The ESPN-ESPN2-ABC broadcasts of the 2006 World Cup reached 70.2 million viewers while Spanish-language Univision reached 29.5 million, according to Nielsen Media Research. Viewership for the 2010 is expected to be even greater.
"If you ranked World Cup viewing by countries going back to 1998, the U.S. ranked 23rd," said Kevin Alavy, director of Initiative Sports Futures, a London-based analysis firm. "In 2002, the U.S. jumped to 13th, and in 2006, it jumped again to 8th place. And we expect America to keep on jumping.”
ESPN is paying $100 million for the rights to two World Cups and two Women’s World Cups through 2014 — up from $11 million in 1994 and $22 million in 1998. Univision is paying $325 million for the current package of domestic Spanish-language rights, up from its previous fee of about $125 million. It is allocating about $155 million of its total payment to this year’s tournament, reports Richard Sandomir.
Both Univision and ESPN said they were close to selling out their commercial time. “We’ve exceeded all our expectations for every part of the portfolio,” Ed Erhardt, the president of ESPN customer marketing and sales said. He said that most of the 30 percent jump in ad revenue on ESPN.com is thanks to the World Cup.