(Bloomberg) -- After a lackluster start to the 2018 FIFA World Cup for both Fox and Telemundo, the fortunes of the two broadcasters have begun to diverge. Across both the English- and Spanish-language networks, average game viewership through the quarterfinals has fallen 42 percent, compared with the games in Brazil four years ago, according to data from Nielsen. But as the tournament goes on, Fox is closing the gap with 2014 viewership, while Telemundo is falling further behind.

Fox has been bracing for diminished returns since the U.S. team failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. The lowered expectations proved to be justified. Through the quarterfinals, games on Fox averaged 2.5 million viewers, down from 3.8 million on ESPN/ABC four years ago.

But while Fox was down 36 percent relative to ESPN in 2014 in the group stages, that difference fell to 22 percent for the round of 16. The four quarterfinal matches are a telling indicator. Without a U.S. team to watch in both 2014 and 2018, Fox’s viewership this year came within 13 percent of the audience that ESPN drew four years ago with more favorable kickoff times.

For NBCUniversal’s Telemundo, the trend has gone the other way. The network’s Spanish-language broadcasts have drawn an average audience of 1.8 million through the quarterfinals, down from 3.5 million on Univision four years ago.

Telemundo was off Univision’s 2014 pace by 37 percent during the group stage, narrowing to 31 percent in the round of 16, when Mexico lost to Brazil. In the quarterfinals, Telemundo’s viewership lagged Univision’s 2014 audience by nearly 49 percent. The downward trend is likely to continue: No Latin American team advanced to the semifinals. 

To contact the authors of this story: Ira Boudway in New York at iboudway@bloomberg.netDavid Ingold in New York at dingold@bloomberg.netEben Novy-Williams in New York at enovywilliam@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Janet Paskin at jpaskin@bloomberg.net

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