Jul 6, 2024; Glendale, AZ, USA; Colombia forward Luis Diaz (7) against Panama defender Edgardo Farina (24) in the Copa America Quarterfinal at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

While the 2024 Copa América has drawn strong viewership for Fox and TelevisaUnivision, an exec from the latter company has made an eye-opening comment about the tournament’s final viewership.

According to the Sports Business Journal, Univision’s global president of sports, Olek Loewenstein, “wouldn’t be surprised “if the 2024 Copa América had a better average viewership than the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if Copa America ratings, on average, are better than the [2026] World Cup ratings,” said Loewenstein, pointing to 32 Copa games being more relevant to a Hispanic audience versus 104 World Cup games where “a lot will not be relevant at all” to that demo.

Loewenstein believes in that bold statement because of a “diaspora” of fans for Copa in the U.S. from Peru, Chile, Brazil, Argentina and Ecuador. “If you look at the World Cup, you’re going to have 104 games for the first time ever. I doubt that teams from Asia and Africa and Eastern Europe that are not as relevant to our audience,” he said.

“The audience in the U.S. is becoming more refined when it comes to consuming [soccer], and I think that it’s proven in terms of how the ratings are performing in different teams, other than Mexico and the U.S.,” said Loewenstein. “In the past, you would see how ratings for Mexican and the U.S. were the anchor of a tournament.”

Heading into Tuesday’s first semifinal, the Copa América is averaging 1.17 million viewers in English across Fox’s platforms. Through 26 matches, the tournament averaged 1.5 million viewers across TelevisaUnivision’s Spanish-language platforms.

However, the World Cup is a different beast. The 2022 tournament aired in Spanish on Telemundo’s platforms and streamed on Peacock, averaging 2.58 million viewers for the full tournament. That was up 14% from the 2018 tournament, which averaged 2.27 million viewers in Spanish.

It’s worth noting that the 2022 and 2026 World Cups will be vastly different from one another. The tournament is returning to its traditional summer schedule after 2022, which took place in winter. For the first time, the tournament will expand to 48 teams, increasing the total number of games from 64 to 104. Additionally, the tournament will be held in Canada, Mexico, and the United States, resulting in more friendly start times for American broadcasters. The 2022 tournament in Qatar featured matches starting as early as 5 a.m. ET, which won’t be on the agenda two summers from now.

Loewenstein’s point about a lack of interest in African, Asian, and Eastern European teams is valid. I doubt there would be a huge Spanish-language audience to pick a random matchup out of thin air, Albania vs Cameroon. But the audiences for the more favorable matches, like those involving the traditional South American or European powers, will probably be huge, dwarfing what we’re seeing for Copa América and dragging the overall audience up despite the extra matches taking place.

[Sports Business Journal]

About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.