ESPN said in a press release yesterday that the U.S. soccer team’s dramatic win over Algeria on Wednesday (June 23) was the most-viewed single live event in the history of the Internet. Not so fast, says CBS. [...]
The problem, according to CBS officials, is not just that ESPN’s audience figures [1.1 million unique viewers] actually trailed the audience for the [earlier] Florida BYU [basketball] game [1,115,097 online viewers], but that ESPN boasted that the soccer match drew the “largest U.S. audience ever for a sports event on the Web.” That’s a difficult boast to back up, since audience numbers from live events typically come from Web publishers themselves, and not an established third party.
Here is ESPN's reply via press release:
Statement from ESPN regarding ESPN3.com’s audience for U.S.-Algeria match
Our methodology follows the traditional video measurement of calculating unique viewers AND time spent viewing, resulting in the largest U.S. audience ever for a sports event on the web. CBS’s more limited approach looks only at unique viewers.
In addition to the 1.1 million unique viewers who watched ESPN3.com’s English-language feed, more than 56,000 fans watched in Arabic, Portuguese and German.
Getting past the amusing spectacle of one TV network quarreling with another in public, those who bemoan Nielsen's TV audience measurement should take note. Were it not for third party measurement, TV viewership claims would constantly be in dispute just like this.