World Cup: Record Viewership for First Round Matches

AP Photo/Hassan Ammar

UPDATED ESPN's coverage of USA vs. Germany drew a peak 9.5 rating on Thursday, while more than 27 million viewers in Germany tuned in.

The first round of matches of the 2014 World Cup has set ratings records in several territories worldwide, from established soccer stronghold Brazil to neophyte nation the USA.

Thursday's USA vs. Germany match was one of the most-watched of the tournament, aside from the opening night game, with fully 27.2 million German viewers, an astounding 84.2 percent share, tuning in to watch their squad defeat Team USA 1-0.

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That figure was a high for the tournament and for the year-to-date in Germany, but it paled alongside the 42.9 million Brazilians who watched their team's opening game win against Croatia, setting a new viewership record for the soccer-mad country. The 18.2 million viewers that watched the country's 2-2 tie with Portugal on ESPN was the largest audience to date for a soccer game in the US, though Thursday's national figures for USA vs. Germany could see that record broken. Initial numbers show ESPN drew a peak 9.5 percent share for the match, which aired during the workday in the US.

Spanish-language channel Univision drew 12.6 million total viewers for Mexico's 3-1 defeat of Croatia on Monday and the network's 2014 World Cup coverage is outpacing its 2010 viewership by 46 percent among total viewers and 33 percent among adults 18-49.

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Viewership figures across Europe, traditionally the strongest television market for the World Cup, were above 80 percent in several territories. Some 15.3 million Italians, an 82 percent share, watched their team's 2-1 defeat of England on June 14. Some 81.3 percent of Greek viewers caught their 2-1 win over Ivory Coast on Tuesday and a jaw-dropping 88.4 percent of the Dutch audience — some 11.5 million residents of the tiny nation —cheered Team Netherlands to its 2-0 victory over Chile Monday night.

Belgium, the team the USA will face in its second-round knockout match on Tuesday, has gone soccer mad. Thursday's Belgium vs. South Korea match was the most watched soccer game in the history of Belgian television, with 3 million Flemish fans (an 82.8 percent share) and 2.1 million Belgian French-speakers (82.1 percent) tuning in to see their team win 1-0 to advance.

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Final global audience figures won't be known for some time, but the early trends indicate that this year's final on July 13 could reach or even beat the 909 million viewers worldwide that caught the Spain vs. Netherlands final of 2010.

For the entire tournament, however, it may be tough matching the 2010 numbers. Several teams from some of the world's most populous soccer-loving nations, including Britain, Spain, Italy, Japan, Russia and South Korea, have been knocked out in the first round. Many local fans are likely to tune out until the last rounds of the tournament.


Twitter: @sroxborough