Brazil-Colombia Match Helps ESPN, Univision To Record World Cup Quarterfinal Audiences
ESPN over the weekend drew its two best audiences on record for FIFA World Cup quarterfinal matches on either ESPN or ABC. Brazil-Colombia on Friday is now the most-viewed quarterfinal on record with a 3.6 final rating and 6.35 million viewers. ESPN drew its second-best quarterfinal audience with Netherlands-Costa Rica on Saturday drawing a 3.4 final rating and 5.79 million viewers. The previous quarterfinal record coming into the ’14 tournament was Germany-Argentina on ABC in ’10 with 5.71 million viewers. Univision also had its best day of World Cup quarterfinal matches ever on Friday, averaging 5.1 million viewers for the Germany-France and Brazil-Colombia matches. Through the quarterfinal stage, ESPN/ABC/ESPN2 is averaging 4.19 million viewers for 60 matches (Austin Karp, Assistant Managing Editor).
IT'S BRILLIANT! SI.com's Richard Deitsch wrote ESPN's World Cup coverage "has been sensational, a viewer-first production featuring smart hosts and analysts, brilliant game-callers and studio programming geared toward soccer savants that novices can also appreciate." The network "has used its cross-platform gigantism for good, and world soccer has grown because of it" (SI.com, 7/6). In L.A., Tom Hoffarth wrote for the World Cup, ESPN has seen audience figures "that add up to a success of Olympic-esque proportions." ESPN Senior VP/Programming Scott Guglielmino: "One of the things about the World Cup and the trajectory of the tournament is that there’s a huge level of interest regardless of how the U.S. does." Guglielmino said that those who are "trying to connect dots from World Cup karma" to MLS success "aren’t being fair to the process." He added, "The World Cup is really an intense short story played out over a month, a much different animal than what league play becomes. ... League play is a much longer sustained commitment for an audience, but there is a halo effect for people who want to follow players back on their club or MLS teams, so we have plenty of games teed up once the World Cup ends to hopefully lead people back and then we can follow that growth path" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 7/4).
BREVITY BRINGING BENEFITS? In N.Y., Richard Sandomir writes with its "constant action and lack of natural in-game stoppages, soccer avoids the bloated commercial breaks of other sports." Sandomir: "I wonder if ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC would have seen an average of 4.1 million viewers for the World Cup’s first 56 games -- a 44 percent leap from 2010 -- if there were timeouts and breaks that stretched the broadcasts by 30 or 45 minutes." Fox Sports Senior VP/Programming & Research Mike Mulvihill: "I haven’t seen anything to suggest that American sports are at a disadvantage because their duration is longer. But I do think the pace of soccer is an advantage; there are so many demands on people’s time, and it’s hard to get their attention for extended periods of time. To know a game will end in two hours respects their time." Sandomir writes how much soccer’s brevity "adds to the number of people watching is not known." Guglielmino: "If the format of soccer itself really had a major impact on viewing, we’d see a bump in ratings in league play" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/7).
CAPITALIZING ON SOCCER: In DC, Dan Steinberg noted the nation's capital continues to lead all U.S. TV markets for ESPN's World Cup coverage, and NBC Sports Group President of Programming Jon Miller, whose company has rights to the EPL, "is well aware of how Washington performed" during the '13-14 season. Miller: "Washington is at the top of our list every week, I think it’s a unique market, in that it’s a very upscale, highly educated, highly developed sports market. It’s also got so much of an international influx of people" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 7/3).
GRAND VISION: VARIETY's Anna Marie de la Fuente noted Univision's coverage has been "propelled by a production team of about 200 people on the ground in Brazil." The World Cup "is a prime chance for Univision to show off its growing sports and news operation." Getting from one game to another "across the vast expanse of Brazil has been the key challenge" (VARIETY.com, 7/5). Meanwhile, VARIETY's Todd Spangler noted for the final eight matches, Univision moved its streaming "behind a pay-TV wall, requiring users to subscribe to a provider that carries the Univision Deportes Network cable channel." However, Comcast "is not on board" with the move, as it "doesn’t have an agreement to carry Univision Deportes Network, so Comcast subs won’t be able to access the games on Univision Digital platforms" (VARIETY.com, 7/3).
TWITTER TOTTER: The GUARDIAN's David Hepworth writes under the header, "Twitter Gives World Cup 2014 Extra Bite." Subheader: "Social media have made fans worldwide feel more involved than ever before -- and have often left TV commentators stumbling." Social media "has increased the feeling of this being the World Cup that the fans at home wanted to see rather than the one that the custodians of the game thought was good for us" (GUARDIAN, 7/7). Meanwhile, in N.Y., Sam Borden in a front-page piece examines how players at this year's World Cup are offering "confessions, explanations, interpretations and amplifications using services like Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/7).