The unfolding events were far from what had been anticipated. All arrangements were meticulously made for the United States Women’s National Team to compete in a Women’s World Cup quarter-final during a prime-time slot tailored for viewers back home.
Yet, the spotlight now falls on Spain and the Netherlands as they contend for a spot in the semi-finals – an unexpected 11 a.m. (AEST) match in Wellington.
This fixture encapsulates the stark reality of America’s challenging campaign, underscored by its implications as a ratings setback for Fox Sports USA, the national broadcast rights holder.
Fox Sports’ carefully crafted strategies crumbled as the American team navigated through to the knockout stages as the runner-up in Group E.
Nearly everyone, especially within the United States, had assumed that the USWNT would clinch the top position in the group – a triumph that would have positioned them in a television-friendly time slot of 12 p.m. (AEST) in Sydney for their second-round match.
Instead, they were famously eliminated by Sweden in a gripping penalty shootout, a spectacle that a significant portion of America missed out on due to its 5 a.m. airing in New York.
Moreover, two out of America’s three group-stage matches were played at 11 a.m. (AEST) in New Zealand a scheduling anomaly that set them apart as the sole team with multiple early fixtures in the group stage.
A recurring pattern becomes evident a clear route was envisioned for the United States to engage in most of their matches during the early hours in Australia and New Zealand – a strategic maneuver to cater to television audiences back home.
This meticulously curated schedule also catered to the interests of Fox Sports, which secured broadcasting rights for a significant sum of $425 million. These rights encompass a range of FIFA tournaments, including the 2026 Men’s World Cup, jointly hosted by the USA, Canada, and Mexico, as well as the 2023 Women’s World Cup.
Initial plans appeared to be progressing seamlessly. With the favorable 11 a.m. (AEST) group stage time slots, corresponding to a 6 p.m. kick-off in Los Angeles, the tournament yielded a triumphant surge in ratings for the sports network.
Even the notoriously inconvenient time slot for the team’s final group stage encounter against Portugal managed to draw 1.3 million viewers propelling it to the status of Fox Sports’ most-watched overnight telecast in history.
Despite the 3 a.m. airing, the American team’s group stage matches attained an average viewership of 4,345,000 on Fox firmly establishing this Women’s World Cup as the most-watched group stage in U.S. English-language television history.