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World Cup Takes On NFL, College Football For U.S. Viewers

  • Fox Sports expects 120 million viewers over Thanksgiving weekend.
  • Fox is reportedly charging advertisers an average of $300,000 for 30-second spots.
USMNT fan watches TV showing team roster
Cheryl Evans / USA TODAY NETWORK

The FIFA World Cup is the biggest soccer event in the world — but this year, it’s facing competition from America’s most popular sport.

World Cup matches will compete for viewers in the U.S. with college and professional football games over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. The tournament is normally a summer event but was pushed to the fall this year due to Qatar’s extreme temperatures. 

The difference in time zones will also create a challenge for Fox and Telemundo  — who bought U.S. rights for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments for $1 billion — but the two networks don’t seem to be worried about numbers.

Between the New York Giants-Dallas Cowboys game on Thanksgiving (as part of an NFL triple-header), Black Friday’s U.S.-England World Cup match, Saturday’s University of Michigan-Ohio State University game, and Sunday’s slate of NFL games, Fox Sports CEO Eric Shanks expects 120 million viewers.

  • Bill Wanger, head of programming and scheduling at Fox Sports, said he thinks its ratings “will be just fine, particularly with the U.S. qualifying this time around.”
  • Telemundo president Ray Warren expects “the biggest audience Telemundo has ever seen for a World Cup.”

Fox is reportedly charging advertisers an average of $300,000 for 30-second spots, but $700,000 for Friday’s U.S.-England match. In 2018, the tournament reportedly generated $384 million in national TV advertising for Fox and Telemundo.

Global Fans

Viewership is already up overseas. 

The tournament’s opening match — Ecuador’s 2-0 win over Qatar — averaged 6.2 million viewers in the U.K., 2 million more than 2018’s opener.

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