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World Cup Amplifies American Audiences for the Beautiful Game

Match Broadcasts During Group Stage Earn 121.1 Million Total Viewers on FOX, FS1

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World Cup
December 16, 2022
December 21, 2022
 min read

Every four years, a month-long tournament elevates soccer mania to a fever pitch when 32 of the world’s greatest footballing nations converge to determine a global champion. The 2022 World Cup in Qatar marks the first time FIFA’s flagship event has taken place in the Middle East, and despite controversies related to alleged corruption in the bidding process and potential human rights violations during the lead-up to kickoff last month, American fans have nevertheless tuned in by the millions to watch the international spectacle being broadcast in the U.S. on FOX and FS1. We used MVP’s broadcast platform to discover viewership totals from each match during the group stage and identify audience trends based on network, time slot, competing nations, and a variety of other metrics. Collectively, 121.1 million household viewers watched game coverage through December 2, but the discrepancy between games shown on FOX’s main network and its FS1 subsidiary was vast.

FOX’s Coverage Outkicks FS1

American soccer fans have had two options for English-language World Cup broadcasts from Qatar, as the Fox Corporation, which owns the tournament’s broadcast rights, has divided its coverage between FOX and FS1. Studio shows and commentators have been shared across the networks to provide an identical product, but the audience figures have been anything but equal. Despite FS1 carrying 28 games during the group stage compared to FOX’s 20 – partly due to FOX’s college football and NFL broadcast obligations – its 31 million total household viewers were a mere 34.4% of what FOX drew. FOX had the advantage of carrying all three U.S. Men’s National Team games, boosting its average audience to 4.51 million – equal to 4.07x FS1’s average.

The network differences are less pronounced but still evident when comparing similar time slots. Every match shown at 5 a.m. ET and 8 a.m. ET was broadcast on FS1, which played a role in the network’s lower viewership numbers as the early starts had the smallest average audiences among the five different group-stage kickoff times, earning 531,787 and 1.12 million viewers per game, respectively. But contests beginning at 10:00 a.m. ET, 11:00 a.m. ET, and 2:00 p.m. ET graced both networks. Overall, the most popular time slot was 2:00 p.m. ET, which attracted 3.87 million viewers per game. FOX’s average for the final daily broadcast window, during which it aired three USMNT games, was 5.27 million, outpacing FS1 by 3.39x. For the second-most watched time slot, 11:00 a.m. ET, FOX averaged 4.02 million viewers compared to 1.95 million on FS1. Finally, the 10:00 a.m. ET kickoff time was relatively consistent with the general incongruity. FOX attracted 4.2x more viewers than FS1 during a broadcast window that collectively averaged 2.06 million viewers across both networks.

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USMNT Enjoys Substantial Home Following

After failing to qualify for the World Cup in 2018, the U.S. side was hungry for success on the pitch during this cycle, and its fans shared that desire for positive results. Support for the Stars and Stripes was strong throughout the group stage, as the team’s three games averaged 7.95 million viewers – peaking at 9.9 million for its 0-0 draw against England on Black Friday, which was the most-watched game domestically during the round. The USMNT’s final group stage match against Iran, which it won to advance to the knockout stage, was watched in 8.79 million households. Topping the set of games not involving the U.S. was a matchup between Netherlands and Ecuador immediately preceding the U.S.-England game, drawing 5.5 million viewers on FOX, which surpassed 3 million household viewers for each broadcast. Meanwhile, among games airing on FS1, the most-watched contest was a Group E showdown between world soccer powers Spain and Germany, who drew an audience of 2.46 million.

Behind the USMNT, no national team was more popular than FIFA’s top-ranked side entering the 2022 World Cup, Brazil. Its three games averaged 4.42 million viewers, 55.6% of the U.S. team’s total. Portugal also exceeded 4 million viewers per game, averaging 4.09 million en route to winning Group H. Netherlands and England rounded out the top five, averaging 3.91 million and 3.82 million viewers, respectively. Notably, Iran finished with the sixth-largest average audience despite being watched by only 1.24 million total viewers in its first pair of games. Iran’s final game against the U.S. raised its cumulative average to 3.34 million.

Argentina, France Vie for Global Supremacy

The world is sure to be watching on Sunday when reigning World Cup champion France endeavors to defend its title against seven-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi and Argentina. Through three group stage games, France averaged 3.04 million viewers – good for eighth in our rankings by nation – while Argentina drew an average audience of 2.36 million, ranking 14th. But the magnitude of a final is sure to deliver a viewership total that trumps their early-tournament averages. Stay connected with MVP for broadcast metrics from the championship along with each of the other 15 knockout stage games and social analysis from the entire tournament in the coming weeks.

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