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World Cup: Final Nets Top Audience with 26.5M Viewers

The ratings boon that was the 2014 World Cup for American rights-holders ESPN and Univision culminated with the largest combined soccer telecast in U.S. history.

ABC’s coverage of Germany’s 1-0 win over Argentina in extra time netted a 9.1 rating and 17.3 million viewers during the game window from 3 p.m. to 5:44 p.m. (ET), according to Nielsen data. Combined with the 9.2 million who watched the July 13 simulcast on Univision and Univision Deportes Network, the match -- in which the Germans lifted their fourth trophy and eliminated the Argentines for the third consecutive World Cup -- averaged 26.5 million viewers, to top the 24.7 million who saw the U.S.-Portugal draw on June 26 by 7%.  The average was 9% greater than the collective 24.3 million viewers – futbol’s previous Nielsen high-water until this tourney – who saw Spain beat The Netherlands, also in extra time during the 2010 World Cup final from South Africa.

ABC’s presentation marked the third-largest soccer telecast ever in this nation, trailing ESPN’s 18.2 million for the aforementioned U.S.-Portugal “Group of Death” match (Univision/UDN kicked in 6.5 million on that Sunday) and ABC’s 17.9 million for the U.S.’s penalty kick triumph over China in the final of the 1999 Women’s World Cup in the Rose Bowl.

At its highest point, the ABC telecast averaged nearly 20.8 viewers and an 11.0 rating in the 5 p.m. half-hour.

In addition to ABC’s telecast, the final match on WatchESPN notched 1.8 million live unique viewers, 112.1 million live minutes viewed and the highest time spent per viewer (63 minutes) of any match of the 2014 World Cup. Sunday’s final on WatchESPN provided a 4% percent lift to the English-language television viewership on ABC with an average minute audience of 657,000 viewers, according to officials at the worldwide leader.

For their part, Univision/UDN closed out its record-setting presentation of the 2014 World Cup with the 9.2 million viewers, including 5 million persons 18 to 49, serving as the best-ever mark for a final in Spanish-language history. Germany-Argentina bested the 8.8 million for the 2010 final by 4.5%.

Sunday's final fell short of the 10.4 million who watched The Netherlands defeat Mexico in their round of 16 affair on June 29, as well as the 9.4 million for Mexico-Argentina during the same stage of the 2010 World Cup. Germany-Argentina now ranks ahead of the 9 million who viewed the Destilando Amor telenovela on Dec. 3, 2007, which remains the biggest entertainment show in Spanish in the States.

Univision Deportes’ presentation of the entire 64-match FIFA 2014 World Cup from Brazil established new ratings marks, delivering record viewership for every round and averaging 3.5 million watchers per contest.  All told, the 2014 World Cup outdelivered its 2010 World Cup counterpart by 34% among total viewers, 21% among adults 18 to 49, and 40% among persons 2 to 17.

Univision, UDN, UniMas and Galavision’s coverage of the 2014 World Cup reached a record 80.9 million viewers, 65% more than the 49.1 million for the 2010 World Cup. The programmer reported that within 32 games of the just completed tourney it surpassed the entire reach of the 2010 competition.

Excluding the final and third-place match – ESPN’s presentation of Holland’s 3-0 shutout over the hosts averaged a 2.8 and 4.75 million watchers -- ESPN, ESPN, ABC reached 115 million viewers who watched some part of the networks’ coverage.

The 2014 FIFA World Cup ranks as the most-viewed World Cup ever on English-language TV in the States. Buoyed by the final on ABC and the nine most-viewed World Cup matches ever on ESPN or ESPN2, the three networks combined to average a record 4.56 million viewers for the 64 matches, advances of 39% and 96% over the 3.27 million in 2010 and 2.32 million from Germany in 2006. The three networks’ record 2.8 rating was up 33% from a 2.1 in South Africa and 75% from a 1.6 in 2006.

Over the 25 match days of the 2014 World Cup, Univision Digital recorded its 25 highest trafficked days, topped by 10.3 milllion visits on June 23, with 27.5 million unique visitors accessing its Copa Mundial site and app section. Univision Digital’s live stream coverage of the 2014 World Cup reached 10 million unique viewers, four times larger than its 2010 World Cup digital coverage, adding a 12% lift to the television audience.

Overall, Univision Digital averaged 1.1 million live streams per match, a 232% increase over 2010 World Cup’s per match average and 29 million hours, three times longer than during the South African competition. The U.S.- Belgium round of 16 match generated the most live stream viewers ever on Univision Digital, reaching 1.8 million unique viewers, and adding 14% incremental reach to the the linear telecast.

WatchESPN averaged 892,000 unique viewers and nearly 41 million total minutes per game for increases 174% and 173%, respectively, over the 2010 World Cup. WatchESPN had an average minute audience of 304,000 over the course of the tournament, providing a 7% lift to English-language viewership. Company officials said the 2014 FIFA World Cup was the most-streamed sporting event ever, with WatchESPN logging 43.3 million hours – some 2.6 billion live minutes -- of live match viewing across all 64 matches.

"A fabulous World Cup and unparalleled content created by our cross platform teams in Brazil clearly captured the attention of fans," said John Skipper, president of ESPN, Inc. and co-chairman Disney Media Networks. "ESPN doubled U.S. viewership since the 2006 World Cup and we set industry records for live event streams. We're proud of our role in helping to grow interest in the global game and our commitment to the sport remains strong."

Fox and Telemundo now hold the rights to FIFA events through 2022, kicking off with the 2015 Women's World Cup from Canada.