Although the narrative that Americans simply don't watch soccer persists, the numbers from the opening day of the World Cup suggests otherwise. The combined viewership of ESPN and Univision's Brazil-Croatia match was about 9.5 million, despite the game kicking off at 4 p.m. on the East Coast.
TV viewership for the World Cup's Opening Match: Univision averaged 5.1 million viewers; ESPN averaged 4.4 million.— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) June 13, 2014
For the sake of comparison, the NBA Finals have been drawing about 15 million viewers per night on ABC and the Stanley Cup Finals have been enjoying their best numbers in over a decade while pulling an average of 4.65 million viewers per night on NBC and NBCSN. Not only have most of those games been available over-the-air on network television, but those games are also being shown in primetime. The NBA Finals and Stanley Cup final is only available in the United States in English, though.
The World Cup opener, however, is only available in Spanish over the air and was being broadcast in the middle of the day on the West Coast.
The World Cup ratings will surely decline over the next couple weeks as the Group Stages plays out, but if it keeps up this pace could break the record set in 2010 for the United States-Ghana match, which had a combined audience of nearly 20 million viewers and nearly 15 million on ABC alone.