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US television audience for country's World Cup opener is nearly 16 million

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NEW YORK, N.Y. - Nearly 16 million people in the United States watched the country's World Cup opener on television.

The Nielsen company says 11.1 million people who saw the U.S. beat Ghana 2-1 on ESPN on Monday represented that network's biggest audience for a soccer match. Nielsen says an additional 4.8 million people watched the Spanish-language broadcast on Univision.

That's down from the 17.3 million who saw the first U.S. match in the 2010 tournament, against England, which was shown on ABC and Univision on a Saturday afternoon. Four years ago 19.7 million people watched the U.S.-Ghana match, which ended the United States' run in the tournament.

ESPN says an additional 469,000 watched a digital stream of this year's match, a usage record for its WatchESPN app. Comparable Univision numbers were not immediately available.

There's a strong likelihood viewership for the next two U.S. games will eclipse the 2010 tournament, in part because the time zones in Brazil are close to those in the U.S. Games four years ago with Slovenia and Algeria, shown on ESPN and Univision in the morning hours, reached 7.5 million and 8.7 million.

Through 14 games, World Cup action on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC has averaged 4.11 million viewers, up from 3.35 million at the same juncture in 2010, Nielsen said. ESPN's streaming viewership is up 170 per cent over the last World Cup.

Nielsen does not measure people who watch the games at work or in bars.

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