ESPN hits ratings net with US-Portugal World Cup draw
Michelle Clancy
| 24 June 2014
ESPN's telecast of the United States' dramatic 2-2 draw against Portugal in the 2014 FIFA World Cup on Sunday has become the most-viewed soccer match in the United States ever.

Across all networks the game, pitting the unfancied American side against a side led by Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo, averaged 18.2 million viewers based on a 9.6 household (HH) rating, peaking in its last dramatic 30 minutes — from 7.30pm to 8pm ET — with an average of 22.9 million viewers and an 11.9 HH rating, making it ESPN's most-viewed programme in history, excluding NFL and college football telecasts.

According to Nielsen, it surpassed the previous high of 17.98 million viewers for the 1999 Women's World Cup final (USA vs. China) on ABC.

The coup continues a trend: the United States is invested in this World Cup. The first 2014 FIFA World Cup match involving the United States (a 2-1 victory over Ghana) averaged 11.1 million viewers and a 6.3 HH rating, making it the highest-rated and most-viewed men's soccer match on ESPN or ESPN2 on record at the time.

In addition to setting a television viewership record, Sunday's match also set product records on WatchESPN with a 490,000 average minute audience, and total of 1,373,000 viewers and 61,691,000 minutes viewed.

Overall, ESPN's 2014 World Cup coverage is posting significant viewership increases over 2010 and 2006. ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC have combined to average 4.27 million viewers and a 2.6 HH rating through the first 32 matches, marking increases of 50% and 109% (vs. 2.9 million in 2010 and 2.05 million in 2006), and 44% and 86% (vs. 1.8 in 2010 and 1.4 in 2006), respectively.

In addition, ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC have posted significant audience increases in every key people and male demographic, highlighted by double-digit growth in the 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54 categories.

Washington, DC, led all markets for ESPN's USA vs. Portugal telecast with a 13.3 rating, followed by Columbus (12.6), New York (12.5), Boston (11.5), Hartford/New Haven (11.3), Providence (11.2), Atlanta (11.1), Baltimore (11.0), Norfolk (10.5), Orlando (10.5) and Sacramento (10.5).