Women's World Cup: Big drop in TV viewers for U.S. opener on Fox, record audiences across Europe

One of the challenges of the 2019 Women's World Cup -- and all World Cups played outside the Americas -- for American networks is games kick off in the morning and afternoon as opposed to in prime time on the East Coast.

That was quite evident in the final viewing figures for Tuesday's USA-Thailand game. Despite the excitement of the USA's record-breaking 13-0 win, viewership was down sharply from that for the USA's 2015 opener against Australia -- and that's despite the fact USA-Thailand aired on Fox and USA-Australia in 2015 aired on FS1, the Fox sports channel that is generally much less watched.

The metered marketing rating for USA-Thailand was 2.2 -- up from 2.1 four years earlier -- but Austin Karp, managing editor/digital at Sports Business Journal, reported that the "total audience delivery" was 2.72 million viewers, down from 3.31 million television viewers for the U.S. opener in 2015. (Soccer viewing figures historically fall from the levels of the metered marketing ratings once smaller and more rural markets are accounted for.)

"Total audience delivery" is the measurement introduced to account for those watching on television or via a streaming device (laptop, tablet, smart phone).

A big reason for the 18 percent drop: the 2015 Women's World Cup was played in Canada, where the USA-Australia match in Edmonton kicked off at 6:30 pm. CT (7:30 pm. ET). Tuesday's USA-Thailand game kicked off at 9 pm. local time in Reims (3 pm. ET).

As should be expected with more consumers using streaming devices to watch sports events and having the ability to use them during the day, USA-Thailand set a Fox Sports record. It was the most streamed game ever for the Women's World Cup with 315,000 viewers.

On the Spanish-language front, the news was better. USA-Thailand delivered 444,000 TV-only viewers on Telemundo, more than doubling viewership for USA-Australia at the 2015 Women’s World Cup (203,000).

The audiences for U.S. Women's World Cup matches will grow as they did in 2015:

3,311,000 Game 1: USA-Australia (Fox Sports 1)
4,500,000 Game 2: USA-Sweden (Fox)
5,043,000 Game 3: USA-Nigeria (Fox)
4,700,000 Game 4: USA-Colombia (Fox Sports 1)
5,700,000 Game 5: USA-China (Fox)
8,400,000 Game 6: USA-Germany (Fox)
25,400,000 Game 7: USA-Japan (Fox)
Average: 8,151,000.

The debate about the USA-Thailand goalfest will help.

"Anytime you get a record number of goals it gets people talking and excited," Fox Sports executive vice president and head of programming Bill Wagner told Multichannel.com. "We expect the U.S. women's team ratings to keep increasing as the tournament goes on."

The difference between the TV audiences for the opening games of the 2015 and 2019 Women's World Cups is the opposite in Europe, where Women's World Cup viewing records were being shattered because the matches generally air at more favorable viewing times. (A huge bump in media coverage has also helped significantly in France and England.)

France. The host Bleues' opening game at the Women's World Cup against South Korea averaged 9.83 million viewers on TF1, more than double previous record for a women's soccer game on France's No. 1 network, and 826,000 on pay channel Canal+ for a total of 10.66 million French television viewers. (The viewerships for Wednesday's France-Norway game: 9.4 million on TF1 and 892,000 on pay channel Canal+ for a total of 10.3 million.)

England. BBC One's coverage of England’s 2-1 over Scotland attracted an average audience of 4.6 million viewers, a new record for a women’s soccer match in England.

Netherlands. The Leeuwinnen's game against New Zealand on Tuesday afternoon averaged 1,613,000 viewers on free-to-air channel NPO1, with a share of 79.7 percent of all people watching TV at the time.

Sweden. TV4's coverage of Sweden-Chile produced an average audience of 975,875 with a share of 43.6 percent, making it the day's most-watch program.

11 comments about "Women's World Cup: Big drop in TV viewers for U.S. opener on Fox, record audiences across Europe".
  1. Bob Ashpole, June 13, 2019 at 10:10 p.m.

    It is all apples and oranges. For the mismatched time zones, more people record the match to watch later. So the interest is still there, but the ratings data doesn't reflect it.

    I didn't watch it live, but I did watch it. A lot of times I will be watching a recording while a match is still being broadcast (when I repeat sections, freeze frame and go slow motion it puts me behind the live broadcast).   

  2. Bob Ashpole replied, June 13, 2019 at 10:13 p.m.

    Of course USSF will spin this a reason to deny the WNT fair wages.

  3. James Rose, June 13, 2019 at 11:39 p.m.

    These ratings comparisons are irrelevant. The 2015 WWC was in Canada and matches to be ran in the afternoon and primetime in the US DMA markets of Fox, NBC, CBS and ABC where ratings are tracked versus the 2019 WWC which is in France 5-9 hours ahead of the US TV Broadcast Market where they are not broadcast in the late afternoon or prime time as they were in 2015.

    This is similiar to Olympics that occur outside of US prime time markets, the ratings are down. This isn’t the end of soccer on TV.

  4. frank schoon, June 14, 2019 at 7:07 a.m.

    I’m not surprised , the quality of soccer  displayed is so bad. Maybe in later games, perhaps,I don’t know, but so far it is not impressive. Today it is Argentina vs England, of course,I will watch or try to watch it, and that is because mentioning these two countries reminds me more of men’s soccer Argentina vs England.
    As I watched Brazil vs Australia ,I was hoping for some nice , different thing s coming from Brazil and I knew what to expect from Australia. The level of soccer displayed is just poor. The US stands a good chance to win it all, which is not saying much, but who knows....

  5. beautiful game replied, June 14, 2019 at 9:29 a.m.

    Couldn't agree more with f.s. I'd rather see a 0-0 or 1-0 quality contest than a drubbing with no skills.

  6. Paul Berry replied, June 14, 2019 at 8:32 p.m.

    So why the huge increase in Europe? Is this game new to them?

  7. frank schoon replied, June 14, 2019 at 9:41 p.m.

    Paul, soccer season for the men is over and I assume it is something to do for the next couple of weeks ...

  8. schultz rockne, June 15, 2019 at 8:55 p.m.

    That and some of us simply won't watch Fox--any 'Fox' channel--simply because it is associated, i.e. responsible, for general debasement, nonsense, lies toward the populace...I mean, we try not to watch Disney too, but sometimes a footie fan will crawl for her appeasement. Who would you rather kiss--Lalas or Craig Burley. Exactly.

  9. Chance Hall, June 15, 2019 at 9:12 p.m.

       I suspect that a lot of people are not watching because of rapeenos disrespectful behavior. It's an honor to wear your country’s sports uniform.  A sporting event is the wrong time, place, and venue to protest.  Don’t search for the reporters and cameras to try for your 15 minutes of glory.  Pick another time and place to cry “Look at me I want some attention”. Playing for your country is also supposed to be about teamwork and commitment.  I can’t imagine how much turmoil and dissention this is causing within the team and coaching staff. They certainly don’t need this kind of distraction while trying to prepare for a World Cup game.  Jill, the tv networks, and US Soccer should have handled this better the first time it came up. The answer is simple.  If you won’t pay the proper respect to your country then you shouldn’t be on the team. Plain truth is she's just not that good.  Heath and Press are much faster and way less predictable. 

  10. Bob Ashpole replied, June 16, 2019 at 12:27 a.m.

    Chance, most of us ignore Fox News reporters dragging up a tired 2 year old story yet again. I don't see anyone besides you and one Fox News reporter giving Rapinoe publicity for not singing the anthem.

    By the way there is no legal requirement for anyone to sing the national athem. So if Fox News would stop publishing Megan's 2 year old statement about not singing, she would not be in the news.   

  11. R2 Dad replied, June 16, 2019 at 10:10 a.m.

    I wouldn’t worry too much about that. USSF/NWSL have probably made it crystal clear they would not support such divisive behavior. After the hammer came down on Solo after her mildly unprofessional comments, it wouldn’t take much to cheese them off. Financial penalties might be assessed, dropping from WNT squad and Olympic squads could result. I think Rapinoe sticks to pink hair this tournament.

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