The Women’s World Cup soccer final on ABC was not only the most-watched soccer game in American TV history, it was the most-watched women’s sporting event ever. Does this portend a boom in women’s sports on television, or an increase in soccer’s audience in the U.S.?
“I think it is a one-shot,” said Bill Croasdale, a media buyer for Los Angeles-based Western Initiative Media Worldwide. “There was a lot of momentum for the team and they had favorable press. But I think that’s about it.”
Tom DeCabia, executive vice president of Schulman/Answers, a New York-based media buyer, agreed.
“It helps a little in the short term, but then it falls back down,” he said. He believes the game’s high rating stemmed not the fact that it was a soccer game, but that a U.S. team was involved.
“If it was China vs. Nigeria, it would have been a 1 rating. Soccer is not an American game,” he said.
Croasdale doubts the surprising ratings will spur the formation of a women’s professional soccer league like the WNBA, which was created because of the success of the NBA and women’s sports.
In its third year, WNBA ratings remain a poor second to the NBA. The women’s league currently has a 1.7 rating in season-to-date Nielsen ratings on NBC. The just-concluded NBA season averaged a 3.8 on NBC.
ABC has admitted it was stunned by the success of the World Cup final, which drew an 11.4 Nielsen rating. That translates into some 40 million viewers who watched at least six minutes of the championship. By comparison, the NBA finals on NBC drew an 11.3 rating. The final game of the World Series on Fox earned a 14.1 rating. And the ratings for the women’s final dwarfed the men’s World Cup game between Brazil and Italy in 1994, which pulled a 9.5 rating.
“You don’t see these numbers unless you’re watching the NFL,” said Mark Mandell, a spokesman for ABC Sports. “It was like Monday Night Football for us.”
Croasdale doesn’t believe the success of the World Cup will have much impact on the other women’s events like professional tennis and golf.
“Right now you have to look at this as just an event,” he said.
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