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7 Most Revealing Facts About World Cup TV Viewing Numbers

The coverage of 2014 FIFA World Cup continues to break records in the United States — both on television and online.

The summer of 2014 will be remembered as the summer of soccer.

Here are 7 of the most revealing facts about the World Cup viewing numbers:

1. The viewing audience for the World Cup beat the NBA Finals and World Series.

The 2014 NBA series averaged 15.5 million viewers, while the final had 18 million watching. Meanwhile, the 2013 World Series averaged 14.9 million viewers, with 19.2 million watching the final game.

When you take into consideration that the NBA Finals and World Series games were shown during primetime when most of the World Cup games are shown earlier in the day, the following numbers are even more eyeopening:

• 24.7 million for USA-Portugal,
• 21.5 million for USA-Belgium,
• 16.9 million watched Mexico vs Netherlands,
• 15.8 million watched Ghana vs USA,
• 14.1 million watched Germany vs USA,
• Etcetera.

2. An average of 11.8 million watched the quarterfinal between Brazil and Colombia, confirming that sports fans are still watching the World Cup in huge numbers even with the USA out of the tournament.

3. Univision’s average of 10.4 million who watched Mexico vs Netherlands was the most viewed telecast in Spanish-language history in the United States.

Over 1.0 million unique viewers streamed the match from Univision’s website.

4. ESPN’s 3.5 million unique viewers who watched the broadcast of USA-Belgium on broke the digital record for ESPN’s most viewed sports game online.

The game was shown from 4-7pm ET/1-4pm PT on a Thursday afternoon.

An average of 16,491,000 watched the game on ESPN television, while 5.1 million watched it on Univision — for a total of 21.5 million viewers. For ESPN, this was the second most-viewed soccer match in the US (second only to the record audience for USA-Portugal).

5. Univision’s 2014 World Cup audience has reached close to 74 million total viewers. 

Univision’s World Cup audience numbers are currently pacing +40% ahead of World Cup 2010 numbers through 58 matches televised.

6. So far in the World Cup, ESPN/ESPN2/ABC is averaging 4,080,000 viewers, up from 2,836,000 in 2010 and 1,838,000 in 2006.

7. The most-watched MLB game in 2014 was Texas Rangers vs LA Angels (June 22, ESPN): 2.9 million. World Cup Group Stage average for ESPN, ESPN2 & ABC was 3.5 million viewers.


All of these numbers are outstanding — and even more so when you consider that in 2010 that ESPN estimated that the stated audience size for its weekday World Cup games would have increased by 23% if public viewing were taken into account. If you consider that the public viewing audiences were larger for 2014 than 2010, then the above numbers look even more impressive.

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  1. Robert

    July 9, 2014 at 10:36 am

    The world cup was so hyped up, no wonder folks are watching. All because of hype and wanting to be “with it” we listen to Miley Cyrus music, vote for Obama and watch world cup. All very empty and useless but benifitting from great PR.

  2. Harry Cee

    July 7, 2014 at 11:10 pm

    The World Cup vs 2 sports that are played in a ‘series’. It’s a win.
    I have said for awhile now if you wonder why other sports finales are so boring it’s because there is no ‘drama’ to playing in that format. But the NFL gets high numbers because it’s a win or go home type deal…same with March Madness. You get one shot at it all and the World Cup provides just that. So yeah…I would watch.

    • Aram

      July 8, 2014 at 11:30 am

      Totally agree, too often 7-game series are devoid of drama or tension.

  3. Todd

    July 7, 2014 at 10:48 pm

    How are the numbers affected by those of us who work during the day and have to DVR the matches to watch later on? Is any of this taken into account?

    I have always wondered how they track this data and how much of the numbers are estimations.

  4. jtm371

    July 7, 2014 at 10:06 pm

    What will be the biggest strike against the next WC18. the time change or Fox. My choice would be the time difference. The causal fan is not getting up to watch at 3 or 4 am.

    • CTBlues

      July 7, 2014 at 10:22 pm

      Ya, that is going to be real annoying having to worry about some random person reading or watching the news and seeing the scores before getting home to watch the DVR is going to be hell and there wont be any really big viewing parties.

  5. Mark Aegerter

    July 7, 2014 at 9:53 pm

    Well, what should we make of it on the next 2 WC’s, when the ratings go to the tank because Fox has them. Not looking forward to their garbage broadcasting again.

  6. Mike

    July 7, 2014 at 8:56 pm

    There are about 250 million people in the United states.

    There are about 6.5 BILLION people on the planet.

    Stop bragging that soccer, which everyone else but folks in the U.S. cares about, has more viewers than NBA basketball or MLB baseball, which are primarily viewed by North Americans. There should be 10-15 TIMES the number of viewers, not just a few more.

    • NashRambler

      July 7, 2014 at 9:34 pm

      Umm, for starters the population of the US is close to 320 million these days and the world population is up to 7 billion.

      I have to conclude that you do not understand that the tv audience numbers presented in the article are strictly for the United States only.

      The global tv audience numbers for the 2014 world cup will probably indeed be 10-15 times higher than the US audience numbers.

    • Lobo70

      July 7, 2014 at 11:27 pm

      I want to see you brag in august about the ratings for the upcoming FIBA World Championships. Team USA, will be made of NBA players, so according to your logic, a larger number of folks should be watching the FIBA WC.

      • SK

        September 11, 2014 at 2:25 am

        what is FIBA world championship? Never heard of it at all ?

    • joey alexander

      July 9, 2014 at 12:14 am

      Soccer doesn’t mislead its fans. The World Cup is truly a World Competition unlike other sports that sadly and dishonestly claim to be ‘world champions’ when in reality, they are only national champions.

    • Jerry Liu

      July 13, 2014 at 6:57 pm

      Hey genius…didja ever think that countries had their own tv stations? And that these ratings might “just” be for the USA? Way to reinforce the image of soccer haters as knuckle-dragging cavemen.

  7. Jordan

    July 7, 2014 at 7:19 pm

    You should also note that the baseball game you mention had the benefit of the USA-Portugal game as a direct lead-in.

  8. Rick

    July 7, 2014 at 5:50 pm

    The numbers would be even higher if ABC network had shown more games.

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