Soccer and Horse Racing Captivate TV Audiences in 2014

Pop Culture

Tonalist was the winner of the 2014 Belmont Stakes, which had the second-highest audience in Belmont Stakes history. (Photo by Eclipse Sportswire)

The U.S. Men's National Soccer Team has been a hot topic on both sports television and radio programming during the 2014 World Cup. The television ratings for the U.S. team's 2-2 tie with Portugal support the notion that people care about soccer in the U.S. much more so than they did just a few years ago.

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, the game on Sunday at 6 p.m. unofficially combined for 24.7-million viewers between ESPN (18.2-million) and Univision (6.5-million).  By those numbers, the World Cup game ranks just behind NCAA football’s BCS National Championship Game, the National Football League’s AFC and NFC Championship games and, of course, the Super Bowl.

Look one spot below the U.S.-Portugal thriller and you see the 2014 NCAA men’s basketball title game with 21.2-million viewers and then the 2014 Belmont Stakes with 20.6-million viewers.

Two common assertions by both national and social media are that Americans don’t care about soccer and horse racing is a dying sport.

The television numbers for elite events in both sports paint a different picture.

This year’s Belmont Stakes audience was the second-largest on record, trailing only the 21.9 million viewers for NBC’s telecast of Smarty Jones’ Triple Crown bid in 2004. The race posted a 12.0/27 household rating, which was the third-highest rating for the Belmont since Seattle Slew won the Triple Crown in 1977.

Fans also streamed 6.8-million live minutes of Belmont Stakes coverage on NBC Sports Live Extra, a record for any horse race streamed by NBC Sports Digital.

The three Triple Crown races drew a total of 45.4-million viewers.

For some perspective, courtesy of Bloomberg Businessweek, both the U.S.-Portugal soccer game and the Belmont Stakes drew more viewers than Game 6 of the 2013 World Series, Game 5 of the 2014 NBA Finals, the 2013 Daytona 500 and the final round of the 2014 Masters.

Numbers don’t lie, Americans do care about soccer and sports fans are captivated by marquee horse races. 

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