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World Cup viewership up 8 percent in U.S.

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    Chile's goalkeeper Claudio Bravo leaps above Australia's Tim Cahill to claim the ball during the group B World Cup soccer match between Chile and Australia at the Arena Pantanal in Cuiaba, Brazil, Friday, June 13, 2014.
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Television viewership of the World Cup’s opening game in the United States was up 8 percent over 2010, due to increased interest in ESPN’s English-language telecast.

The Nielsen company said Friday that 9.5 million people in the U.S. watched Brazil’s tournament-opening victory over Croatia, compared to the 8.8 million who saw Mexico take on South Africa in 2010’s first game.

Univision’s Spanish-language audience of 5.1 million was down from the 5.9 million who watched in 2010. That’s not a surprise, given the game four years ago involved Mexico, and a large percentage of Univision’s audience is of Mexican descent.

ESPN’s opening day audience Thursday was 4.4 million, up 55 percent from the 2.9 million who watched in 2010.

Facebook said that some 58 million people worldwide posted messages about the first game, 16 million of them in the host country of Brazil, which won the game.

Twitter said that more than 12.2 million tweets were sent about the first day’s match during the live telecast. Neymar was the most tweeted-about player for Brazil, and he gained 165,000 followers.

The sport’s governing body FIFA said the opening match attracted record audiences for the year in Europe.

German broadcaster ZDF’s coverage of Brazil’s victory reached 15.9 million viewers, the biggest TV audience of 2014 so far in Germany. The match in S?o Paulo also drew in the biggest sports television audiences for 2014 in the United Kingdom, France and Italy.

ITV’s live match broadcast in the UK was watched by 10.7 million people – 6.4 million more than the opening game from the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. RAI 1 in Italy broadcast the match to an audience of 9.1 million while coverage from TF1 in France reached 8.7 million viewers.

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