TV ratings: USA-Belgium big in early numbers

Team USA's 2-1 loss to Belgium scored big ratings for ESPN

No surprise here: Team USA's 2-1 loss to Belgium scored big ratings for ESPN.

The Tuesday match drew a household rating of 9.6 in Nielsen's 56 metered markets, according to the measurement firm, marking the highest-ever rating for a World Cup telecast on ESPN or ESPN 2. 

That's an impressive feat for the Disney-owned cable sports network, especially considering that much of the U.S. fans were still at work during the game that started at 1 p.m. on the West Coast.

It did 5% better than ABC's broadcast of the United States team's 2010 loss to Ghana, and that contest aired on a Saturday afternoon. 

Still, the USA-Belgium overnight rating failed to top two matches from previous World Cup tournaments that aired on ABC. Those were the 1994 Brazil-Italy final that took place at Pasadena's Rose Bowl (12.8 overnight rating), and the 2010 USA-Brazil round of 16 match (10.4).

As usual, the total viewership numbers won't be available until later on Wednesday.

This year's World Cup have pulled in strong ratings for ESPN so far. The USA-Germany match-up earned a 6.7 household rating and 10.8 million viewers on average, while USA-Portugal stands as the most-watched soccer game ever in the U.S., with 18.2 million viewers and a 9.6 household rating.

The only bad news for ESPN is that the U.S. is now eliminated from the tournament, despite a remarkable performance from goalkeeper Tim Howard.

In broadcast prime-time TV, NBC had a strong night with "America's Got Talent" and the recently renewed "Night Shift." With little competition Tuesday night, the recently-renewed hospital drama surged more than 20% from last week to 7.2 million viewers and a rating of 1.5 among key 18-49-year-olds. "Talent" was the night's highest rated telecast (10.9 million viewers and a 2.6 in 18-49).

Follow Ryan Faughnder on Twitter: @rfaughnder

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