The World Cup round of 8 matchups finished just behind the NBA playoffs conference semifinals, in terms of average ratings.
The World Cup, which aired on Fox broadcast and FS1 Friday and Saturday, drew an average of 4.5 million viewers. In comparison, the conference semifinals for the NBA Playoffs, which is comprised of 8 teams, on TNT and ESPN averaged around 4.8 million viewers. The World Cup numbers do not include those who watched on Telemundo.
For a World Cup that is without the U.S. team, these ratings are pretty remarkable. Matches like Croatia-Russia and England-Sweden drew the viewership through the roof for Fox.
Round of 8 Viewership:
2018 NBA Playoffs: 4.8 mill
2018 World Cup: 4.5 mill
Friday morning match kept the WC from getting there but still pretty impressive just to be this close.
— Michael Mulvihill (@mulvihill79) July 8, 2018
Croatia-Russia was the highest-watched World Cup match since 1990, and the England-Sweden match averaged 5,664,000 viewers. That average was up 15 percent from the 2014 quarterfinals for the World Cup. Even with the matches going to penalties kicks, there was heavy traffic on the Fox Sports Twitter handle, with them having 13.1 million views over the weekend.
According to Clay Travis of Fox Sports, the number of people watching the World Cup was higher than the number of people that watched the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament, which aired on the Turner Networks. Along with that fact, more people watched the World Cup round of 16 than watched the opening rounds of the NCAA tournament, according to Travis. Since the tournament is in prime time and on weekends, people should be able to watch it more. But, they were lower compared to a World Cup that has games only played in the morning and afternoon.
Two major concerns going into this World Cup for ratings were the United States not being in the tournament, and the time of the games — morning and early afternoon. But, they are exceeding the expectations of what was thought to be a fairly abysmal World Cup. And, the World Cup has been wildly entertaining, which brought back those fringe viewers they may have lost with the United States being out of the tournament.