Throughout the 2018 World Cup tournament, pubs and bars around the world were packed with people watching live soccer games. During the day, employees kept multiple tabs open on their computers or hid their phones to keep track of the latest nail-biting game.
A week ago, 11.3 million viewers around the world tuned in to watch France win against Croatia in the 2018 World Cup championship game. The 2014 World Cup managed to draw in 17.3 million viewers, approximately 32% more viewers than this year’s championship game.
One of the main reason viewers watch World Cup games is to cheer on their home team. To the disappointment of many US soccer fans, the US did not qualify to play in the tournament this year. Historically, Americans are more likely to tune in to watch their home team according to Nielsen data. In the 2014 World Cup, US matches drew four of the six largest audiences across the month long event.
Despite Landon Donovan’s effort, the US’s absence was felt during the 2018 World Cup.
The tournament is here! USA fans, our team may not be in Russia, but our neighbors to the south are. So join me and their proud #sponsor @WellsFargo to cheer on our other team, Mexico @miseleccionmxEN. ¡Vamos México! pic.twitter.com/YIifLGCT0D
— Landon Donovan (@landondonovan) June 16, 2018
After the 2014 World Cup, Fox network and NBCUniversal’s Telemundo bought the rights to broadcast the 2018 World Cup, which took place in 11 different host cities in Russia. Fox paid over $400 million to broadcast both the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Telemundo, the Spanish broadcasting channel, paid $600 million for the broadcasting rights.
While Telemundo paid more for the rights to broadcast, they also drew in a larger audience. According to data released by the network, throughout the 54 matches of the World Cup, they drew in a total of 32.2 million viewers. Of course it didn’t hurt that Mexico made it to the “sweet sixteen” of the tournament, ultimately getting knocked out by Brazil who advanced to the quarterfinals.
In the early games of the tournament more Americans tuned into Telemundo than Fox, even though more Americans have access to Fox. Telemundo averaged 2.19 million viewers per game while FOX Sports averaged 2.13 million, according to data published by World Soccer Talk, a website which specializes in tracking soccer game viewership.
Interestingly, more women watched World Cup games this year. In India women made up almost 50 percent of all viewers across the country, according to data from Sony Pictures Network, the official broadcaster of the matches in India.
In Iran, women tuned in for the very first time in a Tehran stadium to watch their team play live against Spain on June 20th.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 20, 2018