Ratings Roundup: 2018 FIFA World Cup Roars Into Knockout Stages, Double Dose of Penalty Kicks Headline Next Round

Ratings roundup is a rundown of rating news from the past week and is derived from press releases and reports around the industry. In this week’s edition, the knockout stages of the 2018 FIFA World Cup began with the Round of 16, the numbers from the remaining Group Stage games are finalized, the WNBA had a successful night on ESPN2, NASCAR on NBC noticed a boost from the 2017 race at Chicagoland, the Atlanta Braves break a five-year-old mark, and ESPN captures continual improvement in the second quarter of 2018.

2018 FIFA World Cup Knockout Stages Come With Major Upsets, Tremendous Numbers
The 2018 FIFA World Cup knockout stage on Fox got off to a scorching start, as French teenager Kylian Mbappe ran past Lionel Messi’s Argentina and Edinson Cavani’s Uruguay defeated Cristiano Ronaldo-led Portugal. Uruguay’s 2-1 win over Portugal drew 5,879,000 viewers on Fox and is the most-watched English-language soccer telecast in the U.S. since the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final on Fox.

Uruguay-Portugal is the most-watched English-language men’s soccer telecast in the U.S. since the 2014 World Cup Final, and drew a combined viewership of 6,162,000 on Fox and streaming sources. Viewership on Fox (5,879,000) is up +13% over the corresponding 2014 match (vs. 5,194,000 for Colombia-Uruguay) and peaked at 7,070,000 viewers from 3:30-3:45 PM ET.

Earlier in the day, France’s 4-3 win over Argentina delivered 4,975,000 on Fox and streaming sources. With viewership of 4,690,000 on the Fox broadcast network, the match is up +63% over the equivalent match for the 2010 World Cup, which was played in a comparable time zone (vs. 2,881,000 for Uruguay vs. South Korea) and up +54% from the comparable match in 2006 (vs. 3,046,000 for Germany-Sweden). France-Argentina peaked from 11:45 AM-12:00 PM ET with 6,172,000 viewers.

2018 FIFA World Cup matches on Fox and FS1 now account for three of the four most-watched English-language men’s soccer telecasts in the U.S. since the 2014 World Cup Final:

  • Uruguay vs. Portugal – 5,879,000 on Fox
  • France vs. Argentina – 4,690,000 on Fox
  • Brazil vs. Switzerland – 4,147,000 on FS1

Fox streaming services delivered an average minute audience of 283,000 yesterday, a +55% increase over the 2018 Group Stage average. Following match action, FIFA World Cup Now hosted by Rachel Bonnetta live on Twitter, had its second-best day with 381,000 views, a +30% increase over the show’s Group Stage average. Overall, FIFA World Cup Now has amassed 4.8 million views.

A pair of Knockout Stage matches that needed penalty kicks to determine a winner led Fox Sports to a huge day of 2018 FIFA World Cup viewership on Sunday. Capping an exciting day of action on the pitch, Croatia’s nail-biting win over Denmark drew 5,912,000 viewers on Fox, the network’s most-watched match of the 2018 World Cup, and the most-watched English-language men’s soccer match in the U.S. since the 2014 World Cup Final.

Viewership for Croatia vs. Denmark is up +0.3% over the corresponding 2014 World Cup match (vs. 5,896,000 for Costa Rica-Greece) and up +19% over the equivalent match from 2010 (vs. 4,956,000 for Argentina-Mexico). The match is also up a massive +115% compared to the 2006 equivalent (vs. 2,754,000 for Portugal-Netherlands). Croatia vs. Denmark attracted an average minute audience of 250,000 and 846,000 unique streamers, delivering a combined 6,162,000 viewers on the Fox broadcast network and streaming sources. On Fox, the matched peaked at 7,587,000 viewers from 4:30-4:45 PM ET.

Earlier in the day, Russia’s win over Spain, the biggest upset ever in a World Cup knockout phase, drew 5,116,000 viewers on Fox, the network’s fourth most-watched match of the tournament, despite airing in the early window. Spain vs. Russia is up +36% over the comparable match from the 2010 World Cup, which aired in a similar time zone (vs. 3,756,000 for Germany-England) and up +29% over the comparable match from 2006 (vs. 3,973,000 for England-Ecuador). With an average minute audience of 260,000 and 910,000 unique streamers, the match drew a combined 5,376,000 viewers on the FOX broadcast network and streaming sources, peaking at 5,513,000 viewers on FOX from 12:30-12:45 PM ET.

Buoyed by extra time and penalty kicks in both matches, Fox Sports had its best day of the tournament in live streaming minutes per match with 50.4 million live minutes streamed in each game. Even when ranked among days with four matches, yesterday’s streaming performance ranked fourth overall among the 17 matchdays.

The Fox Sports Monday FIFA World Cup lineup may have impacted office productivity across the United States, as Brazil’s 2-0 Knockout Stage victory over Mexico was the most-streamed match of the tournament to-date. With an average-minute audience of 538,000 and 1.4 million unique streamers, the match set a record for Fox Sports authenticated streaming.

Monday was the best day ever for Fox Sports authenticated streaming with 159 million minutes and 2 million unique streamers across all sports, up +13% in minutes and +14% in streamers over the previous high on June 27 (140 million minutes, 1.8 million streamers), which was Matchday 14 of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. World Cup viewing drove 94% of Monday’s streaming consumption (150 million minutes, 1.9 million streamers).

On television, Brazil-Mexico delivered 4,181,000 viewers, peaking at 5,373,000. The victory by Brazil was up +65% over 2014’s corresponding Round of 16 match (France-Nigeria, 2,527,000), +161% over 2010’s Netherlands-Slovakia contest (1,601,000) and +140% over 2006’s Italy-Australia match (1,742,000).

The second match of the day, Belgium’s stunning comeback win over Japan, scored 3,904,000 viewers across Fox and streaming sources. Peaking on television at 4,640,000 viewers, the average television audience (3,499,000) was up +46% from Brazil-Chile in 2010 (2,393,000) and up +65% from 2006’s Switzerland-Ukraine match (2,116,000).

Through 48 matches, 39,218,000 viewers have watched at least six minutes of a live World Cup match telecast on Fox or FS1 only.

Through 18 days of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Fox Sports has recorded 2.5 billion minutes of digital consumption, including streaming, data pages, short-form video and social media. In addition, FoxSports.com had its best day in short-form video views in nearly four years, growing +1412% vs. the prior 12-month daily average. Excluding streaming content, World Cup video has amassed a total of 15.4 million views in June, boosting total FoxSports.com short-form video views to 19 million,+361% versus the previous 12-month average. Across streaming, social and digital platforms, Fox Sports pulled in 632 million video views for all sports in June, with soccer driving 55% of views (324 million).

Group Stage Action Comes to a Close
The 48 group stage telecasts on Fox and FS1 averaged 2,069,000 viewers (only including TV viewers and not streaming), down 42% from the 3.54 million average on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC four years ago and down 15% from the 2,429,000 average on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC eight years ago. Excluding games involving the U.S. team in previous World Cups, the average declined 28% from the 2014 tournament in Brazil and was up 1% from the 2010 tournament in South Africa.

Despite the ratings dip, there were also plenty of highlights for Fox during the Group Stage.

Thrilling third-round 2018 FIFA World Cup Group Stage matches on Wednesday, June 27 drew an average viewership of 1,523,000 to Fox and FS1, the tournament’s highest Matchday 14 audience since 2006.

The average viewership is a +38% increase over Matchday 14 of the 2010 World Cup (vs. 1,103,000) and up +16% over Matchday 14 of the 2014 World Cup (vs. 1,308,000), despite the 2014 tournament having been played in a more favorable time zone.

Brazil’s 2-0 win over Serbia, which sent Neymar and company through to the Round of 16, was the day’s most-watched match — delivering 2,610,000 viewers on the Fox broadcast network and Fox streaming sources. The match had an average-minute audience of 290,000 and 763,000 unique streamers.

Earlier in the day, Mexico advanced to the Round of 16 despite falling 3-0 to Sweden in a match that attracted 2,404,000 viewers to the Fox broadcast network and Fox streaming sources. On Fox alone, the match drew viewership of 2,165,000, a +6% increase over the corresponding 2014 match (vs. 2,034,000 for Nigeria-Argentina) and +30% over the corresponding 2010 match (vs. 1,664,000 for Slovakia-Italy).

Simultaneously, defending World Cup champion Germany was knocked out of the tournament with a 2-0 loss to Korea Republic in a match that drew 1,233,000 viewers on FS1 and streaming sources. With 1,020,000 viewers on FS1 alone, the match was up a massive +216% over the comparable 2014 window (vs. 323,000 for Bosnia-Herzegovina-Iran) and up +204% over the comparable 2010 match (vs. 335,000 for Paraguay-New Zealand).

Wednesday, June 27 was Fox Sports’ best day of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in terms of streaming with 135 million minutes across the four live matches, shoulder programming, and video-on-demand replays — accounting for 96% of Fox Sports’ overall record number of total minutes streamed on Wednesday, across all sports.

Argentina’s 2-1 victory on Tuesday, June 26 over Nigeria on the Fox broadcast network led the day with 2,977,000 viewers across Fox and streaming sources. On Fox alone, the audience averaged 2,613,000 viewers, making it the most-watched non-U.S. third-round Group Stage match on English-language television in nearly three decades.

The match, which peaked at 3,344,000 viewers, was up +45% from the corresponding Group Stage match in 2014 (Japan-Colombia, 1,804,000).

The 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Group Stages averaged 2,054,000 viewers across Fox and FS1, up +1% from the complete Group Stage average of the last four World Cups, including U.S. matches, and +21% from the complete Group Stage average of the last four World Cups, excluding U.S. matches.

The Argentina-Nigeria match was the most-streamed event of the Group Stages, with a match-only average-minute audience of 398,000 and 990,000 unique streamers. It ranks as the second-most-streamed event of any sport on Fox streaming services.

Tuesday, June 26 was Fox Sports’ biggest day for unique streamers in the opening round with 1.4 million, growing +8% over the previous high on Matchday 8 (1.3 million).

Other Fox Sports cumulative Group Stage digital highlights include:

  • 1.7 billion minutes of digital consumption (streaming, data pages, short-form, social)
  • 1.1 billion minutes of live match consumption; 8% of total linear/digital minutes
  • 2 million long-form streaming VOD (match replays) views
  • 237 million total video views
  • More than 18 million unique Snapchatters in the U.S. watching Fox Sports-partnered World Cup content

WNBA Sees Highest Overnight Rating on ESPN2
ESPN2’s presentation of the Seattle Storm vs. the Los Angeles Sparks on Thursday, June 28, was the highest-rated, regular-season WNBA game on ESPN2 since 2011, and the highest-rated, regular-season WNBA game on the ESPN networks (excluding ABC) since 2016. The telecast delivered a 0.4 overnight rating.

The top five markets included: Portland, Ore. (2.5), Seattle-Tacoma (1.2), Memphis (1.1), New Orleans (0.9), and Louisville (0.9).

NASCAR on NBC Sees Viewership Increase From Last Year’s Race at Chicagoland Speedway
Following an exhilarating down-to-the-wire finish, which saw Kyle Busch and the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota narrowly beat Kyle Larson in the final lap to take the checkered flag, NBC Sports Group’s presentation of this past Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race from Chicagoland Speedway averaged a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 2.56 million viewers across NBCSN and NBC Sports Digital platforms — up 10% from last year’s race at Chicagoland.

Featuring the debut of motorsports icon and new NBC Sports Group NASCAR analyst Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR on NBC’s first Cup Series race of the 2018 season delivered 2.55 million TV-only viewers and a 1.58 rating on NBCSN, up 10% and 12% vs. NBCSN’s coverage of last year’s race from Chicago.

Viewership of Sunday’s race on NBCSN peaked in the final 5:15-5:30 p.m. ET quarter hour, as nearly 3.35 million viewers watched Busch secure the team’s fifth NASCAR Cup Series win of the 2018 season.

In addition, Saturday’s Xfinity Series race on NBCSN from Chicago averaged 1.07 million viewers and delivered a .66 rating, up 32% and 25% respectively vs. 2017.

Atlanta Braves Deliver Highest-Rated Game Since 2013
The Atlanta Braves-New York Yankees series opener on Monday, July 2, delivered a 5.46 HH rating on Fox Sports Southeast in the Atlanta DMA, the highest-rated Braves telecast on Fox Sports South and Fox Sports Southeast since August 17, 2013 (5.55 HH rating vs. Washington on Fox Sports South).

A peak rating of 6.87 (10:00-10:15 p.m. ET) was the highest for a Braves telecast on Fox Sports South & Fox Sports Southeast since April 21, 2014 (6.89 HH rating vs. Miami on Fox Sports Southeast).

Braves baseball on Fox Sports Southeast won the night with the highest-rated primetime program in the Atlanta DMA, outpacing the next highest-rated program by 53%.

Monday’s 6.87 rating is up 81% vs. a season-average 3.01 HH rating on the networks in the Atlanta DMA.

Through 81 regular season games, the Braves are up 51% YOY on Fox Sports South and Fox Sports Southeast in the Atlanta DMA (3.01 vs. 2.0).

For the Yankees, YES averaged a 5.84 TV Household rating and 557,000 Total Viewers, making it the top-rated and most-viewed Primetime program in the New York DMA yesterday, and the highest-rated non-Red Sox telecast on YES since 2014.

Monday night’s game marked the seventh time since June 13 (out of nine Primetime games) that the Yankees on YES were the highest-rated and most-viewed Primetime program in New York.

Other highlights from last night:

  • YES was the highest-rated TV station in the New York DMA for each quarter hour between 8:00 pm and 11:00 pm ET (a total of 12 quarter-hours) in various demos
  • Monday night’s Braves-Yankees game peaked from 10:00-10:15 pm with a 7.06 TV Household rating and 723,000 Total Viewers
  • Including last night’s game, YES has had 28 Yankees telecasts which have generated a rating of 4.0 or better, including 6 games which have generated a rating of 5.0 or better; in all of 2017, YES had 35 Yankees telecasts which generated a 4.0 or better, including just 2 games which generated a rating of 5.0 or better

ESPN Grows Audience in Q2 of 2018
ESPN grew its audience in the second quarter of the year, including a rise of 10% in prime time where all the key male and adult demo groups grew 6-12%.

ESPN’s prime-time audience was up in large part because of the NBA Playoffs. The network averaged 1,544,000 viewers (P2+), compared to 1,405,000 a year ago. Overall, the network’s audience rose fractionally, from 604,000 to 607,000. ESPN ranked as the top full-time cable network in total day audience among M18-34, M18-49, and M25-54.

Highlights in the second quarter of 2018:

  • The NBA Playoffs on ESPN (19 games) averaged 5,144,000 viewers, up 30% from 2017. It is the second-most watched NBA Playoffs ever on ESPN (back to 2003).
  • First Take led cable in all key male demos (18-34, 18-49 and 25-54) during its 10 a.m. – noon ET time slot, as it has done every month of 2018. The show’s audience is up 2% year to date.
  • The NCAA baseball post-season (66 games across ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, and ESPNEWS) was up 15% to an average of 550,000 viewers, P2+).
  • The WNBA on ESPN2 audience is up 39% after seven games (to 250,000), including the network’s most-viewed WNBA regular-season telecast since 2013.
  • The midnight edition of SportsCenter was up 12% (to 744,000 impressions).
  • The 6 p.m. of SportsCenter was up 5% (to 497,000 impressions).

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