The lack of a U.S. team caused a big viewership drop for World Cup telecasts.
The 48 group stage broadcasts on Fox and FS1 averaged 2,069,000 viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research. That is down 42 percent from the 3.54 million average on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC four years ago and down 15 percent from the 2,429,000 average on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC eight years ago.
Excluding games involving the U.S. team in previous World Cups, the average declined 28 percent from the 2014 tournament in Brazil and was up 1 percent from the 2010 tournament in South Africa.
Most group-stage kickoff times this year were morning EDT, starting as early as 6 a.m., and the latest matches began at 2 p.m. Games in 2014 started mostly from noon to 4 p.m. EDT, while in 2010 games there were many matches at 10 a.m. and some as early as 7:30 a.m.
Twenty-six group-stage matches were aired on Fox, up from six on ABC in 2014 and four on ABC in 2010.
Ratings include only television viewers and not those who viewed digital streams.
Spanish-language coverage for Telemundo and Universo, both part of Comcast Corp.'s NBCUniversal Inc., averaged 1.96 million viewers, including digital streaming. That was down 26 percent from the 2.64 million average on Univision and Unimas four years ago and up 7 percent from the 1.84 million average for Univision's networks in 2010.