Spurred by Carli Lloyd's majestic hat trick and a 5-2 win for the U.S. squad, Fox's coverage of the 2015 Women's World Cup final smashed the all-time ratings record for a stateside soccer audience.
According to Nielsen fast national data, the U.S.'s first World Cup championship since 1999 delivered 20.4 million viewers and a preliminary 15.2 household rating, making it the most-watched soccer game broadcast by an American TV network. Team USA's decisive victory over Japan not only wiped away the memory of a tough 2011 loss, but it nearly doubled the 8.6 overnight rating posted by ESPN four years ago.
Sunday's final topped the preliminary deliveries for the 1999 Women's World cup title tilt, which drew just under 18 million viewers and a 13.3 household rating on ABC. Arguably a much more dramatic game -- scoreless after extra time, the U.S. team would prevail over China in penalty kicks -- the 1999 final would hold the record for the most-watched soccer match for 16 years.
It's worth noting that overnights are not time-zone-adjusted; as such, the preliminary estimates tend to be calibrated downward upon application of the final live-same-day data. For example, the 13.3 overnight rating notched by the 1999 Women's World Cup final was adjusted down to an 11.4 rating.
To put Sunday's 15.2 overnight rating in perspective, the Fox broadcast came within shooting distance of ESPN's inaugural College Football Championship semifinals, as the Rose Bowl pulled a 15.3 overnight rating and the Sugar Bowl averaged a 15.5.
As far as the Nielsen ratings are concerned, the three-time champs of the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team completely overshadow their counterparts on the men's squad. Last year's group-stage match between USA and Portugal set the high-water mark for a broadcast featuring the men's team, drawing 18.2 million viewers and a 9.1 overnight rating.
All told, Fox over the course of the month-long tournament generated $26.8 million in ad sales revenue, per iSpot.tv estimates. Among the biggest spenders were Nationwide, Fiat, Visa, Ford, Bud Light. Audi and Nike. Nationwide alone accounted for $2.1 million in ad spending, or 8% of Fox's total haul.
Nationwide also served as the pre-game sponsor of each of the 52 Women's World Cup matches, and while that financial commitment is not reflected in the iSpot.tv estimates, buyers who placed clients in similar positions in the 2011 matches said that the asking price for a high-profile sponsorship could go as high as $8.5 million for the duration of the tourney.
Among the 15 official sponsors of U.S. Soccer, the biggest investor in Fox's WWC coverage was Bud Light, which poured $1.1 million into the network's coffers.
Despite the limited commercial interruptions that make soccer unlike any other televised sport, Sunday's final scared up an estimated $2.3 million in ad-sales revenue. Paramount took the biggest position in the championship game, dropping just under $200,000 for a single 60-second spot for its upcoming "Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation."
The iSpot.tv estimates include the 30 matches televised on FS1 and the seven that aired on FS2. The WWC considerably bolstered the two cable nets' profiles, as June prime-time ratings on FS1 were up 231% versus the year-ago period, while FS2 saw its nightly deliveries soar 229%.