The World Cup has taken its place among the very largest sporting events for American television audiences.
The June 22 face-off between the U.S. and Portugal drew 18.2 million people on ESPN, the network said, more than the total audience for all but one of the World Series games on Fox last year and more watched than any of the NBA Finals games on ABC this year, according to Nielsen.
Including the 6.5 million watching the game in Spanish on Univision, a total of 24.7 million viewers watched the game—the same number that tuned into the World Cup final in 2010 on ABC and Univision.
The game was ESPN’s most-viewed program ever outside of the NFL and college football, the network said. It beat the previous ESPN record for a soccer match, set by the 1999 Women’s World Cup final. It also set a record for viewership on ESPN’s online app, WatchESPN, with an average of 490,000 watching during any given minute, the closest measure to television ratings, ESPN said. ABC and ESPN are both owned by Walt Disney Co.
For Univision Communications Inc., it was the most viewed U.S. team World Cup match in the network’s history, beating the 2014 opening match by 35%, the network said. So far, at the midpoint of the tournament, Univision’s World Cup viewership is up 48%, the company said.
By comparison, all but the last game of last year’s World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox ranged between 12.5 million and 16 million total viewers, according to Nielsen. The final World Series game drew 19.2 million total viewers.
The NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs drew between 14.9 million and 18 million viewers, with 18 million tuning into ABC for the last game, according to Nielsen.