Cup runneth over

Univision, ABC get healthy ratings kick

Univision’s exclusive Spanish-language coverage of the World Cup is breaking viewership records in all key demos, with this year’s soccer tourney on pace to become the most watched in U.S. history.

And Univision is not alone in coming up with rosy numbers.

ABC got off to a solid start in the Nielsen overnights for the opening weekend of the World Cup, scoring a 2.8 household rating for three matches — a 65% ratings jump from the analogous contests on ABC four years ago.

On Univision, the first eight games played in Germany have averaged 2.6 million viewers, nearly tripling the average of the first eight games of the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan. Among viewers 12-17, aud numbers shot up five times over the 2002 period, according to Nielsen’s NTI Fast National Ratings.

A key factor behind the audience boost is the timing of the games, which kicked off Friday.

With matches airing in the morning and early afternoon in the U.S., more viewers have been able to tune in. Four years ago, the time difference with South Korea and Japan forced Univision to air live games in the wee hours.

In addition, Univision Online has been broadcasting near-live video highlights online and via wireless for the first time.

Sunday’s game between Mexico and Iran, which Mexico won, scored a 5.4 million average household rating, making it the most-watched sporting event in Spanish-language TV history, outpacing even previous World Cup final matches.

Univision affil WXTV New York reported that 221,000 Gotham-area households, regardless of language, tuned into the station’s live broadcast of the games over the weekend.

That’s more than four times the 46,900 New York households that tuned into Telemundo’s coverage of the 2004 Summer Olympics on WNJU Channel 47, it claimed.

Univision is expecting at least 50 million total viewers for this World Cup, up from 35 million viewers in 2002.

ABC’s live broadcast of England vs. Paraguay at 9 a.m. ET hit a 2.7 rating, 93% higher than the afternoon tape-delayed airing of the net’s first World Cup match of June 1, 2002, Ireland vs. Cameroon (a 1.4).

Sunday’s match pitting Mexico against Iran live at 11:30 a.m. garnered a 2.7 rating, 42% higher than the 1.9 collected by a comparable 2002 first-round match between Sweden and England, also an afternoon tape-delayed broadcast.

Nielsen had compiled no numbers yet for the weekend games on ESPN and ESPN2.

Univision, which paid $150 million for the exclusive Spanish-language rights to both 2002 and 2006 World Cups, will carry live coverage of all 56 games this year, including the final championship match, while sister network Telefutura will broadcast eight live games. All games are rebroadcast during primetime on either Telefutura or the Galavision cable network.

In November, web forked out $325 million for the U.S. Spanish-language rights to the World Cup and other FIFA events through 2014. Under the pact, package includes the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World cups, the 2007 and 2011 women’s World Cups and the 2009 and 2013 Confederation Cups. (Interestingly, ABC and ESPN jointly paid “only” $100 million for the 2010 and 2014 English-language rights.)

World Cup fever is translating into records all over the Internet.

Streaming media company Akamai has been watching traffic to the world’s top 100 news sites since August. On Monday afternoon, during the USA-Czech Republic game, it found 4.7 million people per minute were going to those sites to check scores and watch clips.

That’s the second-highest ever, behind only 5.5 million people per minute on the first day of the NCAA basketball tournament in March.

Univision has been on the block since February and bids are due on June 20.

(John Dempsey in New York and Ben Fritz in Hollywood contributed to this report.)

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