Fox Watch: World Cup Final TV Ratings Reflect Poor Fox Performance

The TV ratings are in and they are not good for Fox, which put together low-cost World Cup coverage.

The World Cup TV ratings are in for the entire tournament, including the incredible World Cup final on Sunday — and they don’t look good for Fox.

The World Cup final in which France beat Croatia 4-2 averaged 17.2 million viewers across FOX and Telemundo, including streaming numbers — a massive drop from the 26.5 million (TV alone) who watched Germany beat Argentina four years prior.

The 2018 World Cup TV ratings across all matches averaged 4.6 million viewers per game. This was another dramatic decrease from 2014, when ESPN and Univision averaged about 8.1 million viewers.

There are extenuating circumstances — the U.S. was not in this World Cup and the matches were played in the morning and afternoon instead of afternoon and prime time across the country. But this also comes down to how Fox went about broadcasting the tournament.

Fox decided to make massive budget cuts to its World Cup coverage compared to recent ESPN ventures. Some of this was down to Fox deciding to lower expectations and costs with the U.S. not involved. These budget restraints were evident in the quality of the broadcasts Fox put out, particularly with announcers not even in Russia to call most of the matches. 

Fox decided to mostly Americanize the broadcasts, using young, American announcers instead of just hiring the best available, most experienced announcers (who cost more). With the exception of the Aly Wagner-Derek Rae pairing, most viewers were not fans of Fox’s World Cup announcers. Not that British announcers are better than Americans (Warren Barton proves that), but the discrepancy in quality is obvious to anyone who watched the World Cup in 2014. (And yet, despite this Americanization, Fox refused to use American English, which I’ll touch on below.)

Many people opted to watch Telemundo over Fox during the World Cup because of these shortcomings. Or they just didn’t watch the World Cup at all. 

Telemundo nearly outdrew Fox on average, with the Spanish-language network averaging 2.02 million viewers per game compared to 2.63 million on FOX and FS1, in part because Telemundo is much more available than FS1. In the final, FOX outdrew Telemundo 11.82 million to 5.45 million. 

Here’s a list of the U.S. World Cup TV ratings from last 10 finals, men’s and women’s, for which numbers were available.

Not since 2006 has a men’s World Cup final had such low ratings. The 2002 numbers are a bit of an aberration because of the final kicking off in the wee hours of the morning in the U.S.

While some of this dip in World Cup TV ratings is down to the fact France and Croatia aren’t necessarily huge draws in the U.S., this is pretty clear evidence Fox did a poor job with what was, in the opinion of The18 staff, one of the most entertaining World Cups in the history of the tournament.

But hey, the World Cup TV ratings for the final were still way better than the 8.7 million who tuned into the MLB All-Star Game this week. And at least we won't have to put up with Fox during the Champions League this season, although the alternative might not be much better.

Other World Cup TV Ratings Notes

  • Croatia’s 2-1 extra-time win over England earned the highest household delivery of any semifinal match since at least 1990 at 4.1 million.
  • Croatia’s shootout win over Russia was the most-watched quarterfinal ever in the U.S. with 6.4 million viewers on FOX. 
  • That day — Saturday, July 7 — was the most-watched quarterfinals day on record. 
  • Croatia’s shootout win over Denmark was the most-watched weekday Round of 16 match not involving a U.S. team with 5.9 million viewers. 
  • Germany’s heart-stopping 2-1 win over Sweden was the most-watched non-U.S. group stage match in English in the U.S. with 5.45 million viewers on FOX. 

Apparently, American fans really enjoyed watching Croatia. And the single-match records show fans were willing to watch when the matches were great, but perhaps didn’t tune in as often due to time constraints and wanting to stay away from Alexi Lalas.

Also, it should be noted, none of these numbers include out-of-home viewership, such as those who watched the games in bars. But these numbers were probably also lower than in 2014 because of the time of day most matches took place. 

American English

I’ve talked about this before. A few times, actually. But I can’t get over the repeated assault on the English language from Fox and its broadcasters during the 2018 World Cup. 

Fox did not put forth a strong performance broadcasting its first World Cup for a number of reasons, many of which were listed above, but the one thing that sticks out to me is its inability to grasp simple grammar. While I’ve griped before about Americans pronouncing derby as the British “darby” for no real reason, my biggest complaint is with the repeated reference to a team as a plural noun, despite American English dictating a team is a singular noun.  

When Fox tweets out something like this, it’s teaching American children all over the world the wrong way to write and speak.

Nope. Sorry. France IS heading to the final, not France are heading to the final. Last I checked, there’s only one France and only one French national team. 

I repeatedly reached out to Fox for comment on this issue but never received any response. 

To be fair, British English does refer to teams as plural nouns (for no good reason), but Fox is an American broadcaster that apparently wants to Americanize soccer coverage (remember that failed Gus Johnson experiment?). I’ll always remember this World Cup as one of the most entertaining and one of the toughest to watch because every time Fox screwed up grammatically it was like nails on a chalk board to me. 

Does Fox Think We’re Imbeciles? 

In addition to fucking up grammar nonstop, Fox apparently thinks American soccer fans have no intelligence whatsoever. 

Throughout the knockout stage, Fox constantly put up graphics saying if results hold, the team currently in the lead would advance to the next round, as if we don’t know how a tournament works.

And no, this wasn’t from the world feed everyone gets. This was in the space where Fox would consistently add its own graphics, such as constantly telling us who the awful announcers are (and Dr. Joe at every match). 

Aly In Russia

Let’s finish on a positive note. 

I am glad Fox decided to finally bring Derek Rae and Aly Wagner over to Russia to call a few matches in the knockout rounds after doing the group stage from a studio in Los Angeles. 

We ranked the pairing as the best Fox had at its disposal, so it was nice to see them actually call a match in person. 

I am even more pleased Fox decided to keep Mark Followill and Warren Barton stateside. 

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