So, did you think that this year’s World Cup might be an event you can ignore? Well, think again. Based on the combined viewership numbers for ESPN and Univision, it could very well be a hit for both networks.

For the opening game of the World Cup, Brazil vs. Croatia, the combined audience for ESPN and Univision averaged 9.5 million viewers. ESPN drew an average of 4.4 million viewers while Univision actually beat the Worldwide Leader by drawing 5.1 million.

In Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Phoenix, San Francisco and Sacremento, markets that have heavy Hispanic presences, Univision was the highest-rated station in each city. And in each of those markets, Univision has an over-the-air affiliate as compared to other markets where the network is cable-only.

Comparing the audience to other events, Brazil-Croatia has outdrawn all NHL postseason games on NBC and NBCSN, all of the NBA playoff games except for the finals, all of this season’s NASCAR Sprint Cup races and several MLB games on ESPN and Fox Sports 1.

To have this combined viewership for two teams that don’t have a natural rooting interest for Americans, both ESPN and Univision have to feel quite good as the World Cup continues in Group Play and then into the Knockout Round and the Final.

[Sports Media Watch]

About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013.

He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television.

Fang celebrates the four Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.

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