Television ratings for the early World Cup games are showing big growth compared to four years ago. And for one night, at least, more New Yorkers watched a soccer game than the average NFL Jets or Giants game.
Let's start with last night's United States game against Ghana, which started and ended with a bang (in the form of U.S. goals) for American audiences. The game gave ESPN a 7.0 overnight rating, according to SportsBusiness Daily, a record for men's soccer matches on ESPN. That makes USA-Ghana the second-most viewed men's soccer match in the World Cup group stage, behind only the 7.5-rating for the USA-England game four years ago. But that was on ABC on a Saturday afternoon, giving it a bigger audience base to draw from.
Once you add in the viewers from Univision, the ratings for USA-Ghana stretched even hirer. High enough, in fact, to touch the goliath that is the NFL.
USA-Ghana did a 14.4 in NYC on ESPN/Univision combined. The average of all Jets/Giants games last season in NY was 14.1 across FOX/CBS/NBC.— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) June 17, 2014
Sure, comparing a once-every-four-years World Cup to an average NFL regular season game from two mediocre teams is a bit unfair. But soccer fans will ignore that for the moment.
Let me put it another way: in the country's largest media market, soccer just got bigger ratings than the NFL.— Matthew Doyle (@MLSAnalyst) June 17, 2014
The World Cup's ratings have been impressive even before the USA-Ghana game. For the 11 non-American matches from Thursday to Sunday, Univision averaged 3.8 million viewers per game, a 45 percent increase from the last World Cup. Similarly, ESPN, ESPN2, and ABC averaged 3.75 million for each game. That was just two percent higher for the same period in 2010, but that year's selection of games included the big USA-England game. Taking that out, ratings would be up 37 percent this year compared to 2010.