World Cup: U.S.-Belgium Scores Ratings Coup

The ratings juggernaut that is the ongoing 2014 FIFA World Cup scored another coup for ESPN, with the USA-Belgium Round of 16 match July 1 averaging nearly 16.5 million viewers and a 9.8 household rating, making it the second-most-watched men's soccer match ever in the United States.

The overtime match was characterized by a strong performance from USA goalkeeper Tim Howard (pictured) who, despite a losing effort (Belgium won 2-1), managed 16 saves, the most ever for an American goal-stopper in a World Cup. Belgium will next play Argentina in the quarterfinals on July 5.

In addition to the live TV ratings boost, the match also set WatchESPN records, with an average minute audience of 1,107,000 viewers, a 7% increase from the previous record set by USA-Germany on June 26. WatchESPN averaged 3.5 million unique viewers and 190.2 million minutes viewed during the match, both records for the platform. The 2014 event has now delivered ESPN’s six largest audiences for men’s World Cup matches ever.

Overall, ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC have combined to reach more than 99 million people through the first 52 matches.

Additional highlights:

--ESPN’s television, digital and audio coverage generated a combined average minute audience of nearly 18 million people.

--At its highest point, ESPN’s telecast averaged 19,543,000 viewers and an 11.5 U.S. household rating from 5:30 to 6 p.m. while WatchESPN peaked at 1,500,000 concurrent users.

--ESPN’s telecast is the third most-viewed soccer match – men’s or women’s – in the United States behind ESPN’s record-setting USA vs. Portugal telecast and the 1999 Women’s World Cup final (USA vs. China) on ABC (17,975,000 viewers).

Spanish-language Univision Deportes also reaped rewards from the match: USA-Belgium was the network’s most watched Round of 16 contest ever, averaging 4.4 million total viewers (22% above its 2010 Round of 16 audience) and 2.3 million adults aged 18-49, a 10% increase over 2010.

The matches aired on the Univision Network, and simulcast on Univision Deportes Network (UDN), from Saturday, June 28, to Tuesday, July 1, 2014. Total viewers for USA vs. Belgium were 5.1 million and 2.4 million adults aged 18-49.

So far, Univision Deportes’ coverage of the 2014 World Cup has reached 70.9 million total viewers through the Round of 16 and the network’s coverage is pacing ahead of its 2010 World Cup telecasts by about 39% among total viewers and 27% among adults aged 18-49 through 56 matches.