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World Cup Revisited 120 Million U.S. Viewers in 2006
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World Cup Revisited 120 Million U.S. Viewers in 2006

Kickoff for the 2010 World Cup is little more than a week away and Nielsen took a look back to analyze U.S. viewing trends for the last World Cup. In 2006:

  • More than 120 million U.S. viewers watched at least one minute of World Cup telecasts.
  • The average viewing audience was 65% male and 35% female.
  • An estimated 17 million viewers watched the live final between Italy and France on Spanish and English language networks combined.
  • The most watched game featuring the U.S. team was a preliminary round tilt vs. Italy. The game was seen by 9.8 million U.S. viewers.
  • The 2006 tournament was the first to include Univision in the Nielsen national sample. The network’s 56 telecasts throughout the tournament averaged 2.3 million viewers, compared to 4.8 million on English language broadcast TV and 1.6 million on Cable TV.
  • San Diego was the top local market for English language broadcasts; Miami-Ft. Lauderdale was the top market for Spanish language broadcasts. Los Angeles placed second in both categories.

When looking at World Cup coverage from as far back as 1994, Nielsen found that there is one important factor that drives U.S. TV ratings: time zones.

“With Japan and South Korea hosting the 2002 tournament, U.S. TV ratings suffered with most games airing in the early morning or in the middle of the night,” said Stephen Master, vice president of sports at The Nielsen Company. “This year’s tournament in Johannesburg will be played in the same time zone as those played in 1998 and 2006. In each of those years, U.S. TV ratings were much stronger overall.”

Download Nielsen’s World Cup U.S. TV Viewership fact sheet, with insights going back to 1994.