Bloomberg — About 16.8 million people in the US watched Argentina defeat France on Fox Corp.’s cable and streaming services, making it the most-watched men’s World Cup telecast in English-language TV history.
Fox’s audience alone tops the combined 16 million US viewers that tuned in four years ago to watch the final between France and Croatia on Fox and Comcast Corp.’s Telemundo Spanish-language platforms. Telemundo hasn’t yet disclosed its ratings for this year’s final.
Sunday’s match was one of the most exciting World Cup finals ever as France came back from a late 2-0 deficit and it came down to a penalty shootout at the end. Many fans had tuned in to see if Argentina’s star, Lionel Messi, could finally win the trophy that had eluded him.
Fox and Telemundo agreed in 2011 to pay about $1 billion for the US television rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. The broadcasters were hoping to draw massive audiences so they could recoup their costs with advertising revenue.
During the monthlong tournament, Fox faced the challenge of airing matches that overlapped with college and pro football, a rare conflict for an event that normally takes place in the summer. Extra time and penalty kicks made the final match so long that Fox abruptly cut off Argentina’s trophy ceremony in order to switch its flagship feed to the National Football League.
In addition, some of the group stage matches at the beginning of the tournament started as early as 5 a.m. on the East Coast, hurting viewership.
But Fox also benefited from a strong showing from the US team, which had failed to qualify for the tournament four years ago. Prior to the final, the US match against England was the most-watched men’s soccer game in US history.
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