Ratings Roundup: World Cup Off to Big Start on ESPN, Univision; Short Series Hurt NBA, NHL Finals, But Still Solid

It has been a busy week for major sporting events, with the kickoff of the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the conclusion of the NBA Finals and NHL Stanley Cup Final all capturing viewers attention. Each had varying degrees of ratings success, while Martin Kaymer’s blowout win resulted in one of the most poorly rated U.S. Open in recent memory.

FIFA World Cup on ESPN, Univision
ESPN and Univision are seeing a solid kickoff to the 2014 FIFA World Cup, averaging a combined 7.5 million television viewers, up vs. four years ago for their Group Play coverage through Sunday (11 matches prior to USA’s heart-stopping 2-1 win over Ghana on Monday). ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC have combined to average 3.74 million viewers (based on a 2.3 US HH rating) for the first 11 matches, marking a 2% viewer increase over the 2010 World Cup (which included the United States vs. England match on the second day of the tournament). Meanwhile, Univision (along with its simulcast on Univision Deportes) averaged 3.8 million viewers, up from Univision’s 2010 coverage of the Cup at the same point by 45%.

…The United States’ thrilling 2-1 victory over Ghana in the 2014 FIFA World Cup on Monday averaged a 6.3 US HH rating and 11,093,000 viewers on ESPN, making it the highest-rated and most-viewed men’s soccer match – including 265 from the FIFA World Cup – on ESPN or ESPN2 on record. The match also garnered a 469,000 average minute audience on WatchESPN, which set a product record for an event, which had a total of 1,400,000 viewers and 62,400,000 minutes viewed for the contest. USA vs. Ghana is ESPN’s highest-rated and most-viewed telecast since January 6 when its BCS National Championship (14.4 US HH rating and 25,572,000 viewers for the third largest audience in cable history).

ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC have combined to average a 2.5 US HH rating and 4,112,000 viewers through the first 14 matches, up 19% (vs. 2.1) and 23% (vs. 3,346,000), respectively, over the 2010 World Cup. WatchESPN has averaged 247,000 viewers in the average minute across 14 World Cup matches, up 7% over the ESPN Networks’ English language TV audience for a total of 4,359,000 viewers across TV and WatchESPN. In addition to Monday’s record telecast, 2014 World Cup coverage has delivered ESPN and ESPN2’s four highest-rated and most-viewed Group Play matches not involving a United States team on record.

In addition, WatchESPN has posted a 170 percent increase in viewers and 180 percent in minutes through the first 14 games, averaging 736,000 viewers and 31,900,000 minutes viewed per match. Driven by the three World Cup matches on Monday, WatchESPN, posted its best day ever with 2,700,000 devices and 191,000,000 minutes viewed. It marks the third time since the World Cup began on Thursday, June 12, that WatchESPN has set a record for its best day….

…Univision delivered the most-viewed opening weekend (Thursday-Sunday) in Univision Deportes World Cup history, averaging 3.8 million Total Viewers and 2.0 million Adults 18-49, pacing ahead of its 2010 World Cup coverage by +45% among Total Viewers and +31% among Adults 18-49 through 11 matches. In addition, Univision Deportes’ opening match (Brazil vs. Croatia) on June 12, is the most-viewed match for the tournament-to-date, across all networks regardless of language, with an average of 5.1 million Total Viewers and 2.7 million Adults 18-49. Argentina vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina was the most-viewed match on Sunday, across all networks regardless of language, delivering 4.9 million Total Viewers, as well as 2.6 million Adults 18-49. Univision Deportes’ pre-match coverage of the 2014 World Cup is outdelivering ESPN/ABC’s pre-match coverage by +11% among Total Viewers and +18% among Adults 18-49…

NBA Finals on ABC
…The 2014 NBA Finals on ABC, in which the San Antonio Spurs defeated the Miami Heat in five games, averaged 15.524 million viewers (p2+) and a 9.3 U.S. household rating, up from 15.12 million viewers and a 9.1 rating, respectively, through the first five games of last year’s Spurs-Heat series. Game Five of the NBA Finals generated 17.88 million viewers (peaking at 22.4 million in the last half hour), up 10 percent from 16.267 million viewers last year. Additionally, Game Five delivered a 10.3 rating, up eight percent from a 9.5 rating last year

Nonetheless, overall, the NBA Finals hit five-year lows in both ratings and viewership, as the five-game Spurs/Heat NBA Finals averaged a 9.3 rating and 15.5 million viewers on ABC, down 11% in ratings and 12% in viewership from last year’s seven game series between the teams (10.5, 17.7M) and down 8% in both measures from the five-game Heat/Thunder series in 2012 (10.1, 16.9M). The series ranks as the lowest rated and least-viewed NBA Finals since Lakers/Magic in 2009 (8.4, 14.3M).

On ESPN3, the NBA Finals averaged 374,000 unique viewers, which is up 53 percent from 244,000 unique viewers for the first five games of the 2013 NBA Finals…

NHL Stanley Cup Final on NBC
NBC, NBCSN and CNBC combined to average a 0.87 HH rating and 1.445 million viewers, ranking the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs as second-most watched since 2006, the year NBC and NBCSN began its exclusive playoff coverage, and the fourth-most watched on record (since data became available in 1994). In the past 20 years, the 2014 post-season only trailed 1996 (1.564 million on Fox/ESPN), 1997 (1.523 million on Fox/ESPN), and 2013 (1.471 million). For the 77 playoff games telecast on NBCSN and CNBC, the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs averaged a 0.66 HH rating and 1.098 million viewers, ranking as the most-watched NHL playoffs on cable in 17 years (1997, 1.211 million viewers on ESPN/ESPN2). This year’s average viewership was up 10% from the 2013 cable average of 1.000 million viewers (0.60 HH rating).

The Los Angeles Kings five-game Stanley Cup Final victory over the New York Rangers delivered a 3.01 HH rating and averaged 5.001 million viewers for NBC’s networks, making it just the fifth Stanley Cup Final on record (since data 1994) to average at least 5.0 million viewers. It was also the most-watched Final on record that did not include either the Chicago Blackhawks or Detroit Red Wings. Games 1-2 and Game 5 aired on NBC, while NBCSN televised Games 3-4. Overall, the 2013 and 2012 Stanley Cup Finals both went to six games. This year’s Final was up 64% and 66% vs. 2012 (1.83 and 3.012), the last time the Kings appeared in the Final, and down 9% and 13%, respectively, vs. 2013 (3.31 and 5.753), which was the most-watched Stanley Cup Final on record.

Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final, in which the Los Angeles Kings defeated the New York Rangers 3-2 in double overtime, averaged 6.0 million viewers; making it the most-watched Game 5 in six years and helping NBC win the night in primetime. Los Angeles (12.4 rating) and New York (10.4 rating) both scored their second-best local-market ratings ever for an NHL game on NBC or NBCSN. Game 5 delivered a 3.7 HH rating and 6.0 million viewers, making it the most-watched Stanley Cup Final Game 5 since the triple-overtime fifth game of the 2008 Stanley Cup Final between Pittsburgh and Detroit (6.2 million, NBC). Viewership was up seven percent vs. Game 5 on NBC last year between Chicago and Boston (5.6 million). It was also up a remarkable 82% compared to the fifth game of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final, which also featured the Kings (vs. Devils) and was a potential Cup-clinching game (3.3 million). The game peaked at over 8.5 million viewers from 12-12:30 a.m. ET.

Game 5, which was unauthenticated on NBC Sports Live Extra, delivered record traffic for an NHL game in virtually every metric, including uniques (274,473) and live minutes (11,423,556). Live streaming for the five-game 2014 Stanley Cup Final on NBC Sports Live Extra delivered 603,000 uniques and 37.14 million minutes, up 38% and 22%, respectively, vs. last year and made 2014 the most-consumed Stanley Cup Final ever…

U.S. Open on NBC
…Final round coverage of the U.S. Open drew a mere 3.3 overnight rating on NBC, down 46% from last year (6.1), down 50% from a primetime finish in 2012 (6.6), and the lowest overnight for the final round since at least 1996. The overnight is likely the lowest in U.S. Open history, though overnights prior to 1997 were not immediately available. Saturday’s third round coverage drew a 2.6 overnight, down 41% from last year (4.4) and down 53% from 2012 (5.5). (SportsMediaWatch)…

Odds and Ends
…SNY’s special limited commercial broadcast of the Mets/Brewers broadcast out delivered the channel’s season to date averages for Mets baseball in households by 32%, with demos also rising: A25-54 (+19%), A18-49 (+14%), M25-54 (+19%) and M18-49 (+7%)…

…Univision Deportes Network reports that the channel ranks as the top Spanish-Language Sports Network in primetime among Total Viewers and Adults 18-49 in 2014. Viewership has been bolstered by broadcasts of the top 5 most-viewed soccer matches among both Total Viewers and Adults 18-49 in 2014, entering World Cup play. Nielsen also reports that UDN ranked as the fastest-growing cable network in 2014 in primetime among Adults 18-49, up 86% in A18-49 in primetime and 109% in 109% in total day. (Cynopsis Sports)

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