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Millions of people watched the World Cup from the comfort of their own homes. Millions also watched at bars, hotels, restaurants or at a friend's house -- enough to boost the overall viewership by 21 percent, Fox said, citing research by Nielsen.

Those additional viewers, along with extra commercial opportunities provided by overtime and penalty kicks, means "advertisers were fully delivered," said Mike Petruzzi, senior vice president of ad sales at Fox Sports. It's also a testament to the social nature of World Cup watching: The so-called out-of-home audience usually hovers around 10 percent for sporting events.

Measuring the audience that watches on someone else's screen is increasingly important to networks that depend on delivering viewers to advertisers, and to the sports leagues that rely on TV deals, even as their broadcast ratings decline.

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