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  • Gold Cup killing it on U.S. television... in Spanish


    ccs-1411-140264009628_thumb.pngUnivision, the network that owns the Spanish-language broadcast rights to the Gold Cup in the U.S., said the audience for Mexico v. El Salvador topped out at 6.8 million viewers on June 5.

    Networks employ various methods to report audience numbers. Usually a broadcast's average number of viewers is used for comparison, which we can assume is probably a million or two lower than the almost seven million the company trumpeted in its press release.

    Still, that's pretty damn impressive. By comparison, Game One of the Stanley Cup finals pulled in about 4.5 million viewers on average for NBC.


    Of course the NBA Finals is thumping both competitions, drawing 18.3 million viewers for Game Five and probably more for Game Six. But the interesting thing about Gold Cup television ratings is how Mexico matches boost the averages. Univision grabbed 940,000 viewers for the USA-Canada match on June 7, and says it averaged 1.4 million viewers for the tournament's first six games.

    The other thing to keep in mind with these numbers is that while ABC is attracting 18~20 million viewers for basketball from an overall U.S. population of 310 million, Spanish-language networks generally attract viewers from the roughly 35 million Americans who speak Spanish at home.

    Despite being ignored by mainstream media in Canada (and in the U.S.) this tournament is big business. Univision was the second-most watched U.S. network in primetime on Sunday June 5, thanks to the Mexico game. It's huge value for advertisers looking to target the Latino demographic.

    The Gold Cup does not appear to enjoy even remotely as much success on English-language television in the U.S. I couldn't find any numbers for this edition of the tournament (usually a sign that they aren't great), but Fox Soccer Channel said about 270,000 households watched the U.S.-Mexico final in 2009. That's a slightly different measuring stick, but I would say it translates into about ~500,000 total viewers.

    Anyone who's watched this tournament on television can see that the only games sold out are the ones involving Mexico. Or perhaps the ones played before a Mexico match as part of a doubleheader. The strong television numbers simply underline the fact that this tournament is designed for and primarily watched by Mexican immigrants in the U.S. and their Spanish-speaking children. The entire draw is basically rigged so that the U.S. meets Mexico in the final, which is what Mexican fans desperately want.

    It actually reminds me of the "World" Junior Hockey Championships, in that only one set of fans cares so passionately about the outcome.

    The interesting question for me is what this all means for the future of the tournament. Really, it's a question that's also central to the future of soccer in the U.S. Hell, if you ask this guy it could even be balled up into a larger question that's central to the future of the country. Will the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of today's Mexican and Central American immigrants remain passionate soccer fans, or will they dissipate into the masses watching basketball and American football? And less importantly but still interesting, will we see a Mexico-U.S. Gold Cup final 30 or 50 years from now in which American supporters actually outnumber the Mexican ones?

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