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World Cup: Univision, ESPN Open With Record 9.5M

Univision and ESPN opened up their coverage of  2014 FIFA World Cup with strong Nielsen and record digital performances in their nets.

Univision's June 12 presentation of Brazil’s controversial 3-1 win over Croatia averaged 5.1 million watchers from 4 p.m. to 5:59 p.m., according to Nielsen live + same-day data, 6% less than the 5.4 million for the opening match of the 2010 World Cup that featured Mexico -- a favorite of the network's viewers -- against South Africa. Thursday's total included 2.7 million adults 18 to 49.

Coupled with a big run-up by ESPN to 4.4 million, the two networks combined to average 9.5 million watchers, 19% more than the 8.0 million for the start of the 2010 tourney.

Univision officials said the average audience delivery exceeded the 4.4 million for ESPN’s presentation of the Brazil-Croatia match by 14% and was 13% above the 2.4 million in the demo for the worldwide leader.

All told, 10.1 million viewers watched some portion of the match on Univision.

Coverage of the Opening Ceremony, featuring Pitbull and NUVOtv creative officer Jennifer Lopez delivered 2.8 million total viewers and 1.5 million persons 18 to 49, a new high for the event across all networks, regardless of language, according to Univision executives.

On the English-language side of the Brazil-Croatia pitch, ESPN averaged a 2.8 rating translating into the aforementioned 4.4 million viewers to rank as its highest-rated and most-viewed opening game of the World Cup on record back to 1994, according to Nielsen. The rating was 49% higher than the 1.9 for the South Africa-Mexico opening match of 2010 World Cup, and the audience was 55% larger than the 2.86 million four years ago.

The game was the fourth-highest-rated and fourth-most-viewed of the 206 group play matches that have aired on ESPN networks since 1994, behind a trio of games involving the U.S.: a 4.0 rating and 6.16 million viewers for the match against Algeria on June 23, 2010; a 3.4, 5.2 million for Slovenia on June 18, 2010; and a 2.9 and 4.8 million against Colombia on June 22, 1994.

Tacking on a record audience for WatchESPN, across all platforms ESPN’s presentation of the first of 64 games of the tourney averaged 4.89 million viewers at any time.

From a digital perspective, Brazil vs. Croatia on WatchESPN produced a record 1.1 million unique viewers and 50.1 million minutes across all streams and devices, up 132% and 172%, respectively, compared to the initial match of the 2010 World Cup.  The 1.1 million unique viewers were the highest ever for a WatchESPN event, and total minutes was second only to the 2014 BCS Championship Game.

Consumption of digital content across ESPN platforms was also up strongly. Video starts on ESPNFC.com increased by 553%, compared to Day 1 of World Cup 2010. ESPN.com, which includes ESPNFC.com, was up 26% in unique visitors from the first day of World Cup 2010, including 12.8 million video starts for clips, up 62%. Unique visitors to the ESPN Mobile Web were up 65%, while uniques touching the ESPN SportCenter app was up 465%.

For its part,Univision Digital had its most-trafficked day ever with 5.8 million visits and its best day ever for video with over 4.7 million video views, including its live stream. Univision Digital’s live stream of the opening ceremony and the Brazil-Croatia match received 1.9 million views, making it Univision’s most-watched live stream ever, according to Adobe Analytics and Distimo.

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Officials said Univision Digital recorded its all-time highest day for app downloads on Thursday.