Shootouts and a Cinderella story boost Fox's World Cup ratings

The absence of the U.S. national soccer team may have robbed Fox of as many as 40 FIFA World Cup viewers, but a series of thrilling matches in the late rounds of the tournament have gone a long way toward boosting the network's overall ratings.

According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, Fox put up big numbers with its of this week's semifinal round, averaging 5 million viewers over the course of the France-Belgium and Croatia-England matches. That marks a mere 6 percent decline compared to ESPN's average draw of 5.3 million viewers during the 2014 World Cup semis; note that both measurements include the respective pre-game windows. (When assessing only the in-game windows, ESPN's telecasts of the semis from four years ago averaged 6.73 million viewers.)

That Fox managed to come within 300,000 viewers of ESPN's record-breaking coverage is remarkable, considering how badly the network's TV ratings lagged during the earlier rounds. Per Nielsen, Fox Sports' coverage of the 48-match Group Stage26 games aired on Fox's broadcast network and 22 were carried by the cable channel FS1averaged 2.07 million viewers and a 1.3 household rating, which was down 41 percent compared to ESPN's analogous run in 2014 (3.54 million viewers, 2.2 rating).

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