The United States World Cup team has left a historic mark on American broadcasting.
Belgium’s 2-1 overtime win over the U.S. on Wednesday averaged 16,491,000 viewers, making it the second most-viewed men’s soccer match on ESPN ever, behind the 18.22 million viewers that viewed the U.S.-Portugal 2-2 draw on June 22. Univision said it had 5.1 million viewers for the U.S-Belgium match, the most for that network for a round of 16 match. Thus, the total combined television viewing for the game was 21.6 million viewers.
As far as the digital platforms, ESPN said its WatchESPN averaged 3.5 million unique viewers, a record for the platform. Univision broke a company record for digital watching with 1.8 million viewers. Univision's previous record was the U.S.-GermanyGroup Stage game.
The ESPN and Univision viewership numbers do not count the many watch parties across America as well as the hordes of people viewing in bars and restaurants. The actual number of people watching the game in America is probably closer to 30 million. ESPN said the match peaked on its airwaves between 5:30-6 p.m. when it averaged 19.543 million viewers.
At this point in the tournament through 56 matches, ESPN said ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 have combined to reach more than 99 million people with its World Cup coverage (Univision said its number is 70.9 million.) Washington, D.C., ranks as the highest-rated television market on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC followed by New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Orlando, Hartford/New Haven, Miami/Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Richmond and Boston.
ESPN’s top-10 markets for the U.S.-Belgium game were, respectively: New York (which registered a monster 15.0 rating), Hartford/New Haven, Washington, D.C., Richmond, Boston, West Palm Beach, Baltimore, Cincinnati, San Diego, Columbus, Norfolk and Orlando. Univision said its top markets for the game were Miami, Houston and Los Angeles and that it beat ESPN in total viewers in L.A., New York, Miami, Houston, Dallas, San Francisco, Phoenix and Sacramento.
The ESPN telecast was the third most-watched soccer match in the U.S. on English-speaking television behind the U.S.-Portugal game and the 1999 Women's World Cup final between U.S. and China (17,975,000).
The U.K.-based Digital Sky reported that the game was watched by 8.1 million viewers on BBC One. As for social media, Twitter said there were 9.1 million Tweets sent during the U.S. vs. Belgium match, the fourth-most tweeted match during the World Cup.