Landon Donovan goal provided the exclamation point to soaring US viewership of the World Cup, with ESPN's ratings going 60 percent over what the cable network saw during the 2006 World Cup. But will Americans watch soccer after the Cup?
US viewership of the World Cup has also reached historic highs.
Friday’s US vs. Slovenia game was the most-watched soccer game in the history of ESPN networks – almost 4 million Americans tuned in to the game, even though 10 a.m. Eastern time. Overall, the World Cup audience for the cable sports network is up 60 percent over 2006 viewership.
The numbers almost halfway into the month-long tournament are impressive, and for advertisers, who've invested tens of millions for World Cup sponsorship and international marketing campaigns, they’re crucial. But will the high ratings continue to bring US marketing dollars to soccer, even after the Cup’s final game on July 11?
“It’s really difficult to guess that this is going to be some sort of event that boosts soccer to the next level in the US,” says Bill Gorman, who runs the site TVByTheNumbers.com and has been following World Cup ratings.
“History has indicated that that’s not going to happen,” said Mr. Gorman. “My entire life I’ve heard that soccer was the next big thing – my guess is it’ll be the next big thing long after I’m gone.”
Aside from Americans’ general lack of interest in soccer , Gorman points to another recent television sports event that didn’t live up to its hype. Although millions tuned in to watch the US hockey team in the recent Vancouver winter Olympics, viewership for NHL games didn’t see a significant bump as a result, even immediately after the games.
While it’s difficult to guess if the marketing power of US soccer will swell after the Cup, one economic impact is, perhaps, a safer bet – decreased productivity as Americans (in the millions) tune in watch to the daytime weekday games and check stats online. Has your office been distracted since the start of the Cup?