Americans are increasingly developing a taste for the “beautiful game,” at least when their own team is playing.
Monday night’s World Cup match between the U.S. and Ghana drew 15.9 million viewers total between the two channels carrying the game, ESPN and Univision, according to preliminary overnight Nielsen ratings. The figure set World Cup viewership records for both networks.
World Cup Audience in USA Is Growing
The ratings trounced the audience for the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup finals on Friday, which attracted 6 million TV viewers. Perhaps more surprising, the viewership numbers for the soccer game had an admirable showing against Sunday’s National Basketball Association finals game between the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat, which attracted 17.9 million viewers.
On Monday, ESPN—which is airing the World Cup in English along with Walt Disney Co.DIS +0.51% siblings ESPN2 and ABC—drew 11.1 million total viewers, making it the most-viewed men’s soccer match ever on ESPN or ESPN2, the network said. The match also set a record for ESPN’s mobile streaming app, Watch ESPN, which had a total of 1.4 million viewers.
Univision, which is broadcasting the World Cup in Spanish on its Univision and UniMas broadcast networks and Univision Deportes and Galavision cable networks, drew an audience of 4.8 million total viewers, making it the most-watched World Cup game featuring a U.S. team ever broadcast on its airwaves. The broadcast beat the opening U.S. match of the 2010 World Cup, against England, by 17% in total viewers.
New York soccer fans reacted to the match between Ghana and USA at a bar in Brooklyn on Monday.Getty Images
While the viewership figures of Monday’s game set World Cup records for both ESPN and Univision, the total fell short of the 24.7 million who tuned in to the World Cup final in 2010 on ABC and Univision together.
Online, where Univision Communications Inc. is streaming all of the World Cup games during the first two rounds without requiring users to “authenticate,” or enter a pay-TV password, Univision’s stream of the U.S. vs. Ghana game drew 1.7 million streams, making it the fourth most-watched live stream on Univision Digital to date, the company said.
ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC have averaged 4.1 million viewers through the first 14 matches of the World Cup, marking an increase of 23% over the 2010 World Cup, according to ESPN.
Univision’s World Cup viewership is up 48% over 2010, the company said.
American football still reigns in the U.S.: This year’s Super Bowl, broadcast on Fox, drew a record 111.5 million viewers, according to Nielsen. Fox is a unit of 21st Century Fox, which until mid-2013 was part of the same company as Wall Street Journal owner News Corp.
Write to Keach Hagey at firstname.lastname@example.org