For all the complaints—vuvuzelas, too many draws, and poor officiating to name a few—the championship match still managed to score record ratings in the United States, Europe, and across the Internet.
Here’s a look at the numbers and how they compare to World Cups of the past, as reported by Daily Variety.
The World Cup final drew 15.5 million (vs. 13.1 million in 2006) total viewers from the ABC broadcast and 8.8 million from the Spanish telecast on Univision (vs. 5.9 million in 2006), or 24.3 million total American viewers in 2010 (vs. 19 million in 2006), making it the most soccer game in U.S. history according to Neilsen ratings.
“The record viewership proves that soccer is as popular as it’s ever been in the United States,” said Stephen Master, VP of Sports at The Nielsen Company.
The previous record was set by USA’s Round 16 loss to Ghana from the 2010 tournament, which attracted 19.4 million eyeballs between ABC and Univision. The record before that was Brazil-Italy final in 1994, which drew 18.1 million total viewers from both networks.
It only stands to reason that Spain would also set record ratings given its status as a soccer nation, and the fact that they were competing in the World Cup final for the first time ever.
The 2010 final attracted 15.6 million total Spanish eyes across three networks. Bearing in mind that the population of Spain is significantly lower than the United States, it is nonetheless interesting to note that roughly the same amount of Americans watched the final in English as Spain did in Spanish.
Spain’s previous record was set by the Euro 2008 quarter-final penalty shootout between La Furia Roja and Italy, which drew 14.1 million viewers.
Not surprisingly, the Netherlands also posted huge ratings for the 2010 final with 8.5 million viewers—a 90.6 share—that are likely to set a new national record once bars and open spaces are accounted for.
ESPN.3, which streamed all 64 World Cup matches live , also set a record with 355,000 people tuning in online for Spain-Germany’s semi-final match-up.
Through July 6, 6.9 million unique viewers visited the site (I tried unsuccessfully, although I did tune into a number of matches via ESPN Mobile TV on my Blackberry), who streamed a total of 14.7 million hours of viewing, an average of two hours per viewer.
“We experienced record viewership across multiple platforms…and it was evident from the overwhelmingly positive reaction just how much fans were drawn to the spectacle of this global sports event,” said John Skipper, executive vice-president of content at ESPN.
Univision logged 10 million total hours, with users spending an average of 90 minutes apiece on the network’s broadband platform, Univisionfutbol.com.
The Rest of Europe
Germany set a record for their semi-final match with Spain, drawing a total of 31.3 million eyeballs—a 83.2 share—but the final between Spain and the Netherlands only attracted 25.1 million viewers.
A total of 18 million English viewers watched the final between BBC1’s telecast and private web ITV1. More total Americans watched the 2006 final, but again we must remember that 18 million represents a far greater percentage of England’s population.
In France, the final scored a 63 share with 14.1 million viewers tuning in (only the third most-watched broadcast of 2010), just slightly higher than Italy (13.4 million), another country who was eliminated in the group stage.
Other Things to Consider…
The majority of matches in the 2010 World Cup took place primarily during the morning hours, and as early as 4:30 a.m. Pacific Standard Time. Several others kicked off at 2:30 p.m. Eastern (11:30 a.m. PST) during the week while most Americans were at work.
The 2014 World Cup will take place in Brazil, which is only one hour ahead of New York, which means several matches are going to transpire during prime time hours. The next World Cup is sure to see even better ratings than South Africa, not to mention USA could easily do better in Brazil than they did in 2010.
Based on these numbers we can also conclude there is a direct correlation between ratings and whether or not that particular country is participating in the match, which reinforces that countries that make it further in the World Cup will have higher viewing ratings than countries that don't.
It almost makes you wonder how many American viewers would have tuned in if USA was in the World Cup final.
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