“The 2017/2018 season was an exceptional sports season marked by the PyeongChang Winter Olympics and then the 2018 FIFA World Cup, with audience highs that had seldom been achieved before,” according to Yassine-Guillaume Berhoun, Sports Director at EurodataTV Worldwide upon the release of the Yearly Sport Key Facts 2018 report.
“Although the increasing number of screens used allows viewers to enjoy a richer and more interactive offering at any time of the day or night, the audience results once again show that the TV screen still reigns supreme when people want to follow – often in the company of others – major domestic or international sports events live.”
This year’s Winter Olympics, held in PyeongChang (South Korea), were a resounding success globally, despite events taking place at times that were rather inconvenient for people in most time zones.
The opening ceremony, as always, was watched by large swathes of the global population: in Japan, 7.4 million viewers watched it on NHK G (46.2% of the audience share). In the United States, as is the case for each Olympiad, the ceremony was rescheduled to be shown during prime time, which resulted in an audience of 27.8 million viewers and a 28.1% audience share on NBC.
But the PyeongChang Olympic Games also attracted some huge audiences in Europe.
In the Netherlands, the men’s 10,000 meter speed skating, which was shown one Thursday at 1pm, attracted three million viewers on NPO1, achieving an audience share of 84.1%. In Russia, just over seven million viewers (52% of the audience share) settled down in front of Pervy Canal (Channel 1) from 7am to witness their national team triumphing over Germany in the men’s Ice Hockey final.
2018 World Cup: Football is as strong as ever
It came as no surprise that the FIFA 2018 World Cup was the season’s most watched event. In 31 countries – out of the 47 studied in the Yearly Sport Key Facts report – the season’s best sports audience was achieved for a football match; these were for World Cup matches in 26 countries.
With four European teams qualifying for the semi-finals of the World Cup, the event was a success throughout Europe, and not just in the countries participating.
In the Netherlands, despite the national team failing to qualify, the season’s four biggest sports audiences were achieved for World Cup matches. The tournament enabled NPO1 to reach a considerable market share: 34.3% during the last week of June, which is 13 points higher than the channel’s annual audience share.
In Italy – another major team that failed to qualify – the final between France and Croatia achieved the second highest audience figures of the season, with 11.7 million fans tuning in to Italia 1 (66.2% of the audience share).
There were high audience figures for the World Cup on other continents too, particularly Asia. In Japan, 12 million fans (63.7% of the audience share) watched the match between their national team and Columbia on NHK G. This was the biggest audience for a sports programme since the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Finally in China’s Shanghai and Beijing regions, the season’s 10 highest audiences figures were also for World Cup matches.
Although the World Cup and the Olympic Games dominated the audience highs, other sports and competitions did, as is the case every year, come up trumps at a national level.
In Thailand, the 10 most watched sports programmes were matches played by the women’s national volleyball team.
In Ukraine, the season’s two highest audiences were for boxing matches, with, in particular, 3.2 million viewers tuning into INTER for the bout between the local star Oleksandr Usyk and the Russian Murat Gassiev.
In India, where the national sport is cricket, this accounts for 71% of the sport watched on television between September 2017 and July 2018, for an offering of 61%.
Finally, motor sports did not lag behind either: in Italy, the Italian Grand Prix in Monza was watched by 5.5 million viewers on Rai 1 (34.6% of the audience share).
So, the 2017/2018 season was a success for sport on television, proving once again its great ability to bring people together around the small screen and to evoke some strong collective emotions. With events such as the Rugby World Cup or the Women’s Football World Cup to look forward to in 2019, the next season promises to be just as exciting.