TV: Fox's audience for early World Cup final down from 2014 on ABC

For its first World Cup, Fox Sports not only had the challenge of having no USA team in the tournament and early kickoff times (relative to time-zone friendly Brazil four years ago), but also the earliest kickoff time for the final on U.S. television since the 2002 final in Yokohama, Japan.

The audience (television and streaming) for the France-Croatia final (pre-game and game coverage) on Fox was 11,824,000. In 2014, ESPN reported an audience (television and streaming) of 17,981,000 for the 2014 final between Germany and Argentina broadcast by ABC though that figure covers only the game window. Including the pre-game show, the 2014 final averaged 14,100,000 on ABC.

The U.S. viewing record for a FIFA final is 25,400,000 for the 2015 Women's World Cup final in which the USA beat Japan, 5-2.

A big difference in the two games: the viewing window for the final in Moscow began four hours earlier than for the 2014 final in Rio. FIFA scheduled the early kickoff time -- the match kicked off in Moscow at 6 p.m. local time -- to allow for the game to kick off at 11 p.m. in China (where many of FIFA's new sponsors are based). Typically, European finals have kicked off with European prime time in mind, but its importance has diminished as other markets -- notably, the USA and China -- have become more lucrative for FIFA and its sponsors.

The high-scoring final should have helped Fox, but the fact France jumped ahead 4-1 shortly after the hour mark killed the drama. The broadcast peaked at an overnight rating of 10.0, down from 14.4 for the Germany-Argentina game decided in overtime.

Overnight ratings. The overnight rating for the France-Croatia final on Fox was a 8.3, down 15 percent for the 2014 final between Germany and Argentina, which averaged 9.7 in ABC.

The 2014 overnight rating was the third-highest ever for any men's World Cup match after the 1994 World Cup final between Brazil and Italy (12.8) and USA-Brazil second-round game played on July 4 (10.4).

Ad sales. Ad Age reported that the going rate for a 30-second spot on Sunday's Fox broadcast exceeded $750,000 a spot, up from ABC's $587,500 ceiling for the 2014 final.

Streaming. The viewership of 11,824,000 includes a live-match average-minute audience of 552,000 on streaming platforms. (ESPN's streaming audience was 657,000 for the 2014 final.) That makes the France-Croatia final the the largest authenticated Sunday event in Fox Sports history, surpassing the 2018 NFC championship game by 18 percent.

Top three Fox Sports streaming events:
1. Croatia-England: 830,000
2. France-Belgium: 657,000
3. Brazil-Belgium: 615,000

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