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Volume 25 No. 239
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U.S-Ghana Overnight Ranks Second In U.S. All-Time For World Cup Group Stage Matches

ESPN drew a 7.0 overnight rating yesterday for the U.S. men’s national team’s first match from the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, which saw the squad beat Ghana 2-1 on a late header. That figure will set a new record for a men’s soccer match on the cable network, and marks the second-best men’s World Cup group stage overnight in U.S. TV history, behind only ABC’s 7.5 rating for U.S.-England on a Saturday afternoon in ’10. ESPN's previous overnight high for a men’s soccer match were the ’02 Germany-U.S. quarterfinal match and U.S.-Algeria group stage match from ’10. DC led all U.S. markets with an 11.8 local rating for the match. In all, there were 16 U.S. metered markets that saw record local ratings for a World Cup group stage match. The U.S.-Ghana match also was a boost for ESPN’s MLB coverage. The net drew a 1.4 overnight for Mets-Cardinals following the World Cup match, giving ESPN its best Monday or Wednesday MLB game overnight in three years, despite the ESPN telecast being blacked out in St. Louis (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).

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Landon Donovan is appearing on ESPN during the World Cup to offer analysis of the U.S. team, and prior to last night's game, he accurately predicted the 2-1 final score. However, his appearances did not make a memorable impact on some observers. The Houston Chronicle's Jerome Solomon wrote on his Twitter feed, "Landon Donovan is terrible as an analyst. Wish he were on the team so we wouldn't have to hear him talk." Freelance writer Mike Cranston: "So far Donovan has declined to answer a question because didn’t want Germany, Portugal to know 'our secrets.' And that was his best segment." UPS Senior Project Lead for Sponsorships & Events J.W. Cannon: "Landon Donovan's analysis is about as full of life as George Strait's performance in 'Pure Country' #stiffasaboard." Yahoo Sports' Greg Wyshynski: "This setup for Landon Donovan makes it seem like he's giving the Republican side of a CNN debate."

DIFFERING OPINIONS: AWFUL ANNOUNCING's Ken Fang wrote ESPN is "using the template from 2010 and has actually improved on its coverage." Ian Darke and Steve McManaman have paired for two games, and their chemisty "is as good as ever," while Jon Champion "has proved to be a very solid 'B' announcer with analyst Stewart Robson." ESPN has an "impressive roster of World Cup talent as analysts," though the "only drawback" is Alexi Lalas. He "continues to be stiff as a wooden door and likes to troll fans." Studio host Lynsey Hipgrave has "done well on the World Cup Tonight wrap up shows, but seems uncomfortable in ths host's chair" (, 6/16). Meanwhile, the GUARDIAN's Jeb Lund wrote ESPN has "come a long way" since '06, when the net "trotted out a roster of underqualified American announcers and sent huge numbers of fans to go watch games on Univision instead." But "watching every World Cup game and halftime show produced for an American audience this weekend, it was hard not to realize just how wedded ESPN remains to everything else about The Brand that so dumbs down its coverage of every other sport to which it owns the broadcast rights." Anchors hold a "tenuous familiarity" to the action, and the coverage includes a lot of "soft-focus features high on emotion and low on data." ESPN is "trying really, really hard to make America love the other football and its attendant spectacle; now it just needs to stop trying so hard to be ESPN all the damn time" (GUARDIAN, 6/17).

STROKE OF GENIUS:'s Richard Deitsch noted ESPN is using Brazilian artist Jambeiro to "paint the story of the World Cup on a wall outside of its broadcast setup in Rio." The idea came from ESPN Senior Production Specialist Geoffrey Mason, a former Exec Producer at ABC Sports. Mason said that the idea is an "offshoot of Leroy Neiman painting the story of the 1976 Montreal Games for ABC." Meanwhile, regarding pictures ESPN uses during the World Cup, Deitsch noted the net and "other rightsholders use the world feed and that includes replays." They do "not get to choose which shots are used or the frequency of replays." That decision is "made by HBS, the FIFA host broadcaster" (, 6/16).

GOING BEHIND THE SCENES: ABC's Paula Faris has been reporting from Brazil on the World Cup since the tournament began last week, and in a "behind-the-scenes" video, she gave a tour of ESPN's broadcast facilities for the event. Faris said the main control room was "spectacular" and the room where they produce "soccer TV magic." She added, "Everybody is working feverishly to get stuff on the air" (, 6/16).

FIELD & STREAM: USA TODAY's Mike Snider notes Univision is "streaming all first- and second-round games live for free on its enhanced app, without the need for subscriber authentication." The last eight games will "require authentication with your pay-TV credentials." But "condensed versions of those final games -- and the in-game clips -- will be available for all." In addition to the live broadcasts, the net will "deliver live pre- and post-game coverage through the tournament's end July 13." The move has "already paid off," as Univision Digital "had its two highest traffic days ever on Friday and Saturday, with 7.9 million and 5.9 million, respectively (that includes Web and app viewership)" (USA TODAY, 6/17). 

NOT BAD, EH? Saturday's Italy-England match averaged 2.8 million viewers on the CBC, the net's most-viewed group stage match since England-U.S. drew 2.2 million in '10. Through yesterday's completion of play, more than 21 million Canadians had tuned in to CBC/Radio-Canada or its partners' coverage of the World Cup, either online or on TV. That number is up from 19.3 million in the first four days of '10 (CBC). For World Cup TV audience figures in Germany, Australia and Japan, read today's SBD Global.