Women's World Cup ratings take a hit as U.S. stomps Thailand 13-0

At some point during the U.S. women’s soccer team’s 13-0
demolition of Thailand, perhaps in the interval between Alex
Morgan’s third and fourth goal, it became apparent that Fox was
going to have a hard time keeping viewers from straying. The
ruthlessness with which the Americans took apart their overwhelmed
opponents was such that even diehard soccer fans could be forgiven
for looking elsewhere for a fairer fight—say, Indiana Jones vs.
the fancy guy
with the sword in “Raiders of the Lost Ark”
or Sonny
Corleone taking on Carlo Rizzi in “The Godfather.”

If the USWNT in their first match of the 2019 Women’s World
Cup all but chased viewers away from their TV sets—up 3-0 at the
break, the defending champs would score another four goals in the
first 10 minutes of the second half alone—the rout didn’t put
an enormous dent in Fox’s ratings. According to Nielsen
live-plus-same-day data, the two-hour broadcast averaged 2.63
million viewers and a 1.7 household rating, down 21 percent and 15
percent, respectively, compared to the analogous USA-Australia
match in 2015. That group stage meeting between the U.S. and the
Matildas averaged 3.31 million viewers and a 2.0 rating on the Fox
cable channel FS1.

Fox streaming platforms on Tuesday added another 172,000 viewers
to its linear TV average.

Through the first five days of the tournament, Fox’s
metered-market ratings are up 6 percent compared to 2015. Along
with USA-Thailand, three other matches have scared up 1 million
viewers or more: Spain-South Africa, Norway-Nigeria and
England-Scotland.

The superabundance of scoring aside, time zones and time slots
arguably played the biggest role in Tuesday’s ratings squeeze.
This year’s opener kicked off at 3 p.m. EDT, or 9 p.m. local time
in Reims, France, while the 2015 match from Winnipeg began at 7:08
p.m. EDT, which means that half the game aired in primetime on the
east coast. One of six Canadian cities to play host to the 2015
Women’s World Cup, Winnipeg is situated more or less at the
longitudinal center of North America.

While the ratings for Fox’s first USWNT showdown didn’t
match up to the network’s 2015 deliveries, the number of
Spanish-speaking viewers soared. Telemundo Deportes’ coverage of
the USA-Thailand match averaged 444,000 viewers, more than doubling
Universo’s draw of 203,000 viewers four years ago, and setting a
record as the most-watched Women’s World Cup group stage match in
Spanish-language TV history.

As one Twitter wag noted, Telemundo’s coverage of the
U.S.-Thailand massacre featured a full 2.5 minutes of broadcaster
Andres Cantor’s justly famous “GOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLL!!!”
call.

Team USA’s next match pits it against Chile on Sunday
afternoon. The squad faces its most formidable foe of group stage
play on June 20 when it takes on Sweden. Should the USWNT win the
group, it will likely face Spain in the round of 16; projecting
even further ahead, the lethal host team could pose a significant
threat to the title defense in the quarterfinals.

However things shake out, some commentators are already
scrambling to cast the USWNT as the presiding Bad Guy of the
Women’s World Cup. Clutching an invisible string of pearls,
Canadian broadcaster and former player Kaylyn Kyle on Tuesday told
TSN viewers that the exuberance displayed by Alex Morgan and Megan
Rapinoe was “disrespectful” and “disgraceful,” before
playing the old Maple Leaf card. “I’m all about passion, and I
think, as a Canadian, we would just never, ever think of doing
something like that,” Kyle said, apparently having already
forgotten the grotesque spectacle of hundreds of Toronto
Raptors fans cheering as Kevin Durant blew out his Achilles
tendon
during Game 5 of the NBA Finals.

Kyle’s selective amnesia is understandable, given that the
Durant incident occurred roughly 20 entire hours before she savaged
the U.S. team for their incivility. Of course, she wasn’t alone
in her channeling of the town elders from “Footloose”; also
performatively gnashing their teeth and rending their hair shirts
were ESPN analyst and former U.S. player Taylor Twellman, who
groused that the celebration of the later goals left a “sour
taste.”
Imagine the mouthful of lemons Twellman would’ve
tasted if he’d realized that Morgan’s one-day tally of five
goals matched the entire U.S. men’s team’s output of World Cup
goals in the last 3,271
days
.

Post-match Twitter also was rife with rather misinformed carping
about the U.S. team’s decision to run up the score on a clearly
demoralized opponent. But there is no such animal in international
soccer; the rules of group stage play are such that advancement to
the knockout round sometimes depends on the distribution of goals
scored. If the U.S. had turned off the afterburners once it had
notched its seventh or eighth goal and then Sweden turned around
and beat Thailand by a 9-0 margin, suddenly the champs would be
looking at a second-class berth.

For her part, Morgan on Wednesday told ESPN that she’s
“happy just ignoring those comments,” noting that the USWNT
would have been equally vilified if it had chosen to play keep-away
from Thailand for the last 40 minutes of the match. “You can
never have everyone love you,” she said in an on-camera
interview
. “That’s how it is.”

There’s no danger that Fox and its advertisers will fall out
of love with Morgan and the rest of USWNT gang, especially if they
make it all the way to the July 7 final in Lyon. When the U.S.
topped Japan 5-2 in the 2015 title match, Fox’s broadcast
averaged 25.4 million viewers and a 12.9 rating, making it the
most-watched, highest-rated soccer game in U.S. TV history.

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Women's World Cup ratings take a hit as U.S. stomps Thailand 13-0