John Oliver may have recently noted that, in the US, ‘soccer’ remains something “you pick your daughter up from,” but figures seem to suggest things are changing, with the opening Brazil-Croatia game of the 2014 FIFA World Cup averaging a 2.8 rating and 4.435 million viewers on ESPN, to rank as the highest-rated and most-viewed opening game of the World Cup on record (back to 1994), according to Nielsen. The rating is 49 percent higher than the opening match in 2010 (1.9, South Africa vs. Mexico), and the audience is 55 percent larger (2.856 million viewers).
Meanwhile, on WatchESPN, Brazil vs. Croatia produced a record 1.1 million unique viewers and 50.1 million minutes across all streams and devices, up 132% and 172%, respectively, compared to the first match of the 2010 World Cup. The 1.1 million unique viewers were the highest ever for a WatchESPN event, and total minutes was second only to the 2014 BCS Championship Game.
Consumption of digital content across ESPN platforms was also up. Video starts on ESPNFC.com increased by 553%, compared to Day 1 of World Cup 2010. ESPN.com, which includes ESPNFC.com, was up 26% in unique visitors from the first day of World Cup 2010, including 12.8 million video starts for clips, up 62%. Unique visitors to the ESPN Mobile Web were up 65%, while unique visitors to the ESPN SportCenter app was up 465%, compared to the first day of World Cup 2010.