ESPN earned a 2.6 overnight Nielsen ratings for yesterday's U.S.-France FIFA Women's World Cup semifinal from 11:30am-2:15pm ET. The overnight matches the figure for the U.S.-Brazil quarterfinal this past Sunday afternoon (THE DAILY). Poynter Institute Ethics Group Leader Kelly McBride noted the U.S.-Brazil quarterfinal game last Sunday "generated a lot of buzz," and ESPN was "in place to capitalize on the thrilling match, thanks to heavy lifting done weeks, months and even years before this week’s final games." Ratings for this year's event "are skyrocketing, compared to the women’s World Cup four years ago." The 3.89 million viewers that tuned in for Sunday's U.S. victory gave ESPN its "largest American sporting audience all weekend, beating out ESPN's 'Sunday Night Baseball' by a full rating point." In addition, the Women's World Cup home page on ESPN.com "has generated nearly 1.5 million views, and espnW set a record for traffic Monday." The numbers are "predictably much smaller" than last year's men's World Cup, so McBride asks, "Why invest the resources for a smaller audience?" ESPN Exec VP/Production Norby Williamson said that it has "nothing to do with equality." It is "about potential new markets." McBride added, "It’s great to see women getting the same level of coverage as men. Sure, there’s a long way to go before women athletes have the same opportunities. But getting the same coverage for the same reason -- because there’s money to be made -- is true progress" (ESPN.com, 7/13). Newsday's Neil Best wrote on Twitter, "Props to ESPN for huge time and money commitment to women's World Cup, which Team USA has validated" (TWITTER.com, 7/13).
TAKING A NATION BY STORM: CBSSPORTS.com' Mike Freeman noted social media is making the U.S. women's team "one of the most popular phenomenons in the country right now." What the '99 World Cup-winning U.S. team "did was more impressive but this title run by the women will be more watched." Freeman: "This is simply an incredible mix of a great physical accomplishment, national pride and the Facebook generation. By the time the women are done, and if they win a championship, they might be the most Tweeted and Facebook'd non-NFL champion we've seen" (CBSSPORTS.com, 7/13). NBC News’ Anne Thompson reported the U.S. team is “using the burden of high expectations to sell Nike and themselves.” The team is “creating a new generation of fans, and they are a social media phenomenon, building their fan base on Twitter and Facebook, attracting not just girls and women but some of America's best-known male athletes,” including Heat F LeBron James and Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (“Nightly News,” NBC, 7/13).
TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING? In N.Y., Alessandra Stanley notes the U.S. is "suddenly transfixed by a sport that plenty of Americans still consider foreign and even a little suspicious." Both the U.S. and France yesterday "were gracious not just after the match but in the middle of it," and "even ESPN’s efforts to oversell American patriotism didn’t ruin the good feeling." Stanley writes ESPN "opened its coverage on Wednesday with a nauseating ode to the 'American spirit,' one of those corny, morning-again-in-America spots with music, waving flags and slow motion" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/14). In Chicago, Rick Morrissey writes under the header, "World Cup Overkill Won't Change Fact That Many Americans Don't Care." ESPN has been "ramming the Women's World Cup down our throats." Soon after the U.S. beat Brazil on Sunday, ESPN "was lecturing us on What This Game Meant." Morrissey: "We shouldn’t have been surprised to learn from the Worldwide Leader that It Meant Everything because ... it’s our moral obligation to love soccer the way the rest of the world does. If we don’t, we’re isolationist goobers. The overkill was almost enough to make you gag and turn against anything having to do with this team" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 7/14).