ESPN and Univision combined to net the most-viewed soccer match in the nation's history with their coverage of the Group G game between the U.S. and Portugal on Sunday evening.
The worldwide leader's presentation of the 2-2 draw -- Sam's Army surrendered two points when Portugal scored in the waning seconds of stoppage time -- averaged a 9.6 U.S. household rating and 18.2 million viewers, according to Nielsen data. That surpassed the previous high of 17.98 million viewers for the 1999 Women’s World Cup final, when the U.S. beat China, on ABC.
Together with the 6.5 million average on the simulcast of Univision/Univision Deportes Network, the match averaged 24.7 million watchers. That total surpassed the 24.3 million who watched Spain beat The Netherlands in the 2010 final from South Africa.
ESPN's telecast peaked in the 7:30 (ET) half hour with an average of an 11.9 rating and 22.96 million viewers.
Overall, the match now stands as ESPN’s most-viewed program, excluding NFL and college football telecasts. Its 9.6 rating topped the 9.5 mark for the Italy-Brazil final in 1994 on ABC as the highest men's soccer telecast in this nation's history, and is second behind the 11.4 for the 1999 Women's World Cup championship
In addition to setting a television viewership record, Sunday’s match also set product records on WatchESPN with a 490,000 average minute audience, and total of 1.37 million viewers and almost 61.7 minutes viewed.
At the midway point of the 2014 tourney, the worldwide leader's 2014 World Cup coverage -- also benefiting from the previous men's mark of 11.1 million viewers for the U.S.-Ghana on June 16, plus the six-most-watched Group Stage matches not involving the U.S., led by 5.7 million for Germany-Ghana on June 21 -- is scoring at a record Nielsen pace overall. ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC have combined to average 4.27 million viewers and a 2.6 rating through the first 32 matches, respective advances of 50% and 109% from 2.86 million from the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and 2.05 million from the 2006 tourney in Germany, and 44% and 86% from a 1.8 and 1.4.
In addition, ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC have posted significant audience increases in every key people and male demographic, highlighted by double-digit growth in the 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54 categories.
WatchESPN has averaged 259,000 viewers in the average minute across 32 World Cup matches, which the programmer says equates to a 6% lift over the ESPN Networks’ English language TV audience to a total of 4.53 million viewers across TV and WatchESPN.
Halfway through FIFA's famed 2014 event from Brazil, WatchESPN has posted a 158% increase in viewers and 167% jump in minutes, averaging 759,000 viewers and 33,319,000 minutes viewed per match.