The World Cup is the most watched sporting event on the planet. And though it’s often proved a hard sell in the United States, who hosted it in 1994, the game reached fever pitch four years ago.
But without the U.S. team in this World Cup, American fans are showing disinterest — and that means a much lower return on investment for U.S. broadcasters.
CGTN’s Owen Fairclough has more.
Almost exactly four years ago, football fever swept the U.S and set new TV viewing records.
Freedom Plaza here in Washington, D.C. was packed with fans as the national side progressed in Brazil only to be knocked out in the last 16.
But today there are no giant screens for public viewing, so what happened to all the love for the beautiful game?
True, the U.S didn’t qualify for this World Cup, but it’s jointly hosting the 2026 tournament. And yet audience figures have dropped significantly.
Fox and Spanish-speaking network Telemundo paid more than a billion dollars for the right to broadcast all the matches in the U.S.
In the opening week, U.S viewership was down 44 percent from 2014, though Fox told CGTN that ratings were down 33 percent at the start of the knockout stage.
But if four or five million have been watching individual games, that’s still a tiny percentage in a country of 328 million people.
And, Fox had already cut ad sales by around 20 million dollars when the U.S failed to qualify.
There’s no shortage of bars in Washington DC screening games.
But outside, it’s harder to find the excitement.
One lady told us she’d watched no World Cup matches. A man out with his two children added: “I’ve never actually watched a day of soccer in my whole life.”
The U.S isn’t alone in being a bit indifferent, given it didn’t qualify for this World Cup.
Not a single team from Great Britain and Northern Ireland qualified for Euro 2008.
But 6.2 million Britons still watched the Netherlands play Italy, though that was a lowly 30 percent of audience market share.
And England did qualify for this World Cup and they’re still in it.
So I’ll do my best to drive up the U.S based audience when England take on Colombia for a place in the quarter finals.