The Ratings Game
|Italy or France? Bah. Soccer fans may have watched a World Cup winner being decided on July 9, but the most important result would come in the days after the game had concluded. The future of the sport here hinges more on the number of people watching the game than the result.|
The ratings came in, and the news was good. Around 17 million Americans watched the game on ABC and Univision, about 1 in 18 nationwide. That's better than the NBA Finals, Stanley Cup finals, or the MLB All Star game.
This was the first World Cup that has really been embraced by the media and especially ABC/ESPN, other than 1994 (I wasn't a fan back then so I really can't compare it). That had a lot to do with it. They had some motivation, too. In November, they bought the English-language rights to 2010 and 2014 for $50 million apiece (previously, SUM paid only $20 million each for 2002 and 2006). So the Disney networks are trying to build the game in this country for future benefit.
We like to complain about the coverage of soccer, but there's so much money invested in the game that it almost can't help but succeed. South Africa is in the same time zone as Germany, so for the first time we should have a very good idea of how much the interest is growing. Since the move to ABC from TNT in 1994, the time slots have been all over the place. Obviously this year would beat 2002 just because of the time slot, but the good news is that it beat 1998 as well. So we've got to keep improving.
Let's not forget that the afternoon time slot sucks for ratings. That makes this all the more impressive. Just imagine if it was in the evening.
World Cup final ratings: ABC
2006-7.0 (not sure if this is the final rating, but it appears to be)
One ratings point equals 1% of all the households with a television in the United States. For more on the Nielsen Ratings, check Wikipedia.
It's hard to compare it with American sports championships, because MLB/NBA/NHL have multiple games in their finals. But it's interesting to look at those ratings, as well as MLS Cup ratings, to see how they compare over the years. Here's a chart that does just that:
(click to enlarge)
The dots are the World Cup ratings, which only includes ABC. This also only includes games on network tv, not cable.