Despite USA Ouster, World Cup Continues to Shine

While there’s no telling how many viewers would have tuned in for a Team USA-Uruguay quarterfinal, ESPN/ABC still put up big numbers with their respective weekend FIFA World Cup broadcasts.

Per Nielsen live-plus-same-day ratings data, the four quarterfinal matches (July 3-4) averaged 4.27 million viewers on the two networks, up 24 percent from the 2006 quarters.

If nothing else, the lift suggests that America’s embrace of the quadrennial event may not prove to be a passing fancy. Some might argue that the 2006 quarters were even more compelling than this year’s class, as two matches (Germany-Argentina; England-Portugal) went to PKs, and one was a rematch of the 1998 final between Brazil and France. (The lone blowout of the 2006 quarters was Italy’s 3-0 triumph over Ukraine.)

According to Nielsen, Uruguay’s dramatic penalty-kick win over Ghana on July 2 delivered 3.25 million total viewers, up 92 percent from the 1.69 million viewers who tuned in for Italy-Ukraine on ESPN2 four years ago. Meanwhile, the Netherlands’ 2-1 victory over Brazil drew 3.26 million viewers earlier that morning, an improvement of 38 percent from the 2.37 million fans who watched the June 30, 2006, Germany-Argentina quarter on ESPN.

Broadcast sibling ABC put up significant numbers as well, as Germany’s 4-0 dismantling of Argentina drew 5.58 million viewers Saturday morning, up 14 percent from England-Portugal. The match now stands as the most-viewed non-USA World Cup match on ABC, besting the June 27 Round of 16 meeting between Argentina and Mexico (5.55 million).

The final quarter between Spain and Paraguay scared up 5.31 million viewers Saturday afternoon, up 39 percent from Brazil-France on ESPN (3.82 million on July 1, 2006).

Through the first 60 games of the 2010 FIFA World Cup on ESPN/ABC/ESPN2, P2+ impressions are up 50 percent from four years ago.
In addition to the sheer number of eyeballs that have been riveted to the screen throughout the last three weeks, the broadcasts have delivered an increasingly young, upscale audience. Thus far, the median income of the World Cup viewer is $78,000 and the median age is 37. This is decidedly more desirable than the numbers for the average TV viewer (median age 45, median income $48,000).
Based on with data from Knowledge Networks and Nielsen, ESPN estimates that 132 million total viewers have consumed World Cup content across all ESPN platforms––or more than two of five Americans. Live and replay World Cup matches on have been viewed by 6.7 million unique viewers, generating 844.7 million minutes of viewing, or more than two hours per viewer.