UPDATE, 11:58 AM: ESPN isn’t the only ones broadcasting the World Cup to Americans this year and it looks like it isn’t the only one getting the most eyeballs on the ball. Univision had 5.1 million viewers for the opening game of the World Cup yesterday, compared to the 4.4 million total viewers ESPN had for the host country’s 3-1 victory. Of course those numbers paled besides the UK viewership: ITV’s coverage pulled in 8.2 million viewerd between 7-11:15 PM GMT with the actual match itself getting more than 11 million viewers. The UK channel’s viewership peaked at 9:30 PM with 12.61 million watching. That’s a big leap over BBC 1’s most watched show last night, the soap EastEnders, which drew 4.94 million. On Saturday, England makes its debut in the tournament with a game against Italy, so expect big big numbers then.
PREVIOUS, 7:55 AM: EPSN has scored with the World Cup — at least in the first game as Brazil held off Croatia. The opener featuring the host team against a determined Croatia side yesterday averaged a 3.2 overnight rating in the metered markets, a 52% increase compared to the 2010 opening match, which drew a 2.1 rating and pitted host South Africa against Mexico. The network is saying Brazil-Croatia is the highest overnight rating for a World Cup opening game on record, according to Nielsen, since ESPN began tracking metered markets for the World Cup in 1998. The final demo ratings are expected later today and live sports usually see a shift.
ESPN is showing all the games this year and has said its best ratings yet for the world’s biggest sporting event are “a foregone conclusion.” Today’s coverage includes defending World Cup champ Spain against the Netherlands in a rematch of last final and one of the best matchups of pool play (see the full schedule here). Also notable today is Mexico vs. Cameroon on ESPN2; it will be interesting to see how ESPN fares against Spanish-language Univision, which is also showing all games in the U.S.
The Americans, by the way, open Monday against Ghana on ESPN.