Fox Sports Looks to Finish Strong With World Cup Coverage

Fox Sports is hoping to ride some serious ratings momentum coming out of this past weekend’s World Cup quarterfinal matches into the international soccer tournament’s version of the Final Four set to begin today.

Stu Holden and John Strong, Fox Sports anchors for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia

Stu Holden and John Strong, Fox Sports anchors for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia

After struggling from a ratings perspective in the early rounds without the USA team, Fox Sports has scored some big ratings numbers in the later rounds. This past Saturday the network drew a whopping 6.3 million viewers for the Croatia-Russia match quarterfinal match (6.6 million including streaming viewers), making it the most watched World Cup quarterfinal in English or Spanish language since at least 1990, according to Fox.

England’s defeat of Sweden, also on Saturday, drew 5 million viewers across the network and digital streaming platforms, according to Fox.

“The first week of the tournament, which is when we were most impacted by the time difference between Russia and the U.S., was challenging, but since then we have exceeded our own expectations,” said Fox Sports executive vice president of research and content strategy Michael Mulvihill. “The overall audience figures have been strong, we’re seeing strong contributions from both streaming and out-of-home television, and the World Cup is delivering the most affluent audience in sports to our advertisers."

While the numbers are still down from the previous World Cup telecast – Fox and FS1’s 2.5 million viewers through the World Cup Russia quarterfinals is down 18% from the 2014 Brazil World Cup tournament, excluding team USA matches -- Fox Sports has drawn large pockets of viewers for several big games throughout the tournament, according to network executives.

Even with the elimination of marquee team draws like Germany, Brazil, Mexico and Argentina, Mulvihill said Fox is bullish about its ratings prospects heading into the final rounds of a very unpredictable, action-packed and suspenseful World Cup tournament. France and Belgium square off today, with Croatia and England battling tomorrow. The winners will play Sunday in the World Cup final.

“I think it’s been a bit surprising that the World Cup has not been very reliant on recognizable stars or traditional powers,” said Mulvihill. “In the end it hasn’t mattered much that Germany failed to get out of the group, or that both Messi and Ronaldo lost in the round of 16. The two most-watched games have been Croatia-Russia and Croatia-Denmark; who would have predicted that? I think we’re finding that stars don’t make the World Cup, the World Cup makes stars.”

Telemundo has also pulled in some record-setting numbers for its Spanish-language coverage of the World Cup. Through 60 matches, Telemundo Deportes’ 2018 World Cup presentation has reached 34.7 million TV viewers. Overall, Telemundo has reached nearly 55% of the U.S. Hispanic population.

Telemundo’s TV coverage has also set records for the network’s most-watched daytime windows 67% of the time on their respective days of the week (14 of 21 match days), according to the network.

Pictured, top: Luka Modric of Croatia and Daler Kuziaev of Russia compete for the ball during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Quarter Final match between Russia and Croatia at Fisht Stadium on July 7, 2018 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.