By Sarah Gray
July 11, 2018

The World Cup quarterfinals weren’t just good for Belgium, Croatia, France, and England—they were also a ratings boon for Fox Sports. Over 5 million viewers tuned in for the matches on Saturday, according to the network, making it the most-watched day of quarterfinal matches since 1990.

The network—which paid $400 million to outbid ESPN for English-language broadcasting rites for the 2015, 2018, 2019, 2022, 2023 World Cup tournaments (both women’s and men’s)—told AdWeek that, thus far, the soccer tournament has been an advertising revenue success. According to AdWeek, Fox says it expects to haul in an ad spend larger than ESPN and ABC’s in 2014.

Fox Sports had to overcome several viewership hurdles with the 2018 World Cup, which is being played in Russia: First, the U.S. men’s team didn’t qualify, meaning that it’d have to draw in U.S. viewers without a home team. Second, the time difference from Russia to the U.S. meant that many of the games were played in the morning or early afternoon, making for inconvenient watching.

And the World Cup ratings for both Fox Sports and Telemundo (which has the rights for Spanish-language broadcasting) took a hit early in the tournament.

“Games on Fox have averaged 1.98 million viewers, compared with 3.55 million on ESPN in 2014. Telemundo’s games have drawn an average audience of 1.87 million viewers, down from 3.3 million on Univision four years ago,” Bloomberg reported.

However, the networks were prepared for this given that the U.S. team would not be playing, the Los Angeles Times reported last week, and so the audience levels have met advertiser’s expectations.

And the ratings are only getting better as the tournament has progressed.

“The good news is that as we’ve gone deeper into the tournament, those early-morning windows that we had in the first round have gone away and that’s less of a challenge,” Mike Mulvihill, executive vice president of research, league operations and strategy for Fox Sports, told the Los Angeles Times. “You also feel the absence of the U.S a little bit less.”

There are only two advertising spots left for Sunday’s final—at around $750,000 a pop, according to AdWeek.

During Monday’s semifinal match, France knocked out Belgium to make it to the finals, and England is set to play Croatia on Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET. Teams will play on Saturday for third place and the final will take place on Sunday, July 15.

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