Strong ratings for Cup, even with vuvuzelas
The World Cup is causing quite a buzz on U.S. television.
Preliminary estimates indicate the quadrennial soccer tournament
is off to a fast start with viewers, even with the odd,
horn-blowing soundtrack that ESPN has sought to minimize on its
Saturday’s first-round tie by the U.S. and English teams was
seen by an estimated 13 million on ESPN, the Nielsen Co. said on
Sunday. It was the nation’s most-watched soccer telecast since the
2006 World Cup final between Italy and France, and the most-watched
involving the U.S. men’s national team since 1994.
San Diego, San Francisco and Las Vegas were the cities most
interested in the game, according to the Nielsen figures.
A viewership estimate for the U.S.-England game on the
Spanish-speaking Univision network was not immediately
An estimated 5.4 million people in the U.S. watched the
tournament’s first game Friday between Mexico and the South African
home team on Univision, Nielsen said. ESPN’s telecast of that game
had 2.9 million viewers.
The first-round contests introduced most of the world to the
vuvuzela, a plastic trumpet carried into the matches and blown on
incessantly by thousands of fans. On television, it sounds as if
the game is being played before a nest of angry bees.
It’s louder at the games than it is on the telecast. ESPN is
altering the sound mix on its broadcasts to minimize the crowd
noise, network spokesman Bill Hofheimer said. The network has
accepted it as part of the atmosphere and has made no complaints
about the vuvuzelas, he said.
The sound is driving others crazy, though.
“The constant drone of cheap and tuneless plastic horns is
killing the atmosphere of the World Cup,” wrote John Leicester, an
international sports columnist for the Associated Press. He wrote
that it is drowning out the oohs, aahs and cheers that lend
excitement to the matches.
Danny Jordaan, the World Cup’s organizing chief, said that
“it’s a difficult question but we’re trying to manage it the best
“I would prefer singing,” he said.
Plainly, many of the fans take pride in the tradition.
A website informing visitors about South Africa,
www.safrica.info, describes the vuvuzelas as “a beautiful noise
for the beautiful game.”