World Cup 2014: First-Round Matches Draw Record Ratings

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The Netherlands' 5-1 defeat of Spain has been one of the most-watched matches of the tournament.

A record 82 percent of Italian viewers watch Italy's 2-1 win over England, as first-round matches involving Spain, the Netherlands and Mexico also top ratings worldwide.

The 2014 soccer World Cup has been a ratings hit out of the box, with first-round matches this past weekend outperforming even the impressive figures of the last tournament in 2010.

A series of high-profile matchups, including a rematch of the 2010 final between world champions Spain and the Netherlands, helped boost viewing figures, especially among neutrals. Approximately 11.2 million Spaniards, or 68.5 percent of the national audience, caught the game in which Spain was battered 5-1 by Holland. In the Netherlands, 7.5 million watched, an 82.9 percent share. But even in neutral Germany, fully 14.6 million viewers, just under 50 percent of the audience, caught the game.

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Italy's 2-1 defeat of England in the opening match was a similar draw. Although the match kicked off at midnight Italian time on Saturday, 12 million soccer-mad Italian fans tuned in, for a staggering 82 percent share combined between state broadcaster RAI and satellite rival Sky Italia. It was the highest ever rating in Italy, in terms of market share, for a sporting event.

BBC's coverage of England's first World Cup game averaged 11.5 million viewers for a 68.4 percent share, with the audience peaking at 15.4 million, a share of 76.4 percent, when England scored an equalizer to tie the match 1-1. The figures were down from England's opening match against the U.S. in the 2010 World Cup, which drew an average 16.1 million viewers, a drop partly attributable to the late hour broadcast.

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England vs. Italy was also the most-watched first-round game, aside from the opening-night kickoff, among U.S. viewers on ESPN, where the match drew a 2.6 rating, or 4.62 million viewers. ESPN said the figure was a record for a regular first-round match not involving Team USA.

But Spanish-language network Univision pulled some 5 million viewers in the U.S. for its broadcast of Mexico vs. Cameroon on Friday. According to Univision's figures, the network has outperformed ESPN among total viewers by 34 percent over the first four matches of the 2014 World Cup.

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The largest TV audience in Europe was in France for Les Bleus' opening match against Honduras, which France won 3-0. An average of 15.8 million French viewers watched on commercial network TF1, peaking at 17 million in the second half. The figures represent 57 percent of all French households and 71 percent of all French men under 50.