SBD/June 27, 2014/Media

ESPN Draws 6.3 Overnight For Midday Germany-U.S. World Cup Group Stage Finale

With a 9.7 local rating Thursday, N.Y. led all markets for the first time this tournament
ESPN earned a 6.3 overnight rating for Thursday afternoon’s Germany-U.S. FIFA World Cup match, ranking below the U.S.' previous group stage matches against Ghana (7.0) and Portugal (9.1). Both previous matches bled into primetime on the East Coast. The 6.3 overnight still marks the third-best men’s soccer match overnight rating in ESPN’s history. Coverage peaked toward the end of the match from 1:45-2:00pm ET with a 9.5 overnight. With a 9.7 local rating, N.Y. led all markets for the first time this tournament, as DC took the top spot during the Ghana and Portugal telecasts. San Diego ranked second for Germany-U.S. with an 8.6 local rating, followed by Sacramento with an 8.3 (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).

SEEKING SHELTER FROM THE STORM: ESPN Senior VP & Exec Producer Jed Drake detailed how the torrential rain storm in Recife, the site of the Germany-U.S. match, impacted the coverage of the game, saying announcers Ian Darke and Taylor Twellman needed a police escort so they could get to the stadium in time. Drake said, "I was getting these texts from Ian saying, 'I hope we make it to the stadium.' Ian and Taylor's ride was over an hour late. They couldn't take their van because it couldn't get to their hotel." So we had to get them in a cab that was going down some side street. Finally we got a police escort and barely got them there. Ian sent me an email that said, 'Never in my life have I ever seen anything like this.' But he was there. I sent a note to [John] Wildhack saying, 'Ian and Taylor are there. Two teams are there. Our production crews are there. We're ready. What else more do you need?'" (John Ourand, Staff Writer). But in N.Y., Bob Raissman writes he expected someone from ESPN "on the streets" of Recife yesterday before the game "showing the damage being done with hard rain falling during its pre-match show." Instead, viewers "got shots from inside the stadium." The "lack of coverage was a major oversight." Viewers only got an idea of "how bad things were" when announcers Darke and Twellman came on. Raissman: "Imagine if a major weather situation had hit the site of an ESPN 'Monday Night Football' game." There would have been a "reporter on the field monitoring the conditions." Either FIFA "is calling the shots or the World Wide Leader’s lack of juice in Brazil resulted in no meaningful access" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/27).

COMING IN FOR LANDON
: Galaxy F Landon Donovan appeared on ESPN following Germany-U.S. to give his thoughts on the match, but he drew more attention on Twitter for his on-air apparel choice. Donovan appeared via satellite from StubHub Center wearing a sleeveless Galaxy jersey, causing Bleacher Report’s Dan Levy to write, “Landon Donovan could have put a polo shirt on, but the gun show is today.” NFL.com's Bryan Fischer wrote, “Bob Ley was mesmerized by Landon’s gun show and stumbled on tossing it to him.” BusinessInsider.com’s Cork Gaines: “Must be ‘Casual Thursday’ for ESPN commentators.” SB Nation's Tom Ziller: "Oh how I love the ‘interview Landon Donovan wearing a sleeveless Herbalife jersey’ turn.” Sporting News’ Jesse Spector: “Get some sleeves for your TV spot, Landon.” Meanwhile, the L.A. Times’ Bill Plaschke wrote, “Favorite player so far in WCup has been Landon Donovan, giving gracious TV analysis of a team that kicked him to the curb.”

SEEKING THE RIGHT BALANCE: In Boston, Chad Finn asks with the U.S. advancing to the knockout phase of the World Cup, how does ESPN "balance appealing to the hard-core fan as well as the relative soccer novice?" Finn: "As someone who admittedly leans closer to the latter category, I’ve been impressed with ESPN’s balance of analysis, particularly Thursday." Analyst Alexi Lalas "took some lumps after the US-Portugal tie when he seemed to retreat from criticizing the players complicit in allowing Portugal to tie the match in the final seconds of extra time." The criticism was "deserved ... because more casual fans genuinely desired a contextual, insightful explanation of what went wrong and why." But Lalas on Thursday, "with an assist from anchor Bob Ley’s usual gravitas ... was downright exceptional in offering concise perspective not only on the U.S.’s performance against Germany, but what advancing out of the Group of Death means in terms of how the team is perceived within the sport" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/27).

THE POWER OF LIVE SPORTS: The U.S.-Portugal game last Sunday was the highest-rated soccer game in U.S. history with approximately 25 million viewers, and in N.Y., Richard Morgan writes compare America’s "still-nascent soccer audience to the relatively puny 5.8 million who watched TNT’s 'Rizzoli & Isles' -- the week’s top non-soccer cable show -- and the drawing power of sports is undeniable." BTIG Research Managing Dir of Media & Technology Analyst Rich Greenfield: "There are millions upon millions glued to the television watching the World Cup, and the reality is there’s very little else out there that can drive viewing." Univision President of Advertising Sales & Marketing Keith Turner said that much of the ratings gain both his net and ESPN have seen during the World Cup "has to do with the 'increasing popularity of soccer' ... but there’s also upside due to the proliferation of platforms media companies have to show the live content" (N.Y. POST, 6/27).

WILL THE EXCITEMENT LAST? The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Sharma, Hagey & Stevens ask while the World Cup is "enjoying a surge in TV ratings thanks to excitement surrounding the U.S. team's strong performance," can soccer "sustain its burst in popularity in the U.S.?"  The team's run has "made for captivating television," as it "is clear already that this year's telecasts are setting records." LHB Sports, Entertainment & Media President & CEO Lee Berke: "This definitely signals the arrival of World Cup soccer as a major television property." However, Sharma, Hagey & Stevens note ratings of soccer telecasts outside of the World Cup "are relatively muted." Nielsen data shows that MLS matches averaged 174,000 viewers last season. Berke said that MLS games "might see a lift in ratings if the U.S. team continues to advance and the excitement over its success keeps building" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 6/27).

NO SPIRIT IN ST. LOUIS: In St. Louis, Dan Caesar writes in regard to ratings, there has been a "malaise in St. Louis" during the World Cup despite the fact that the city was "once the American hotbed of the sport." Ratings for the U.S.' first two matches "not only were abysmal for a town rich in soccer history, but neither time did St. Louis even match the national average." St. Louis is "mired in a tie for 37th place nationally" for the entire tournament leading into the Germany-U.S. match. There has been some overlapping of U.S. matches and Cardinalstelecasts, "which could have strongly hurt soccer ratings" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 6/27).
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