Mexico’s fans huddle up with NFL

Cardinals vs. 49ers game brings in big auds

Two of the worst teams in the National Football League drew the biggest regular-season crowd in the league’s 86-year history — in Mexico City — on Sunday night, the NFL’s first regular-season game abroad.

A crowd of 103,000 saw the Arizona Cardinals trounce the San Francisco 49ers 31-14 in Azteca Stadium.

Mexico’s No. 1 net, Televisa, broadcast the game — with imported cameramen and U.S. sponsors taking over the field — and won a 2.1% audience share. That’s a small take compared with the 26% that Mexico’s youth team took with its championship win at the Under-17 World Cup Sunday evening.

However, the niche “futbal Americano” audience is a high-income group attractive to local advertisers.

NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue said the NFL planned to host at least one foreign game per season to build a bigger international fan base.

Televisa and TV Azteca have a shared-carriage deal with the NFL that will run through the 2006-07 season, splitting the number of regular-season games shown on the nation’s nets, with joint rights to Super Bowl games.

The deal began last season after a standoff between the NFL and Mexican nets over transmission rights led to a year without football on free nets. NFL has played exhibition games in Mexico since 1994.

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