Spoiler Alert if you haven’t seen matches…
UPDATE, 12:48 PM: Yesterday’s defeat for Team USA was a real letdown for all those across the country who took part of their afternoon to watch the World Cup knockout game against Belgium. However, for ESPN and Univision that dedicated audience was a real score, to use the already overused term. ESPN had 16.49 million viewers watching the game and a 9.8 rating. That is not a record for ESPN, but it is the second-most watched men’s soccer game in U.S. TV history. Yesterday’s game falls behind the 18.22 million who watched the American team’s heartbreaking last-minute tie with Portugal on June 22, which got a 9.6 rating. However, the latter game was on a Sunday unlike yesterday’s weekday match. In that context and the fact that the ratings for Tuesday’s dramatic game doesn’t count all the massive crowds across the nation who watched on jumbo screens means that the U.S. vs. Belgium match probably actually was much closer to the June 22 game in relative terms
Over on Univision, 5.1 million viewers watched the game, which went into extra time. While not the record-breaking 10.4 million who tuned in for Mexico’s loss on June 29 to the Netherlands nor the 6.5 million who saw Portugal tie Team USA, yesterday’s Univision viewership is better than the 3.4 million who watched America’s 1-0 loss to Germany on June 26. Online, Univision Digital saw a record-breaking 1.8 million unique viewers watch yesterday’s game. Maybe they were there because they were worried that ESPN’s WatchESPN app would crash again as it did during the USA-Germany game. Actually the ESPN app performed rather well and averaged 3.5 million unique viewers during the match.
PREVIOUS, 7:13 AM: ESPN has come in with its numbers for last night’s Belgium vs. USA knockout match, and they are predictably high. The Red Devils’ 2-1 victory over Team USA averaged a network record 9.6 overnight rating, making it the highest overnight rating for a World Cup match ever on ESPN or ESPN2. Televised coverage peaked from 5:45–6 PM ET with a 14.1 rating, while WatchESPN peaked at 1.5M concurrent viewers. (We’ll get fast nationals and viewership numbers later today.) ESPN’s Tuesday night coverage posted a 5% hike over the 2010 Saturday afternoon airing of the U.S.’ loss to Ghana in South Africa. When including ABC, the valiant effort against Belgium ranks behind the 1994 final, and USA v Brazil round of 16 matches for largest metered market rating. The top-10 metered markets now are New York (15.0), HartfTord/New Haven (13.2), Washington, D.C., (12.8), Richmond (12.3), Boston (12.2), West Palm Beach (12.0), Baltimore (11.4), Cincinnati (11.4), San Diego (11.0), Columbus (10.8), Norfolk (10.8) and Orlando (10.8).
While having Team USA on the pitch has certainly been responsible for ESPN’s biggest scores this tournament, it’s safe to say that World Cup awareness is at an overall high in the U.S. this year. The Americans may be out, but some of the world’s most popular players are still in, incluidng Lionel Messi and Neymar, with big match-ups (France v Germany, anyone?) to come. An ESPN spokesperson says, “The United States had a spectacular run this World Cup and ESPN is proud to have covered it, especially with the unprecedented level of excitement that has swept the country. Our approach all along has been to cover the entire tournament, and there are many great stories that we will continue to present through the final on July 13.”
PREVIOUS, 2:47 AM: After a grueling 90 minutes during which Team USA’s Tim Howard played what could surely go down as one of the best matches of his career, the Everton goalkeeper finally succumbed to Belgium’s Kevin De Bruyne, and later Romelu Lukaku. Despite a Julian Green goal at the 107th minute, Team USA was ultimately unable to fend off the Red Devils, losing 2-1. Played in the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, this was one of the more exciting matches of the World Cup so far, regardless of which side you were on. ESPN is expected to report big numbers later today as its audience has continued to grow throughout the tournament, and especially when the Americans have been on the pitch. In the meantime, Belgian media reports that broadcasters VRT and RTBF hit a record high with a combined 4.02M viewers. VRT’s Sporza clocked 2.37M in Flanders for an 85.4 share while RTBF in Wallonia gathered 1.65M viewers and an 85.1 share. In the UK, an average 7.13M people tuned in to see Belgium-USA on BBC One for a 39.7 share. The match peaked at 9:40 PM local time with 8.6M viewers. There are no games today. Next up is France v Germany on Friday followed by Brazil v Colombia. On Saturday, Belgium meets Argentina and the Netherlands faces off with Costa Rica. More ratings news later from the U.S. …