ESPN's streaming service, WatchESPN, hit a record concurrent viewership of 1.7 million people yesterday during the second half of the USA's World Cup game against Germany. The previous record was set by Super Bowl XLVIII, which hit a peak concurrent viewership of 1.1 million on Fox's streaming service, Fox Sports Go, earlier this year.
The number of people using WatchESPN, either through app or browser, was so great that some users were unable to log on to the service until minutes into the game. In comparison to the Super Bowl numbers, WatchESPN's concurrent viewership suggests a huge upswing in US interest in its men's national soccer team — but there are some caveats.
The previous USA match was one of ESPN's most-watched programs of all time
The 1.7 million figure quoted includes all users of WatchESPN at the time. Viewers could have been watching the Portugal versus Ghana game that was being played at the same time as the USA versus Germany match, or watching another sport entirely through the service. Pete Vlastelica, head of Fox Sports' digital division, also pointed out that the Super Bowl — the first "big" event to be streamed on Fox Sports Go — was not available to watch on mobile devices, cutting down on the number of potential viewers.
The record number shows an increasing American acceptance of both soccer and streaming services, but when it comes to streaming viewers, traditional sports are lagging far behind e-sports. Riot Games' League of Legends LCS finals last year were seen by 32 million people, 8.5 million of whom were watching at the same time. So too does ESPN's streaming total pale in comparison to the number of viewers the channel pulls in through its traditional TV broadcast. The match between Portugal and the USA that aired last Sunday was watched by 18.2 million people, making it the channel's most-watched program ever outside of NFL and college football broadcasts. The TV broadcast of Super Bowl XLVIII was watched by an average of 111.5 million people.