Record viewership expected for World Cup


The US is set to enjoy its largest ever TV audiences for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, following record levels of investment from ESPN and Univision to acquire the US FIFA TV rights, according to performance-led media communications company Initiative. Live play-by-play broadcasts begin Friday, following the opening gala on Thursday.

Data from Initiative futures, sport + entertainment shows that the popularity of the FIFA World Cup has increased dramatically in the US over the past three tournaments. In 1998, the US was way behind the rest of the world, sitting in 23rd position in terms of the total audience figures by market. However, by 2002 the US had risen to 13th position and by 2006, a huge rise in popularity for the tournament had seen the US become the 8th largest market for the World Cup.

“The value of the US FIFA TV rights are the highest in the world. This is a clear indication of the expectation broadcasters have of record viewing figures,” said Kevin Alavy, Director, Initiative futures, sport + entertainment. “Initiative believes that the US will become a top five TV market for the FIFA World Cup. If the US team performs well, it could happen this year. If not, the more favorable time zone of the 2014 tournament – which will be held in Brazil – should vault the US into the top five,” he added.

Initiative predicts that the 2010 FIFA World Cup will achieve record global viewership, with the total audience figure increasing by at least 5%, compared to the 2006 tournament. This is due to a select few major sporting events outperforming all other televised sport, and also the unstoppable rise in the popularity of soccer.

In line with this, the 2010 FIFA World Cup final is set to be the most watched sporting final in history. The 2006 final drew an average live audience of 322 million people, with a reach of 638 million people. According to Initiative, futures sport + entertainment’s ViewerTrack reports, the only single event drawing more viewers than any World Cup final was the Opening Ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The 2010 FIFA World Cup is also set to have the most upscale audience of any World Cup. In 2002, upmarket viewers (upscale is measured according to wealth, income and education, but the levels vary from market to market) were 1% less likely that the rest of the population to watch the World Cup. However, by 2006, upmarket viewers were 6% more likely than the rest of the population to view the tournament, and Initiative expects this figure to be higher for the 2010 World Cup.

“The World Cup is no longer just an event for the rest of the world; it’s America’s tournament, too. As soccer becomes ever more popular in the US, it’s further raising the value of investing in the game. Advertisers that buy into the World Cup are now reaching a highly lucrative audience right across the globe,” said Alavy.