Despite a dearth of balls hitting the back of the net, ESPN and ABC rang up large gains with its opening weekend coverage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup from South Africa.
Through the first eight matches from June 11-13, The Walt Disney Co. networks averaged 3 million households and nearly 4.25 million viewers, gains of 75% and 80%, respectively, from the similar span of the 2006 World Cup from Germany, which averaged 1.72 million households and 2.36 million watchers, according to Nielsen data. (The ratings and viewership numbers are based on the two-hour match windows and exclude the half-hour pre-match studio coverage.)
The Nielsen results received a significant boost from ABC's June 12 telecast of the U.S.-England draw, which scored with a 7.3 national rating and just under 13 million viewers, the most for a men's national team match since 1994. By way of comparison, the U.S. team's first match in the 2006 World Cup -- a 3-0 throttling at the head and feet of the Czech Republic -- drew a 2.4 rating on ESPN2.
On June 13, ABC's netted a 2.8 household rating, 3,27 million homes and 4.66 million for Germany's 4-0 drubbing of Australia in the 2:30 p.m. window, while Serbia-Ghana delivered a 2.3 household coverage rating, 2.25 million homes and 3 million viewers on ESPN at 10 a.m., according to fast national data. The first match, Slovenia's 1-0 win over Algeria to put them ahead of the U.S. and England in Group C, notched a 1.3 rating, 1.30 million households and 1.57 million watchers at 7:30 p.m.
The eight matches produced just 13 goals, a figure buoyed by Germany's blistering attack.
As for digital media, nearly 1.3 million viewers viewed live and encore World Cup matches on broadband service ESPN3.com over the first three days of the tournament, generating 73.6 million minutes of viewing (almost an hour per viewer). The number of minutes viewed in the opening three days is almost as many as ESPN3.com had for the entire month of June 2009, according to officials at the sports programmer.
World Cup content on ESPN.com -- including ESPN Soccernet.com and ESPN Deportes.com -- delivered 13.2 million visits and 47.4 million page views, with users spending an average of 10 minutes per visit engaging with World Cup content.
ESPN.com's home page, which prominently featured World Cup news, video and scores, saw 27.7 million visits and 60.9 million page views from Friday through Sunday. Almost 1.3 million video views came from World Cup highlights, news and analysis content on ESPN.com.
ESPN's mobile offerings -- ESPN Mobile Web, ESPN 2010 FIFA World Cup App, ESPN ScoreCenter App -- scored 11.7 million visits and 70.3 million page views to World Cup content. Moreover, the mobile platforms yielded 761,000 video views in those days.
The following is a Nielsen breakdown of the first eight matched on TV:
Fri., June 11:
South Africa-Mexico (ESPN, 10 a.m.) -- 2.2 rating (cable coverage), 2.15 million households, 2.86 million viewers;
Uruguay-France (ESPN, 2:30 p.m.) -- 2.1 rating, 2.06 million households, 2.95 million viewers
Sat., June 12:
South Korea-Greece (ESPN, 7:30 a.m.) -- 1.6 rating, 1.59 million households, 1.99 million viewers;
Argentina-Nigeria (ESPN, 9:21 a.m.) -- 2.8 rating, 2.82 million households, 3.73 million viewers;
U.S.-England (ABC, 2:30 p.m.) -- 7.3 (national) rating, 8.39 million households, 12.96 million viewers
Sun., June 13:
Algeria-Slovenia (ESPN, 7:30 a.m.) -- 1.3 rating, 1.30 million households, 1.57 million viewers;
Serbia-Ghana (ESPN, 10 a.m.) -- 2.3 rating, 2.25 million households, 3.00 million viewers;
Germany-Australia (ABC, 2:30 p.m.) -- 2.8 (national) rating, 3.27 million households, 4.66 million viewers