The already massive audience for the World Cup has continued to soar on television and online, as 3.6 million fans in the U.S. tune in on television while hundreds of thousands have turned to Univision to stream games online for free. ESPN scored its highest World Cup rating with the U.S. v. Portugal game on Sunday night but, though many American fans without cable may not admit it, much of the action was consumed on the small screen.

Anyone unwilling to pony up for a cable subscription and gain access to the ESPN/ABC networks online can try their luck with BBC Sport and ITV Player. If those networks also prove too costly, or too wonky online to make the game enjoyable, they can tune into Univision's Live Stream, which plans to show 56 live matches accompanied by analysis and updates throughout the day.

The only problem for English-only speakers: Univision broadcasts only in Spanish. While it’s true that “GOOOOOOOLLLL!” sounds the same to speakers of both languages, it will be difficult for English speakers to understand what else is happening in the game other than the play unfolding in front of them.

The network has made it possible for fans to watch on a computer and has released apps for both iTunes and Android that are customizable, making it possible for viewers to connect with others on Facebook and Twitter.

“This will be the biggest, broadest and most high-tech World Cup coverage ever for Univision with 64 matches live across television and digital platform,” Juan Carlos Rodriguez, president of Univision Deportes, told Variety.

Fans will have an unlimited pass until the final rounds, when they will need to either subscribe or try their luck elsewhere.

The Spanish-language broadcast has consistently topped ESPN’s audience through the first round. The first 20 games, on television, earned an average of 3.6 million viewers (a 43 percent rise from 2010), while live streams averaged 238,000 viewers (a 262 percent jump from four years before), according to Ad Age. Univision’s U.S.-Ghana live stream had 1.6 million viewers, beating ESPN again, while 6.8 million people watched Mexico tie Brazil on TV, compared to the 4.2 million on ESPN.

“I can’t speak to specifics on financials, but I can tell you that from a ratings perspective and a sales perspective, this World Cup will be by far the most successful sporting experience that we’ve had on our air,” Rodriguez added.

Univision’s trend likely continued through Sunday. Univision hadn’t disclosed their television or streaming audience at press time, but ESPN executives said the U.S.-Portugal match had drawn a 9.1 rating in the U.S. alone. ESPN’s 9.1 share, which doesn’t account for Univision’s audience at all, means that at least 16 million people were watching the game on one network alone.

A number of sports journalists and media commentators took to Twitter Sunday and Monday to remind fans that the largest U.S. audience to ever tune into a soccer game did so when the Women’s World Cup Final drew a 13.3 share on ABC.



When the World Cup enters the final rounds and customers need to either sign up to a cable network or test the waters of illegal streaming sites, Aereo will be waiting with open arms.

The controversial site has irked the major broadcasting corporations by taking their programming and making it available online for a smaller fee but, to the average customer, the service has proven incredibly useful through the early stage of the World Cup tournament. All one needs to do is pay a small fee to lease an individual remote antenna that gives the ability to watch live content or record it for later viewing with Windows, Mac or Linux PC.

Whether Aereo will be around long enough to bring fans the final stages of the World Cup will be up to the Supreme Court, but it is certainly just one of the many online options to come in the near future. Steve Beck, co-founder of the consulting firm cg42, told the Washington Post he recently completed a survey of 3,000 TV subscribers and found that only 20 percent of them would stay with a broadcaster because it has an exclusive sports deal.

“The ridiculously high frustration that cable customers experience puts cable providers at greater risk because what has historically kept people from leaving subscriptions is not keeping them there anymore,” he said. “The world is changing and there is more available online through various means.”