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Americans go digital for World Cup experience in record numbers

U.S. Soccer World Cup Viewing Party - USMNT vs Belgium

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From a scheduling standpoint, the 2014 World Cup hasn’t been ideal for the average American. The games generally occur in the middle of a weekday when most people are at work.

But all that’s seemed to do is drive viewers to websites and apps instead of television sets as the World Cup is smashing online streaming records in the U.S.

Americans have watched 30 million hours of the tournament via its website and apps, crushing the previous record 20.4 million viewing hours during NBC’s 2012 Olympics coverage from London, the Financial Times reported.

Comcast, the largest cable company in the U.S., has reported similar findings — the 2014 World Cup has been its most-streamed online event. The company had 7.8 million live steams for the 2012 Olympics and already 9.2 million live streams for the 2014 World Cup through the first 18 days of tournament.

The new record may be forced, in part, by the fact that many Americans are at work during the World Cup games and have no choice but to stream on their devices. It also helps that streaming options are more accessible than any previous World Cup.

But the digital numbers, along with new records in TV viewership, probably signal the popularity of soccer is growing in America. To wit, FIFA has reported that American fans make up 20 percent of FIFA’s global digital audience. Americans have been spending more time on FIFA’s website and apps than fans in Brazil, Germany, England and France combined, FIFA said.

U.S Soccer also topped Twitter metrics, with goalkeeper Tim Howard as the most mentioned player in the World Cup from June 24-29, according to Nielsen — that’s one day before Howard set the record for most saves in a World Cup match. Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Colombia’s James Rodriguez followed in mentions.

The USA-Germany game had the highest Twitter audience as of June 29, with 11.5 million unique Twitter accounts seeing tweets about the game. There were 2.5 million tweets about that match, which was just less than the 2.6 million during Mexico-Netherlands.

The full viewership data for the television broadcast of USA-Belgium has not yet been released, but the WatchESPN app peaked at 1.5 million concurrent viewers during it.


What do you think of this news? What does this say about America’s love of soccer and Americans migrating away from television?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. One difference between NBC Olympic coverage and ESPN’s WC coverage. WatchESPN/ESPN3 allows users access if they have either an ISP or cable company that is participating. NBC’s online coverage was only available to cable company users who had NBCSN (and NBC did rebroadcast many of the big events, so there wasn’t as much need to be online to see it).

    I’m a cord cutter, but I can easily watch ESPN3 free and legal. I didn’t have that option with the Olympics.

  2. How many of the fans in that photo attend Chicago Fire games? Support your club! Not just in Chicago but in all MLS, NASL, USL cities. That’s how you can help US Soccer over the next four years!

    • Not many. Should have found a way to play in the city or at Soldier Field. Also getting out of the basement would help…

    • The Fire need to play in the city.. Their biggest mistake was not building a stadium closer tot he center of town. Who wants to spend two hours commuting to see an MLS team?

      Not many in Chicago

  3. ESPN’s coverage has been fantastic…Fox better not crap the bed completely.

    I shudder to think….”coming to you live from Moscow, is Gus Johnson, Eric Wynalda annnnnd….Joe Buck”.

    • I agree, I’m not a huge ESPN fan on the whole, but I think their World Cup coverage has been stellar. Fox has big shoes to fill.

    • By 2018 I think we should have a few of the 2010 and 2014 guys doing commentary so hopefully it won’t be that bad but I really wish it stayed with ESPN they really helped in increasing the hype with their extensive coverage. Hopefully they do the same for MLS. 2018 I must be in Russia, Even if it means going by boat.

    • *Don’t mind Gus, he adds excitement
      *Would love to know what Ballack and Van Nistelrooy really think of Lalas and Twellman
      *Julie Foudy…..please no more….it’s over….Derrick Rae….no more of him and please less Brits EVERYWHERE in American soccer. Less Brit broadcasters and please don’t fall for the UK Elite coach with the cool Brit accent who lies about his playing credentials

      • There are some decent announcers out there that I think could work well. Dave Johnson (DC United), Neil Seika (currently on Crew Radio), Dwight Burgess (Crew), JP Delecamra (currently Union), Shepp Messing (NYRB) – he would be perfect for Fox. Kyle Martino has turned himself into a good announcer – I like the fact that he’s always down on the field.

        I’m sure there is some decent talent on the West Coast as well, though I’m 50/50 on Brian Dunseth and Coby Jones.

        One nice thing about MLSLive is you get a chance to hear pretty much every teams’ announcers for better (usually) or worse (there are some bad ones out there – Mr. ‘Once Again’ Keller, I’m looking at you).

  4. I dont think it’s possible to measure TV and internet viewing as accurately for the world cup given the extensive watch parties on bar viewing. The numbers have to be understated in this regard, more so than for other sporting events. Any media ratings gurus here to provide insight?

    • I’m not a media ratings expert, but Richard Deitsch just came out with the US-Belgium numbers. Combined ESPN-Univision TV viewers were 21.6 million (16.5 ESPN and 5.1 Univision). Digital numbers were 5.3 million (3.5 million ESPN and 1.8 million Univison). So that’d leave you with 26.9 million viewers total, and he estimated that including parties/bars/restaurants the number was “probably closer to 30 million.”

      I don’t know how anybody has a metric to even estimate bar/party numbers, especially since SO many employers set up TVs so their employees wouldn’t have to take off or leave early. My guess is Deitsch is under estimating, and the real number is closer to 35 million.

      • I’d have to find the link, but recently someone pointed toward a statistic that an independent research estimated that you could at about 30% of the Nielsen viewers onto each 2010 World Cup broadcast.

        That would jive with your 35 million guess.

  5. I don’t think this specific event shows that viewers prefer to migrate away from television to consume content, but it does prove that many viewers have the capability to do so when it’s necessary. The early game times, as the article suggests, clearly made viewing “by an means necessary” during the work week, and therefore streaming feeds was the logical choice.


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