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Volume 24 No. 159
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U.S.-Ghana World Cup Match Sets Soccer TV Records On Both Univision, ESPN

Univision and ESPN combined to draw just under 16 million viewers for the U.S.-Ghana FIFA World Cup group stage match on Monday night, with both networks setting new records. Univision averaged 4.8 million viewers for the game, marking the Spanish-language net’s most-viewed World Cup game ever involving the U.S. team. Univision’s audience was 17% higher than its average for the U.S.-England match in ’10, which aired on a Saturday afternoon. Univision during the match from 6:00-8:00pm ET was the top-rated over-the-air network in L.A., N.Y., Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, Houston, Dallas-Ft. Worth, S.F.-Oakland-San Jose, Phoenix and Sacramento. Univision’s viewership for the game also out-delivered ESPN in L.A., Miami-Ft. Lauderdale and Dallas-Ft. Worth. Meanwhile, ESPN averaged 11.09 million viewers for U.S.-Ghana, marking the net’s best audience on record for a men’s soccer match. ESPN’s top soccer audience overall remains the ’11 Women’s World Cup Final, drawing 3.46 million viewers for the Japan-U.S. game. U.S.-Ghana also delivered ESPN its best audience for any telecast since the Jan. 6 BCS National Championship. For the complete tournament through Monday’s matches, Univision is seeing a 48% viewership increase compared to the ’10 World Cup from South Africa, while ABC/ESPN/ESPN2’s viewership is up 23%. ESPN also has seen the net’s four most-viewed group play matches not involving the U.S. on record. DC leads ABC/ESPN/ESPN2’s coverage through 14 matches with a 5.0 local rating, followed by S.F. (4.4) and N.Y. (4.1) (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).

FOR LOVE OF COUNTRY: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Keach Hagey writes under the header, "World Cup Audience In The U.S. Is Growing" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 6/18). SNY's Chris Carlin said of U.S.-Ghana, "There are not many country-unifying moments anymore, and that was one of them. I give people a lot of credit because it's not a mainstream sport in this country, but there were a lot of people paying attention" ("Loud Mouths," SNY, 6/17). But ESPN’s Mike Greenberg asks of the viewership numbers for U.S.-Ghana: “Is this soccer or is this patriotism? Did we watch like crazy on Monday because we just like getting together and watching something that is a communal, American event? Or does this really demonstrate -- as a lot of people in the soccer world are hoping for/telling you -- that there is really a rising tide here?” (“Mike & Mike,” ESPN Radio, 6/18).

ALL ABOARD! The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Matthew Futterman writes under the header, "We Are All U.S. Soccer Fans Again." Futterman: "Forgive yourself if you are a late arrival onto the U.S. Soccer bandwagon." U.S. players are "poised to suck up some of the U.S. sports oxygen for which they've waited four years in a country still trying to figure out the intricacies of the offside rule." Scratch the "surface of this U.S. team, and it has plenty of characteristics that, win-or-lose, can make that embrace well worth it" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 6/18).

: The late-night shows also welcomed fans onto the U.S. bandwagon, although with a slightly sarcastic edge. Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert opened his broadcast last night wearing a USA scarf and Nike goalie gloves and chanting, "USA! Ole, ole, ole!" He said, "This a huge day for America's sports fan, who have been excited about the World Cup ever since they noticed it was happening, which was shortly after the NBA Finals ended on Sunday." Colbert: "Team USA's Clint Dempsey stunned Ghana with a goal in the opening 29 seconds, which is good because most Americans' attention span for soccer is 30 seconds" ("The Colbert Report," Comedy Central, 6/17). NBC's Jimmy Fallon said, "USA won. They did it. They did the impossible, getting Americans to watch soccer." He then proceeded to "introduce" viewers to several U.S. players. He said in addition to playing for Sporting KC in MLS, MF Graham Zusi's "other job is being a model on covers of novels that your mom reads," while F Aron Johannsson's hobbies are "reading, swimming and destroying you with his mind" ("The Tonight Show," NBC, 6/17). CBS' David Letterman asked, "Are you watching the World Cup? No you're not. Soccer is one of those things that the rest of the world cares more about than we do." He later said, "This may be disappointing to soccer purists, but this is as close as we can come to actual soccer action from the World Cup.” The broadcast aired a segment called “World Cup Highlight Simulation,” which featured video of a turtle running into a soccer ball as ESPN’s Ian Darke’s called D John Brooks’ game-winning goal against Ghana (“Late Show,” CBS, 6/17).