let’s wait and see how ESPN’s EPL and MLS ratings compare year over year before we declare soccer ‘mainstream’.

    2. Agreed. Soccer is mainstream in the U.S. during the World Cup, while the U.S. is playing.

      Though I think similar numbers to the highest rated match in U.S. history for an EPL match during a 730 am Saturday or 9am Sunday timeslot is asking a bit much. I’ll take incremental growth.

        1. Doubt it. College Gameday and College football on Saturday = no way in hell ESPN and ESPN2 give up late Saturday morning or Saturday afternoon for an EPL game. It’s conceivable ESPN may show Sunday morning matches, since they don’t have any NFL games until Monday night. If not, the extra matches ESPN shows will be mid-week fixtures, on Mondays or Wednesdays.

          1. The record viewing audience for the Premier League on ESPN last season was over 500,00 viewers for a 4:30am PT/7:30am ET game on a Saturday between Man United and Chelsea.

            ESPN is expected to show games at 10am ET this season. Just like in the 2009-2010 season, some of them will be shown on ESPN2. Some may be shown on ESPN Classic, too, depending on conflicts with other programming.

            The Gaffer

          2. except for the weeks when the time change is out of sync between Europe and the US, there’s no college football before noon, and college gameday is on ESPN only. Besides, ESPN2 had about 5 or 6 games in the 10am slot this past season. Also ESPN announced recently that they were no longer going to air those outdoor/fishing shows.

            The only thing we have yet to know is whether ESPN will produce (or at least announce) their own games or if they will continue to take the world feed announcers (including Ian Darke, Efan Okoku, Martin Tyler, etc)

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