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ESPN and Univision combined to draw 21.59 million viewers for Tuesday's Belgium-U.S. FIFA World Cup Round of 16 match. ESPN’s 16.49 million viewers marks the third-best audience for a soccer match in U.S. TV history, behind only ESPN’s U.S.-Portugal match on June 22 (18.22 million) and the '99 U.S.-China Women’s World Cup Final on ABC (17.98 million). Univision finished with 5.1 million viewers for Belgium-U.S. That figure is below the net’s 6.5 million viewers for U.S.-Portugal, and well below the net’s 10.4 million viewers for the Netherlands-Mexico Round of 16 match on Sunday, which marked the most-viewed Spanish-language program in U.S. TV history. The audience for Belgium-U.S. was ahead of the 4.2 million viewers Univision drew in '02 for the U.S.-Mexico Round of 16 match. ESPN/ESPN2/ABC are averaging 4.08 million viewers through the Round of 16, marking a record World Cup audience for the company. For the Round of 16 alone, Univision saw a record audience. The first knockout stage averaged 4.4 million viewers on the Spanish-language net (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor). In L.A., Ryan Faughnder wrote the audience is an "impressive feat" for ESPN, especially considering that many U.S. fans "were still at work" with a 1:00pm PT start time (LATIMES.com, 7/2). The AP's David Bauder noted it is an "impressive total for a weekday afternoon that almost certainly undercounts how many people actually saw it." Nielsen does "not measure viewership in bars, offices or other public places." ESPN in '10 estimated that the "stated audience size for weekday World Cup games would increase" by 23% if public viewing were taken into account (AP, 7/2).
MOST-VIEWED SOCCER MATCHES ALL-TIME IN THE U.S.DATE
MATCHNETWORKRATINGVIEWERS (000)6/22/14 World Cup group stage: U.S.-PortugalESPN9.618,2207/10/99 Women's World Cup Final: U.S.-ChinaABC11.417,9757/1/14 World Cup Round of 16: Belgium-U.S.ESPN9.816,4917/11/10 World Cup Final: Spain-NetherlandsABC8.415,9056/26/10 World Cup Round of 16: U.S.-GhanaABC8.515,1937/17/94 World Cup Final: Brazil-ItalyABC9.514,5107/4/94 World Cup Round of 16: Brazil-U.S.ABC9.313,6947/17/11 Women's World Cup Final: Japan-U.S.ESPN7.413,4587/9/06 World Cup Final: Italy-FranceABC7.011,961
DIGITAL FRONT: WatchESPN drew 1.107 million unique viewers for Belgium-U.S., marking a record audience on the platform for any event. The previous record was set during Germany-U.S. in the group stage. Univision Digital also had its best day on record on Tuesday with 5.6 million combined streams for Argentina-Switzerland and Belgium-U.S. (Karp).FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH: The FINANCIAL TIMES' Shannon Bond notes the Belgium-U.S. game generated a 50% "surge in live streaming compared with the previous record," set during the '12 London Games. That shows the sport's appeal "has grown particularly among younger, more digital fans." Those fans also are "flocking to social media." Facebook has seen more than 1 billion posts, likes and comments since the tournament started, making it "the most talked about event in the social network's history." Data from analytics group Brandwatch shows that the World Cup also has been mentioned 20 million times on Twitter (FINANCIAL TIMES, 7/3).
BUILD A STRONG FOUNDATION: In Chicago, Ed Sherman writes the "entire scenario does beg the question of whether the World Cup has become the Olympics version of soccer for U.S. sports fans?" Once every four years, figure skating and gymnastics "pull in big numbers for NBC, then pretty much fade from view." ESPN Senior VP/Research & Analytics Artie Bulgrin said, "There's no question the World Cup is in a class by itself in terms of interest." However, he thinks that a "different dynamic is at work for soccer." Bulgrin contends that the "momentum has been building with increased ratings" for the EPL and other int'l soccer telecasts in recent years (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 7/3). In N.Y., Filip Bondy writes the World Cup "goes on now without the plucky Americans, and we all know the level of interest in the States takes a steep dive." The watch parties "dwindle to a precious few hard-core fans, the TV ratings for MLS matches will continue to be embarrassing, at least for now, and talk radio stops riffing and starts ripping again" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/3). In Toronto, Kurtis Larson writes soccer "still hasn't arrived" in the U.S. While TV ratings "are up, it's not as close to arriving as we once thought" (TORONTO SUN, 7/3).
STAYING AHEAD OF THE CURVE: In K.C., Sam McDowell noted U.S. men's national team member and Sporting KC D Matt Besler is "scheduled for a national media tour Friday morning that includes stops" at "SportsCenter," "GMA," "Morning Joe," "SVP & Russillo" and CNN, along with several others (KANSASCITY.com, 7/2).
NORTHERN EXPOSURE: A record 29.5 million Canadians have tuned in to World Cup coverage provided by the CBC/Radio-Canada and its partners. That eclipses the CBC's cumulative reach for the entire '10 World Cup. Five of the eight knockout-stage matches averaged audiences in excess of 2 million, highlighted by 2.7 million viewers taking in Belgium-U.S. (CBC).
The widespread influence of the U.S. men’s national team at the FIFA World Cup was reinforced by the boost in popularity for each player on social media. Every member of the team active on social media saw at least 100,000 new followers combined between Instagram and Twitter over the last three weeks. The average Twitter gain per player was over 169,000 while the average Instagram gain was over 29,600. U.S. G Tim Howard saw the biggest gain with over 600,000 new followers combined on the two platforms after his play inspired the internet meme of “#ThingsTimHowardCouldSave.” The next most popular player was the team’s leading scorer, F Clint Dempsey, with over 483,000 new followers. Dempsey’s 981,000 followers make him the most-popular active U.S. player on social media now that the team’s run is over, passing the pre-World Cup leader, injured F Jozy Altidore. The young goal-scoring members of the U.S. squad, D John Brooks and MF Julian Green, each gained over 225,000 new followers. Numbers were compiled on June 10 and July 2.
MLBAM President & CEO Bob Bowman said the theory behind recently launched digital network 120 Sports "is that every story is two minutes long, 120 seconds." Bowman, appearing Wednesday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," added, "It's built for the digital age, i.e. it's built for digital first, not even on what we call TV today. Every story is two minutes long and that gets to the attention span. We laugh at teenagers but all of us, even people as old as we are, our attention span is getting shorter and shorter and shorter as well. ... It tries to move quickly. It's mobile, it's video and it's shareable which are the three things all content has to be now." Bowman said content will be "whatever the most topical sports story is" and will include "some highlights and some live look-ins." The day 120 Sports launched, the net was "fortunate to have" Giants P Tim Lincecum "throwing his second no-no so they actually did a live look-in to watch that." Bowman: "The only limitation is your imagination, but it still takes hard work and it takes cooperation. What we like about 120 is we have the NBA, the NHL, MLB, PGA Tour, NASCAR, it's the first time all those entities have gotten together and sort of done it on their own without the ESPNs or Foxes involved and that's an important model too. Pay TV is very important to everybody but this is an over-the-top, direct-to-consumer video-only, mobile-only product that we think is going to do quite well" ("Morning Joe," MSNBC, 7/2).
MORNING GLORY: 120 Sports on Wednesday announced that a new two-hour block of live programming called "120 Morning Run" will debut at 8:00am ET. The show will be co-hosted Monday through Friday from 8:00-10:00am by Laurence Holmes and Dylan McGorty and will serve as a preview for the day to come, as well as provide a round-up of the previous night's most important topics and events. Holmes currently hosts his own night time talk show for Chicago-based WBBM-AM and WMAQ-NBC. McGorty also co-hosts a weekend show on WGWG-FM. Yahoo Sports' Eric Edholm also will join the 120 Sports team, providing analysis on the NFL and fantasy football for "120 Morning Run" (120 Sports).
Sports blogger and Nashville-based WGFX-FM co-host Clay Travis in the past eight years has "propelled himself from a couch-crashing blogger and aspiring author to a one-man sports media brand," according to a profile by Nate Rau of the Nashville TENNESSEAN. Travis is now a "full-fledged celebrity, the guy sports fans in Nashville and throughout the Southeast want to know 'what he's really like.'" He is "one-third of the on-air team for '3HL,' the ratings-dominating afternoon rush-hour show" on WGFX. Travis said that his contract the radio station "expires in August, and the two sides are in negotiations about an extension." Meanwhile, his OutKicktheCoverage.com website has a "lucrative licensing deal" with Fox Sports, and Travis has "added national TV to his list of accomplishments" as part of FS1's "Fox College Saturday." He has "broken stories of national interest, turned local YouTube videos into social media sensations and waded happily into any and every controversial sports topic imaginable." But while Travis "has found success as a broadcaster, his bread and butter remains his website." He said that the site's success has "made him a multimillionaire" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 7/2).