The Group C match between the U.S. and England drew almost 13 million viewers, the most ever for a FIFA World Cup opening-round game in this nation and the tops for a U.S. men's national team contest since 1994.
The much-anticipated June 12 telecast on ABC, which ended in a 1-1 draw, drew a 7.3 national household rating, 8.39 million households and 12.96 million watchers during the match window from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. (ET), according to fast national data from Nielsen.
Through the first two days of FIFA;s famed futbol tournament, covering five matches, ESPN and ABC averaged 3.43 million households and 4.94 million viewers, gains of 95% and 108%, respectively, from the same span during the 2006 FIFA World Cup from Germany.
The three-hour U.S.-England telecast on June 12, including the pre-match coverage from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., averaged a 6.1 household rating, 7.03 million households and just under 10.8 million viewers
The overall three-hour telecast ranks as the fifth all-time soccer match in the U.S. behind three World Cup finals and a round of 16 game in 1994, all televised on ABC:
1. U.S.-China, Women's WC Final (7/10/1999) - 18.0 million viewers (11.4 rating)
2. Brazil-Italy, WC Final (7/17/1994) - 14.5 million viewers(9.5 rating)
3. Brazil-U.S., Round of 16 (7/4/1994) - 13.7 million viewers (9.3 rating)
4. Italy-France, WC Final (7/9/2006) - 12.0 million viewers (7.0 rating)
5. U.S.-England, First Round (6/12/2010) - 10.8 million viewers (6.1 rating)
On the local level, U.S.-England netted its highest rating in San Diego, where it pulled an 11.5 rating, followed by an 11.2 in San Francisco, with Las Vegas third with an 11.0. Cincinnati (10.8) and Salt Lake City (10.2) rounded out the top five, according to Nielsen data.
ESPN's most-watched game so far was the June 12 Argentina-Nigeria matchup, which delivered a 2.8 household cable rating, 2.82 million households, and 3.73 million viewers. (Ratings and viewership numbers are based on the specific-two hour match windows, exclusive of pre-match studio coverage.)
The Uruguay-France Group A battle on June 11 notched a 2.1 rating, 2.06 million households and 2.95 million viewers, followed by a 2.2 rating, 2.15 million homes and 2.86 million watches for the tourney's opening match between Mexico and the host nation South Africa on June 11. The South Korea-Greece contest averaged a 1.6 rating, 1.59 million and just shy of 2 million viewers in its 7:30 a.m. window on June 12.
World Cup content on ESPN.com -- including ESPNSoccernet.com and ESPNDeportes.com - delivered 9.5 million visits and 34.5 million page views over the first tournament's first two days, with users spending an average of 10 minutes per visit engaging with said content.
ESPN.com's front page, which prominently featured World Cup news, video and scores, garnered 19 million visits and 41.3 million page views on Friday and Saturday. More than 729,000 video views came from World Cup highlights, news and analysis content on ESPN.com.
On the mobile side, the programmer's offerings -- ESPN Mobile Web, ESPN 2010 FIFA World Cup App, ESPN ScoreCenter App -- generated 8.2 million visits and 50.4 million page views to tournament content over the first two days. Mobile platforms also generated 555,000 video views during the early stage of the event..
Since Thursday June 10, fans have consumed more than 1 million hours of World Cup content on broadband network ESPN3.com, according to network officials. ESPN3.com viewers watched 51 minutes per match on ESPN3.com, which is now available in some 50 million homes, on average, generating 61.2 million minutes of viewing.
"The 2010 FIFA World Cup is off to a tremendous start for ESPN," said John Skipper, ESPN executive vice president, content, in a statement. "Strong viewership on television and other platforms - including the best first round rating in 16 years - and the overwhelmingly positive reaction we are receiving from fans demonstrate the enormous popularity of this global sports event and how ESPN is uniquely positioned to cover it."