Soccer in the United States and the World, Part 4

The conventional belief holds that soccer is the most popular sport everywhere in the world except the United States, yet:

The U.S. viewership numbers for the World Cup are too big to ignore. There were more Americans who watched USA vs Portugal than Brits who watched England vs Italy.*

* Those who suggest U.S. interest in soccer is minimal compared to other nations tend to ignore population differences. The United States has a population about five times larger than the United Kingdom. So while proportional interest in soccer in the UK may be greater – sometimes as much as 1/3 of the population is watching one match – absolute interest in the U.S. is higher in part because there are just so many more people here.

So instead we hear the following story: sure, Americans have World Cup fever, but after this event, soccer will go back to being a sport of only marginal interest in the United States.

But that statement ignores average viewership numbers for soccer matches in the United States. And even those who acknowledge soccer’s growing year-round television audience, tend to ignore the importance of Spanish language soccer broadcasts in the U.S.

By the Spring of 2014, the English Premier League on the NBC networks was averaging about 1.1 million viewers per match.

During this same period of time, Univision Spanish-language broadcasts of Liga Mx (Mexico’s top league) were averaging about 1.1 million viewers in the U.S. as well.

How does that compare with, say, average viewership of English Premier League games in Britain?

Quite well. It takes a little computation (sorry, its a bit of drag to find UK television ratings), and we are required to go back a few years, but is widely reported that the average English Premier League game draws 12.3 million viewers world-wide, and 16% of viewers are in the UK.

That’s about 1.97 million viewers in the UK, on average. Those numbers may have gone up a bit in the past couple of years (but maybe not). Regardless, they are about on par with the combined averages of Americans watching Premier League and Liga Mx in any given week.

The same is true for big games. In 2012 , Chelsea and Manchester United met in what was essentially a playoff game for the EPL lead. That game drew a big number in the UK – almost 3.2 million viewers.

But that compares poorly with the Liga Mx championship game from earlier this year, which drew 4.7 million U.S. viewers to Univision.

On average, televised soccer draws a higher percentage of total viewers in Britain than in the United States. But, on average, there are comparable numbers of Americans and Brits watching televised soccer week to week.

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