Oh to be in Fox Sports or Telemundo headquarters Wednesday morning.
With Mexico trailing Sweden 3-0 in World Cup Group F action, El Tri was only one German goal against South Korea from being eliminated in the group stage, meaning the American television networks were one German goal against South Korea from losing their biggest ratings draw.
Then South Korea scored in stoppage time and added another for good measure, sending Germany home and keeping Mexico alive. Now, Fox and Telemundo can look forward to at least one more Mexico match — one that will likely pit Chicharito and company against Brazil in what figures to be a ratings bonanza.
Mexico advance to the Round of 16 with some help from South Korea! ?? pic.twitter.com/Gn7LuWOg8p
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 27, 2018
The U.S. team’s failure to qualify for this World Cup has forced Fox and Telemundo all-in on coverage of the Mexican team, which entered the tournament at No. 15 in the official FIFA rankings. In a conversation with Awful Announcing leading up to the World Cup, Telemundo Sports president Ray Warren said he was less worried about the United States’ absence given his network’s ability to treat Mexico as a home team.
“The Mexican team was always going to be our first focus. That is the preponderance of the audience that we serve,” Warren said. “All the teams are important, but we know that how Mexico performs will have a big impact on our telecast.”
And indeed, Mexico proved itself a ratings draw for Fox and Telemundo both, delivering large audiences for both networks. El Tri’s win over Germany on the first Sunday of the tournament averaged 4 million viewers on FS1 and 7.12 million viewers on Telemundo, while the side’s victory over South Korea last Saturday drew 4.6 million viewers on Fox and 6.6 million on Telemundo (h/t Sports Media Watch). Those numbers have been quite welcome for the networks during a tournament that gotten off to a slow start viewership-wise here in the U.S.
Entering Wednesday, the final day of group play for Group F, Mexico appeared likely to move on, needing only a win or draw against Sweden or a South Korea win or draw against Germany. But Sweden’s three second half goals quickly changed the outlook, putting Mexico’s fate in doubt. Had Germany converted one of its many goal-scoring opportunities, the lone surviving CONCACAF team would have been headed home.
Instead, Mexico moves forward, to face the winner of Group E in the Round of 16, and Fox and Telemundo avoid disaster.