It should come as no surprise to hear that U.S. Hispanics make up the majority of soccer viewers. What is surprising is just how much Hispanic fans dominate soccer proceedings: According to Nielsen, Hispanics were responsible for 68% of soccer viewership in 2017 — and that was before the World Cup even started! Approximately 89% of the U.S. Hispanic population plans on watching the World Cup at some point (if they are not already), which means that brands have plenty more opportunities to tap into the excitement of this highly engaged audience.
Even though the bulk of this World Cup takes place during the day while most people are at work, viewers continue to engage with matches and any affiliated content. This is possible thanks to the actions of channels such as ESPN Deportes, which produce original content for digital platforms that those unable to watch the matches in real time are able to access anytime, anywhere, and on any device (including mobile phones). Cesar Conde, an executive at Telemundo,points out that “the expectation from sports fans is that they should consume the World Cup across all platforms.”
Thus far, the World Cup has been thrilling — a mixture of upsets (Argentina’s shocking loss to Croatia, defending champions Germany losing to Mexico), underdog moments (Iceland holding on to tie with Argentina), and incredible displays of ability (Ronaldo’s hat-trick in the match against Spain, Colombia’s 3-0 victory over Poland). It’s no surprise, then, that viewers are drawn to coverage that mirrors the excitement they see on screen.
According to Conde, Telemundo’s research around soccer and the World Cup found “that Hispanics, as well as non-Spanish speakers, all agree that soccer coverage is better in Spanish.” This claim is borne out by the numbers: While Telemundo’s coverage has led to record viewership and engagement for the network, Fox’s World Cup coverage failed to garner as much interest as the final round of the PGA’s US Open.
According to Nielsen, almost 20 million people have watched the World Cup in its first three days on Telemundo. Mexico’s first match versus Germany drew 6.56 million viewers on the network, breaking the record for the most-watched Mexico group stage World Cup match. Fox’s broadcast of the same match, by contrast, was only able to average around 4 million viewers — which stands in sharp comparison to the 11.1 million viewers that ESPN was able to draw in with their coverage of the U.S. men’s team in the previous World Cup. Meanwhile, Mexico’s second match of the group stage against South Korea became the most-watched live stream event in the Spanish language ever, averaging 7.2 million viewers between Telemundo, its digital channels and its mobile apps.
Telemundo shared: “The Mexico World Cup group stage match is the most live streamed event in our history and is pacing to be the largest live streaming event in Spanish-language history.” This is a huge victory for the network, especially given that it shelled out $600 million to purchase the Spanish-language rights to broadcast the World Cup in 2018 and 2022. It also shows just how savvy Telemundo has been in promoting its digital content and making it accessible to people across all platforms. Other channels, such as ESPN Deportes, are taking a similar approach, by making coverage available on television, radio, and digital platforms concurrently.
While it’s no surprise that some people (ie. those with ties to countries competing in the championship) are more invested in the proceedings, the sheer level of excitement has made this World Cup a fascinating one to watch.