World Cup Ratings Rebounding
A week into the first round of the group stage of the 2018 World Cup, ratings in the US were down 44% in comparison the first round in 2014. Bloomberg even wrote that “World Cup ratings are a complete nightmare for Fox and Comcast.” Fortunately, the first week’s trend has changed.
Sweden’s June 23 loss to Germany attracted 5.4MM viewers on Fox, and is now the most-watched non-US men’s group stage game on an English-language TV in 28 years. Argentina’s win against Nigeria on June 26 also set a 28-year record for mom-US men’s third round group stage with 2.6MM viewers.
June 27, Day 14 of the 2018 World Cup’s total viewership was up 34% from the same day of the 2014 cup and 22% from Day 14 of 2010. The increase of viewers is due to huge games between Mexico and Sweden, and South Korea and Germany. At the end of the full group stage Thursday night, Fox reported that their viewership of the World Cup was up 1% overall when compared to the average of the past four World Cup’s, including the U.S. matches.
Although 1% may sound small, it beats that larger overall trend currently being seen in all live sports viewership. The NFL is seeing ratings trending downwards as well as NASCAR, Major League Baseball, college football, and even the Olympics. The PyeongChang 2018 was the least watched Winter Olympic Games ever.
Despite the trend, the large drop in viewership in the first round of group stage in the World Cup should not be shocking. It hurt Fox that the United States was not in the tournament, but factors such as a tougher time difference due to the games being in Russia and many games were on FS1, which is not as easily found as ESPN by viewers. The viewer improvement after the first round shows that the United States’ absence from the games only damage viewer interest in the early stages. Viewers are paying attention to the high stake, close games and Fox is seeing big growth in its streaming viewership. June 27 boasts the highest day for authenticated streaming viewership in Fox Sports history.
With the improvements, viewership of the World Cup is still currently down from 2014, and the large drop of viewers in the first round did cause damage that World Cup sponsors are most likely not happy about.
Brian Cristiano, CEO of the ad agency Bold Worldwides stated, “There is no way sponsors and advertisers anticipated a drop in ratings of 44%. Brands are either hoping the ratings shoot up as we get closer to the finals or they are writing requests for refunds on ad dollars. It’s not like broadcasters can just run a few make-goods on that much media.”