Ratings Roundup: USA-Ghana Sets New Benchmark for U.S. Soccer Telecast

The United States may have come out on the losing end of its Round-of-16 FIFA World Cup faceoff with Ghana on Saturday, but ABC proved to be a big winner nonetheless. The 2-1 U.S. loss in extra time, which eliminated the Americans, was the most-watched FIFA World Cup game ever among U.S. households and viewers. The 2½-hour match averaged an 8.2 rating, 9,455,000 households, and 14,863,000 viewers, according to Nielsen fast nationals.

The match also drew 4.5 million viewers on Univision. The combined audience of 19.4 million viewers is the largest ever for a soccer telecast in the U.S., topping the Brazil-Italy World Cup Final in 1994 (18.1 million) and the 1999 Women’s World Cup Final (17.975, only on ABC). Additionally, the match ranks as the third highest-rated Men’s World Cup game on record, behind two matches in 1994 – a 9.3 rating for the U.S.-Brazil Quarterfinal and a 9.5 rating for the Italy-Brazil Final. The 1999 Women’s World Cup Final (U.S.-China) also delivered an 11.4 rating.

Excluding the NFL and primetime Olympic telecasts, ABC’s coverage of the U.S. elimination match ranks as the 15th-most viewed sports telecast of 2010. Including the Univision audience, the match ranks as the 6th-most viewed sporting event of the year.

Through 52 games of the World Cup (as of Sunday), ESPN’s average viewership is up 58% to 2.86 million and Univision’s is 2.1 million, up nearly 9 %. Ratings and total audience were also way up for the USA during its three pool play matches in Group C. The U.S. team averaged 11.1 million viewers on ABC, ESPN, and Univision, up 68% from the 6.6 million average for the corresponding trio of games at the 2006 World Cup from Germany.

In other World Cup rating news, Univision set an all-time ratings record with its broadcast of the Mexico-Argentina match on Sunday, drawing 9.36 million viewers for the 2½-hour broadcast. Argentina’s 2-1 victory in the Round of 16 is now the most-watched Spanish-language telecast in U.S. history. An additional 5.5 million watched on ABC.

As for the other two second-round matches played over the weekend, ESPN’s Uruguay-South Korea coverage on Saturday morning delivered a 2.5 coverage rating (2.2 U.S. rating), 2,513,000 households, and 3,246,000 viewers, while 7.9 million watched Germany beat England on ESPN and Univision on Sunday.

Despite the World Cup’s current domination of the sports television scene, ESPN’s Wimbledon coverage has also seen a slight uptick through the first five days. ESPN2’s audience is up 14% over last year, and hours watched on broadband ESPN3.com are up nearly four-fold.

The Wimbledon audience is up 14% vs. 2009, from an average of 408,000 homes to 466,000.  Through six days, ESPN3.com has generated more than 742,300 hours consumed, nearly four times last year – a 286% increase. The average rating has grown from 0.4 to 0.5, highlighted by the second-most watched Wimbledon telecast in ESPN2 history on June 23 with part of the fifth set between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut averaging of 814,000 homes, based on a 0.8 rating.  The only ESPN2 Wimbledon telecast with a larger audience was July 4, 2008 – 971,000 homes, based on a 1.0 rating.

In an extremely crowded sports week, ESPN also supplied coverage of the 2010 NBA Draft, which drew a 1.9 U.S. rating and 2.789 million viewers on Thursday, June 24. That is up 6% in ratings and viewership from last year (1.8, 2.639 mil), but down 10% and 3%, respectively, from 2008 (2.1, 2.895 mil). It is the fifth-highest rating for the NBA Draft since 1999, but the fourth-lowest since ESPN acquired the rights in ’03.