If there was any doubt over the appetite for soccer and the Women’s World Cup this summer, the ratings for Wednesday’s Japan-England match should settle the matter.
Despite the United States not being involved and the game being on Fox Sports 1, rather than the regular Fox network, the Japan-England telecast drew 2.3 million viewers, making it the highest-rated sports cable broadcast for the day. The soccer match (which included 20 minutes of pregame coverage) also led all sports cable programming on Wednesday with an 0.8 rating among adults 18-49.
Viewership for Japan’s dramatic 2-1 victory over England represented a 20 percent increase over the Japan-Sweden match from the 2011 Women’s World Cup, which was broadcast on ESPN and drew an audience of 1.9 million. By comparison, that game was televised on a weekday afternoon in the States and had the USA’s match with France as a lead-in. Japan-England began at 6 p.m. ET Wednesday.
Wednesday’s Fox Sports Live directly following the Women’s World Cup semifinal also benefited from Japan-England’s strong ratings, finishing as the second-highest cable sports audience for the evening with 876,000 viewers.
The telecast drew the largest audience for a game not involving the U.S. team during the 2015 Women’s World Cup, beating the 1.7 million that watched the June 26 Germany-France match shown on Fox. The biggest audience that a Fox Sports 1 Women’s World Cup broadcast previously drew was 1.4 million for the June 27 England-Canada quarterfinal.
As could be expected, those numbers don’t come close to matching the viewership when the U.S. is playing. USA’s 2-0 semifinal victory over Germany on June 30 drew 8.4 million viewers, the third-largest audience for an English-language telecast of women’s soccer in this country. The U.S. women’s smallest audience was for the 3-1 win versus Australia in group play on June 8, drawing 3.3 million.
If you’re wondering, the highest U.S. viewership for a women’s soccer game was the 1999 Women’s World Cup final between the USA and China, which brought in 17.97 million watchers for ABC. Is that number within reach for Sunday’s USA-Japan final?