USA-Ghana match scores big ratings

Ranks as most-watched men's World Cup game ever in U.S.

NEW YORK -- USA's 2-1 extra-time loss to Ghana in the first round of the World Cup on Saturday afternoon may have stung millions of soccer fans around the country, but at least ESPN/ABC can take away some solace: It was the most-watched men's game in FIFA World Cup history in the U.S.

Additionally, Univision said the match gave it the highest viewership ever for a U.S. World Cup match on the Spanish-language network, with 4.5 million viewers.

The game scored 14.9 million viewers between 2:30 p.m. and 5:12 p.m. ET Saturday for ABC, Nielsen Media Research said Sunday. Only the 1999 Women's World Cup Final between the U.S. and China had higher ratings for a soccer game aired in the United States, with 17.97 million viewers. Saturday afternoon's game peaked from 4:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. ET with 17.6 million viewers. In addition, the U.S.-Ghana 8.2 household rating was also a record for a men's World Cup in the United States, ESPN said.

Two 1994 Men's World Cup matches (U.S.-Brazil and the Italy-Brazil final) had higher ratings than Saturday's U.S.-Ghana, which beat the two 1994 games in number of households watching as well as in total viewers; the 1999 Women's World Cup Final between the U.S. and China scored an 11.4 rating.

It's been a strong World Cup so far this time around for ESPN/ABC, which has banked a lot on a multimillion-dollar marketing push to entice American viewers to the worldwide TV equivalent of the Super Bowl here in the United States. Fifty games into the monthlong tournament, ESPN and ABC's World Cup morning and afternoon coverage from South Africa has averaged a 1.8 rating and 2.8 million viewers. That's up 48% from 2006's 1.2 household rating and 60% from 2006's average of 1.7 million viewers. ABC scored the initial ratings goal June 12, which averaged a 7.4 rating and 13.1 million viewers for the US-England match that finished in a 1-1 draw.

Up next is the quarterfinals, which will air on ESPN and ABC beginning Friday. Neither the U.S. nor England will go further; England was eliminated over the weekend in a 4-1 loss to Germany.

Nielsen said the highest-rated market for Saturday's game was San Diego, where it got a 15.4 rating. Other top markets included Washington D.C. (13.8), San Francisco (13.3) and Columbus, Ohio (10.6). San Diego has been at the top of the local U.S. markets for each of the four U.S. matches, including England, Slovenia and Algeria.