June 21st, 2010
11:25 AM ET

World Cup match draws as many viewers as 'Lost' finale

Americans are having a love affair with soccer, and the ratings are up to prove it.

According to a report in Mediaweek, the first 14 matches of the World Cup as seen on ESPN and ABC have delivered an average of 3.35 million viewers, which is a 64 percent increase from the same period in 2006.

The USA-England match, which ended in a tie on June 12, drew 13 million viewers to ABC, making it the most-watched first round World Cup game in U.S. broadcast history.

Impressive numbers, especially since seemingly highly anticipated television events have seen a dip in ratings.

For example, only 13.5 million tuned in to watch the finale of “Lost,” which is the same number of viewers who watched the “Dancing with the Stars” finale (down from last season's 16.1 million). “American Idol” scored just over 24 million with their final season nine episode, making it the lowest rated finale since “Idol” began.

Yet those figures couldn't even touch the ratings of another beloved sporting event: Super Bowl XLIV had 106.5 million viewers tune in to watch the New Orleans’ Saints beat the Indianapolis Colts.

soundoff (50 Responses)
  1. Lee

    The beautiful game is becoming Americ'a game. Can't wait for Saturday v. Ghana. What a game today. Only one sport can provide such an emotional experience!!!Football!!!I had people crying at the bar where I watched the game today!!!
    Go Team USA!!!

    June 23, 2010 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Ctruppi

    A couple of factors that affect the overall #'s for the USA-England match. Saturday afternoon, nice weather in large portions of the country will keep some people from watching it live. Although by soccer standards the match received "hype" it was infintemsmal compared to NBA finals (WFAN sports radio in NY did a whopping 15 min pre-WC segment a couple of days before but did hours of NBA every day). My brother is a HUGE soccer fan and couldn't watch the game because his 10-year old son was playing in a soccer tournament. Do a web search for soccer tournaments and you'll find every state and region of the country had soccer tournaments scheduled for the weekend of June 11 (you think there were a few potential viewrs there). I think these factors definitely lowered the total numer by a few %.

    I'm also tired about this 105 million # for the Super Bowl. I go to a Super Bowl party every year and can assure you I have never seen more than 5-10% of the people at the party actually watch the game. Two years ago when the Giant played NE we went to a neighbor's party and during halftime the husband and his old college buddies (huge Giants' fans) went to the basement to play poker (there's no tv down there) and didn't come back to watch the game until midway through the 4th quarter. I guess all that scoring and manly hitting really keeps them glued!

    June 22, 2010 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Slan

      You're right about the Super Bowl, the numbers they send out are completely wrong and only a fraction of the people actually watch the game, going to the parties every year and the only time we pay attention to the game is at the end or at half time (commercials). I would say NBA has more watchers than the Super Bowl.

      June 26, 2010 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Mo

    I'm American, speak English, but I would rather watch the games on Univision. Much more heart and excitement! There are more like me out there too. Were we counted?

    June 22, 2010 at 1:26 am | Report abuse |
  4. RealityCheck

    So 4% of the US population watched this match–big deal. This was supposed to be the biggest game in 50 years, right? Those are tiny numbers for such a "big" event. Like Lost (which I loved) soccer has a very small, but rabid, fanbase. The Lost finale was only the 55th highest rated TV finale of all time–MASH was #1 at nearly 106M, which was over 45% of the US population at the time.

    June 21, 2010 at 11:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sportsfan

      I'm not sure that that England game was supposed to be the biggest game in 50 years....that was the media hype. It was only the first game in the Group Stage. The biggest match would be the match that puts the USA team further than they've ever been in a World Cup and against all odds opponent, where it's win or go home.
      What most Americans don't know is that the team has been qualifying since 2008 while playing their regular seasons with their clubs. It's not like the Olympic Basketball team where it's just a team that's put together, practices, then plays only in the Olympics. These guys have been playing qualifiers and friendlys. It's probalby the most bonded National team in any sport. Let's all give them some of our time on Wednesday!!!

      June 22, 2010 at 1:15 am | Report abuse |
  5. ThemBones24

    Good grief. This is a perfect example why American's will never warm up to soccer. All these lame ties and 0-0 games...I'm more entertained by horse racing. Whether the rest of the world gets American sports or not, Americans will always consider their sports better.

    June 21, 2010 at 8:21 pm | Report abuse |
  6. chris

    WOW and i didn't watch either.............who cares!!!!

    June 21, 2010 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cherry Washbelly

      If u didn't watch it why was it a must to even reply....it was a Great Game :))

      June 21, 2010 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • likeroses

      Yes... we get it, Americans are not interested in Football (what you call soccer here). The rest of the WORLD is... see something wrong here?

      June 21, 2010 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • @ likeroses

      Americans do care. It's just clowns like Chris who would rather watch Jersey Shore and useless TV rather than something interesting like the World Cup. I'm not a fan of soccer, but it's interesting to see some teams of the world compete for a championship.

      June 21, 2010 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Steve-O

    The Smoke Monster makes the same annoying sound as those damned Vuvuzelas. I can see the connection.

    June 21, 2010 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  8. msmilder

    Tie game...what a waste of time. I guess I'm one of the ones who didn't watch either the game...or Lost. Oh, by the way...the world cup is up against Summer Programming...let's see how it would fair if it were up against shows people actually want to watch.

    June 21, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Truth

    If the NFL Playoffs and Superbowl only happened once every four years the ratings would be even higher than that amaizing 106.5 million from January (U.S. television ratings record). That number is really impressive for a sport that is almost exclusively in the U.S., and happens every year.

    It's also amazing that those NFL regular season games in London the past few years have been selling out in less than an hour after tickets are released. American football is growing in global viewership very fast (but not as fast as basketball which stole the show as far as Beijing Olympic global ratings went).

    June 21, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • roberto

      The last world cup final , and I am talking about one game, had a worldwide viewership of over 750 miillion , super bowl nowhere close. Even the European champions league final had more viewers than the super bowl. You can verify easy on the internet, if you need a link to prove what I am saying let me know.

      June 24, 2010 at 3:28 am | Report abuse |
  10. M.R. in L.A.

    How do the World Cup ratings compare to the NBA finals?

    June 21, 2010 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Truth

      28.2 Million in U.S. watched Game 7 of NBA Finals. 13 million in U.S. watched USA vs England. Averege U.S. viewership of world cup is only 3.35 million compared to 10.6 million U.S. average for all NBA Finals games. Not bad considering the NBA finals happen every year, unlike the world cup for which anticipation builds for four years.

      The only way a world cup match has the chance of U.S. viewership surpassing NBA finals is if U.S. is in final.

      June 21, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Truth

      Oh, here's the link for the NBA Finals numbers I gave:

      World Cup numbers came from this article obviously.

      June 21, 2010 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Truth

    Increase in illegal immigration = increase in world cup viewership.

    American football rules in the U.S...that 106.5 million was nearly 10X world cup viewers and that's just the NFL. The US-England numbers were also nowhere close to the NCAA Football championship.

    June 21, 2010 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
  12. zak

    The reason "seemingly highly anticipated television events have seen a dip in ratings" is because viewers and fans know they can now watch their shows at their own pace and convenience online shortly after the episode airs; the show's not going anywhere. Sure there's still an air of anticipation but it's very different watching a prerecorded show than it is to be a part of an event that's happening *as you watch it*. TV shows are going to be going down the gutter, at least in the traditional avenues of content delivery, as online streaming becomes more and more popular. But you can never kill the excitement that comes from sports unfolding before you. Plus, who ever got drunk and hysterical watching an episode of LOST on the boob tube or watching a world cup game crushed up in front of a laptop screen? It's not much of a mystery...

    June 21, 2010 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  13. boocat

    What is the point of this headline? I watched the World Cup and I find soccer boring....didn't find LOST boring at all...best show ever in my opinion.

    June 21, 2010 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
  14. david

    The USA played England not the UK.

    June 21, 2010 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Dan

    How can you compare ratings for a few opening round world cup games to the super bowl? That is a faulty comparison considering how many Americans will watch the final match. How many people care about week 3 games in the NFL as oppossed to the playoffs.

    June 21, 2010 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Zac

      Was just goint to say that. Its only the group stages so of course there will be draws and of course ratings will be low, there are still 'small' teams playing. Comparing it to the superbowl final? How about we wait till the world cup final huh?

      June 21, 2010 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Veritas

    What? You didn't hear that soccer was a communist plot to take over the United States? I thought no one in American liked soccer. Could it be that Glenn Beck was wrong? Say it ain't so. Say it ain't so!

    June 21, 2010 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Martin Wimmer

    I woud be watching except the vuvuzelas make it too obnoxious to watch. That incessant buzzing is not
    a part of the game. It does not reflect any fan support. It is just incesant and very annoying. So I turn it

    June 21, 2010 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • bruce

      Yes, it is stupid. You missing the singing, which is so massive and tribal, and the whistling at bad calls.

      June 21, 2010 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  18. paco

    They're not counting the millions watching on Univision or the Mexican channels along the border.

    June 21, 2010 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Guest

    Yes, because unlike the reality shows like American Idol and such, this is real unexpected, where as some of those shows, are frankly predictable. And even if you don't like sports, these things only come every 4 years (World Cup) or every year (Super Bowl) and they change, depending on who got in to playoffs or not, making it more interesting than LOST which is just a TV show that is scripted.

    June 21, 2010 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |

    ummmm....what other networks were televising the game? I think you show a slight(!!) bias...You forget that viewers all over the world are watching on tv as well-just not ABC and ESPN. If you added all viewers from all over the world I think you would be surprised to see how many people actually are interested in soccer.

    June 21, 2010 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justin

      I think the point of the article is the popularity in the US is growing. Of course it is watched more all over the world. But the english speaking population in the US is watching on ESPN and ABC. Why must everything be spun as a slight to the rest of the world?

      June 21, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • ickky

      It is true, if you count all the non-US people who like to watch soccer, it beats NFL hands down in total viewership. Obviously Americans have different taste in sports than the rest of the world. I know of nobody who cares one bit what the outcome of the world cup is, however, it seems when the NFL playoffs were winding down, everyone I knew was interested in the superbowl matchup. I really don't think the Major US television networks really care about the viewership in Albania or Zimbabwe. The advertizers aren't trying to sell Bud Light to Albanians. They are targeting Americans, which is why the superbowl reigns supreme in the television world which is why a 30 second spot during the superbowl costs about $2.6 million and a 30 second spot during World Cup about $250k. Although it may upset you American soccer fans out there, most Americans just don't really care about world cup.

      June 21, 2010 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
  21. Larry

    The USA-England match arguably ended in a similar way to how Lost ended. No conclusion, pretty much a draw.

    June 21, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Truth

      Lol. There have been 10 draws so far in the world cup. That's 1 out of every three games. Good grief. And 9 of the 10 draws were either 0-0 or 1-1. No thank you.

      June 21, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • SoccerFan

      The low scoring may seem uninteresting to people used to the high scores of Basketball or American Football, but when you understand soccer you realize it does not really matters. If your team is an outsider and is somehow holding its ground against a top favorite like Spain or England, this is incredibly exciting and gratifying. Every defensive play, every block by the goaler, every moves that gains time and gets the game closer to a draw is very exciting for the fans of the outsider team. Because in the end a draw still gets you one point, increasing your chance of being in the top two teams in your group and passing to the next round. Or, if you are a fan of a top-favorite team like Portugal, then you get sometimes a festival of goals like yesterday when they crushed North Korea 7-0. That was just awesome!

      June 22, 2010 at 8:17 am | Report abuse |
  22. Chris

    CNN needs to change it's headline on this story. The match was between the U.S.A. and England and not the U.S.A. and "the U.K." The U.K. (United Kingdom) is comprised of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and each of those countries field separate teams in soccer (amongst other sports).

    June 21, 2010 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Trip

      Thank you for making this comment, I was about to and saw you had beat me to it.

      June 21, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  23. Will

    if you consider that the majority of viewers for this game were either at work and streaming it or in a bar, I think the numbers are truly impressive. I've watched some or all of every game so fare and only watched the 7:30 am games at home

    June 21, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Truth

      The game was on a Saturday, mid-day. What are you talking about? Lol.

      June 21, 2010 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  24. John Johnston

    Maybe people are watching the World Cup because Lost ended?

    June 21, 2010 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
  25. Tim

    That's funny , Rob... I don't think the author is here all the way.. NO beat who in Super Bowl? Light is on but noone is home 😉

    June 21, 2010 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  26. Mike

    I think this has a lot to do with the fact that soccer stars are becoming bigger celebrities in America than they were in past years. In 2006 and 2002, Americans didn't know the players as well as they do Christiano Ronaldo and David Beckham (who isn't playing, but has brought a lot of attention to the sport). Also, many kids today play soccer...a big change from past generations. http://www.thesmogger.com

    June 21, 2010 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  27. Rob

    Are you suggesting that the World Cup is as bad as Lost?

    June 21, 2010 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • lol

      Hahaha, nice!

      June 21, 2010 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Truth

      So far, 1 out of every 3 games is a tie. And 95% of those ties have either been 0-0 or 1-1.

      Yes, as bad as lost.

      June 21, 2010 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Moose McDowell

      Sorry there's not enough instant gratification here for you. Have fun at McDonalds tonight for dinner.

      June 21, 2010 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • MarylandBill

      Truth, I imagine you must be a basketball fan... I always find it hard to get excited about a team scoring a point or two in a sport where you know its going to happen 35-50 times for each team. To each their own.

      Of course lets look at it from a different angle.

      1. The Super Bowl numbers is the king of American Television, but World Wide? The World Cup is bigger than anything else, including the Olympics. So, either the rest of the world knows something you might have missed the rest of the world has somehow missed how inferior World Cup (And soccer/football in general) is to Football/Basketball?
      2. 13.5 is tiny compared to the Super Bowl.. but it is good over all numbers for a game that the US was expected to loose. Especially considering this was a first round match.

      June 21, 2010 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |

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