The Gold Cup a joke? Perhaps, but a popular one

I knew that Mexicans and Central Americans care about the Gold Cup. And I knew that the tiny fraction of Canadians and Americans that are aware of its existence generally consider it a laughing stock. But I was shocked to discover that in the week of July 6th, the Gold Cup match between Mexico and Panama was the sixth-most watched prime time program in the United States of America.

That is no joke.

Now, an obvious caveat here. The match was broadcast on the Spanish-language network Univision. So that audience of almost 4 million has nothing to do with a sudden upswing in the popularity of soccer amongst Americans who don’t speak Spanish.

But your views on immigration reform south of the border notwithstanding, any time that many people watch anything in prime time, advertisers will take notice. Especially those chasing the Latino demographic, which is now approaching 15% of the U.S. population.

(Side note: this NY Times blog post from June 2006 theorizes that — at least for some World Cup matches — up to 40% of Univision’s audience is actually comprised of non-Spanish speakers.)

To put the 4 million number in context, here are some U.S. audience figures for other major sporting events:

2009 Super Bowl—-98 million
2008 World Series Game 5—-20 million
2009 NCAA Final—-18 million
2009 NBA Finals Game 4—-16 million
2009 Orange Bowl—-9 million
2009 Stanley Cup Game 7—-8 million

And…

2006 World Cup Final—-17 million (12 million on ABC in English and another 5 million on Univision in Spanish)
2007 USA-Mexico friendly pulled in 6 million viewers on Univision.
The largest ever audience for a sporting event in Univision’s history is just under 7 million for the 2006 World Cup knockout round match between Mexico and Argentina.

But how about this comparison? Recent viewing figures for the MLS in the U.S. show some of higher audiences topping out in the 330,000 range on ESPN2 and ESPNDeportes. And the Spanish network accounts for only about 20% of those viewers.

So what do all those numbers mean? Well it appears that first- and second-generation Mexicans in the U.S. will tune in by the millions to watch the Mexican national team play soccer. It would also appear that — ok, the numbers are improving slightly — they still do not give the slightest shit about watching MLS on television.

Will their kids and their kids’ kids eventually become interested in American soccer? Or will they gravitate away from the game completely and follow the Big Three U.S. professional sports? I have absolutely no idea.

What I do know is that if 4 million Spanish-speaking Americans tuned in to watch Mexico against Panama in a Gold Cup group match….  then a whole, whole heck of a lot more will be tuning in to watch the final on Sunday.

Postscript: U.S. television ratings for last Thursday (July 23) were just released by Nielsen. Gold Cup came in #6 again for the Mexico-Costa Rica match, this time with 5.3 million viewers.

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3 Responses to “The Gold Cup a joke? Perhaps, but a popular one”

  1. A joke, but a popular one. Much like the Canadian national team, except for the popular part.

  2. Well to be fair Lord Bob, I’m hardly going to write a post titled, “The Canadian National Team a joke? Perhaps.”

  3. […] number of Americans likely also watched Spanish-language broadcasts of the game. Here’s some past comparisons on that […]

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