July 8, 2010

Shrinking World Cup Story

World Cup Coverage
Week 1 June 7-13 2010 3
Week 2 June 14-20 2010 2.2
Week 2 June 21-27 2010 2.2
Week 4 June 28-July4 2010 1

66% – Drop in U.S. news coverage of the World Cup from Week 1 to Week 4

The 2010 World Cup competition in South Africa has generated a moderate amount of news coverage in the U.S. media, filling 2.1% of the newshole in the period from June 7-July 4. That makes it the sixth-biggest story in the mainstream American press in that period. (The coverage studied by PEJ does not include newspaper sports sections or sports-oriented broadcasts.)

But as the World Cup has gone on—and after the U.S. team was eliminated by Ghana on June 26—that coverage has diminished dramatically.

In the opening week of the games (June 7-13), the highly anticipated match-up between the U.S. and England, as well as the death of Nelson Mandela’s granddaughter, were significant newsmakers as World Cup coverage filled 3.0% of the newshole.

Attention dropped somewhat in the second week of games (June 14-20), to 2.2%. One major narrative in the coverage was a controversial 2-2 tie between the U.S. and Slovenia that featured a disallowed U.S. goal.

Attention remained steady at 2.2% the week of June 21-27. The U.S. defeated Algeria on June 23 putting the team into the next round play. But the June 26 loss, by 2-1 to Ghana in overtime, ended the World Cup competition for the American team.

After that game, attention to the competition dropped dramatically—to 1.0% of the newshole from June 28-July 4. This represents a 66% percent drop in attention for the opening week. And it is a 55% drop from just one week earlier when the U.S. was still involved.

Given that focusing on the home team is a basic component of sports coverage, the exit of the U.S. team certainly could be a significant factor in the diminished coverage. But that could also be attributed to the reduced number of games as the tournament moved on. There were about 20 games per week in the first few weeks and just 8 games last week. Whether or not the championship game, scheduled for July 11, will attract significant attention from the U.S. media remains to be seen.

Tricia Sartor of PEJ