Out-of-Home Viewing Kicks Up ESPN/ABC World Cup Stats

Out-of-home viewing has given ESPN/ABC’s 2010 FIFA World Cup coverage a 47 percent lift over its linear TV deliveries, and while the bars of Manhattan are overflowing with soccer enthusiasts, the majority of those bonus eyeballs are gravitating to the Internet.

According to ESPN Research+Analytics’ analysis of Knowledge Networks data, Internet platforms (including streams on ESPN3) have boosted the networks’ World Cup reach by 20 percent over vanilla TV numbers. Out-of-home TV accounts for a 15 percent lift, although those furtive barroom sessions are higher (18 percent) on the East Coast, where the matches air during business hours.

All told, non-TV media makes up 32 percent of alternative viewership, with radio (8 percent) and mobile devices (3 percent) trailing the Internet. Live and replay World Cup matches have been viewed by almost 5.8 million unique viewers on ESPN3.com, generating 674.8 million minutes of viewing––or nearly two hours per viewer.

While ESPN isn’t making guarantees against out-of-home deliveries, the network’s research team is gleaning “a great deal of data” about viewer behavior, said Glenn Enoch, vp, integrated media research. “This is maybe the most fun I’ve ever had in may career,” Enoch said. “We picked the World Cup as the official launch vehicle for [the cross-media research initiative] ESPN XP because knew the games would run during the day, which would necessarily drive a lot of out-of-home viewing. So far, we’re off to a tremendous start with XP.”

Despite Team USA’s Round of 16 exit against Ghana, TV ratings remain elevated over the 2006 World Cup. Through Sunday, ESPN’s deliveries are up 58 percent versus four years ago. Moreover, if the four US contests were eliminated from the consideration set, ESPN/ESPN2/ABC coverage would still be up 34 percent among total viewers, per Nielsen live-plus-same-day data. This is a significant factoid, given the records Team USA set over the course of its breathtaking ride through Group Play and the fateful Ghana meeting.

On Saturday, June 26, ABC’s coverage of US-Ghana averaged 14.9 million total viewers, making it the most-watched men’s World Cup broadcast in U.S. history. ESPN set a record of its own on June 23, as the US team’s victory over Algeria drew the largest audience for a soccer telecast in its history, serving up 6.16 million viewers.

National ratings have yet to be processed, but thus far local ratings suggest that Tuesday afternoon’s final Group of 16 match between Spain and Portugal appears to be up 39 percent from the comparable game four years ago.

Enoch estimates that 132 million persons have consumed World Cup content across all ESPN platforms, or more than two out of five Americans. Of that aggregate figure, 90 percent watched the matches on TV, 27 percent used the Internet, 11 percent tuned in on the radio, 7 percent tapped into a mobile device and 2 percent read ESPN the Magazine.
Multiplatform users spent an average 3 hours and 58 minutes consuming World Cup content compared to 1 hour and 25 minutes for the TV-only viewer.

“The goal heading into this World Cup was to bring in more non-Hispanic, or English-speaking, soccer viewers and apparently we have been doing just that,” said Enoch. “I wouldn’t say that the elevated usage on all platforms has come as a surprise. The term I would use is ‘gratified delight.’”