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MBPT Spotlight: Horizon Media Report—World Cup Posted Global World-Class Ratings

The 2014 men’s FIFA World Cup set records for TV viewership in the U.S., but it was also wildly popular in other countries around the world, including some countries that didn’t even have a team playing in the tournament.

In the month or so since Germany defeated Argentina in the World Cup championship, lots of stories have been written about viewership, but Horizon Media has culled together a comprehensive country-by-country look at audience levels.

The U.S.-based media agency, using data gathered by Columbus Media International agencies, did an analysis of World Cup viewing across 15 countries. CMI is a group of 40 worldwide independent media services agencies of which Horizon Media is a cofounding member.

The analysis can be useful to global marketers looking to advertise their brands in next summer’s women’s World Cup, although viewership levels might not be as high as for the men. But the report does highlight country-by-country what the viewing patterns were and can give marketers an idea of how passionate each nation’s consumers are toward big-event soccer telecasts in the future, including the 2018 Men’s World Cup in Russia.

Countries featured in the Horizon Media report include the U.S., Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Poland, Sweden, Argentina, Spain, France, Bulgaria, Canada, Peru, Turkey and Russia. Six of those countries—Sweden, Bulgaria, Canada, Peru and Turkey—did not have a team in the Cup.

The World Cup championship game won by Germany over Argentina produced the largest viewership during the tournament in any country—34.5 million viewers on German network ARD. The audience share for the match was 86.3%. Germany’s semi-final win over Brazil drew 32.5 million viewers and an audience share of 87.8%. German TV also drew 28.1 million viewers for Germany’s round of 16 win over Algeria, 27.2 million viewers for its win over the U.S. in the group round and 26.3 million viewers for its quarterfinal win over France.

The World Cup Championship game, shown in the U.S. by ABC and Univision, had a combined viewership of 26.5 million viewers, making it the most viewed soccer game ever in the country. However, when compared to viewership in Germany, it would have ranked just fifth. Of course, the U.S. did not make it to the championship game or viewership may have rivaled that in Germany for the title game. The two U.S. networks combined also had two of the other largest audiences behind Germany during the tournament and both involved U.S. matches. The U.S. vs. Portugal match drew 24.7 million, while U.S. vs. Belgium drew 21.6 million. Also in the U.S., the Netherlands vs. Mexico match averaged 17 million.

Here is a look at World Cup TV viewership in the other 13 countries with data from the Horizon report.


All five games involving the French team averaged 15.7 million viewers on French channel TF1. The championship game averaged 14.5 million viewers with a 61% audience share, the most of any game not involving the French team. The most watched game was the quarterfinal between France and Germany, which drew 18.1 million viewers.


The most watched match in Spain was Spain vs. Chile in the group round, which drew 13.3 million viewers. Spain’s first match in the group round, against the Netherlands, drew 11.3 million, while the championship game of Germany vs. Argentina drew 11.3 million as well. Both of Spain’s matches averaged a 69% share.


For the second consecutive World Cup, the Italian team failed to advance past the group round. The three televised matches involving the Italian team averaged 17.8 million viewers, with Italy vs. Uruguay averaging 19.2 million, Italy vs. Costa Rica averaging 18.9 million and Italy vs. England averaging 15.5 million. The Italian team’s games were shown on RAI 1, Sky Mondiale and RAI Sport and the ratings are combined.

The Netherlands

The top five most watched matches in The Netherlands all involved the home team. Netherlands vs. Argentina was the most watched overall, drawing 9.1 million viewers. Its other five matches, vs. Chile, Mexico, Australia, Costa Rica and Brazil, averaged 7.6 million viewers. The Netherlands vs. Argentina semifinal match drew 88.1% of the TV audience. The least watched of the Netherlands matches was its third place playoff match with Brazil, which averaged 6.4 million viewers. That was, however, a larger audience than the Germany vs. Argentina championship game which averaged only 5.9 million viewers in The Netherlands.


Poland did not have a team in the Cup but the match telecasts drew some decent audiences on Channels TVP1 and TVP2. The championship game between Germany and Argentina drew 10.1 million viewers. Germany’s semifinal win over Brazil drew the second-largest Polish TV audience with 6.4 million viewers. Its three other top five most watched matches averaged 5.5 million.


The most watched match on Russian television was Russia vs. Belgium in the group stage, which drew 6.9 million viewers. Next was the championship match, which drew 5.5 million. Another Russia match in the group stage vs. Algeria drew 5.3 million viewers. Russia’s most watched match in the 2010 World Cup averaged 7.1 million viewers.


Turkey did not have a team playing in the Cup but it still drew a respectable audience for many of the matches. The championship match averaged 5.7 million viewers and the two semifinal matches, Argentina vs. Netherlands and Germany vs. Brazil, averaged 4.9 million and 4.3 million, respectively. A group stage match between Brazil and Croatia drew 4.1 million viewers.


All the matches in Argentina were televised on three channels but only two—TV Publica and TVC Sports—have measured ratings, so the viewer numbers aren’t complete. Overall, the seven matches involving the Argentina team were the only games televised in the country that averaged more than 3 million viewers. The most watched was Argentina vs. the Netherlands in the semifinals, won by Argentina. That match drew 4 million viewers. The championship game with Germany defeating Argentina averaged 3.9 million viewers.


The five most watched matches in Belgium involved the Belgium team. Belgium is a bilingual country with both Dutch and French spoken and the Dutch-language network—Canvas—drew the largest viewership of the Cup in the country for the group of 16 match between Belgium and the U.S. That match averaged 2.4 million viewers. The same match on French-language network RTBF1 averaged 1.6 million, so the combined audience for that match was 4 million. It was the most watched broadcast ever on Belgian television and averaged an 85% audience share.

Overall, the Dutch channel averaged about 2.1 million viewers, while the French channel averaged about 1.5 million viewers for the Belgium matches. The championship game averaged 3 million viewers combined and that was up from the 2.3 million that the final game drew during the 2010 Cup.


Sweden had no team in the World Cup and its most watched telecast was the championship game, which drew 2.6 million viewers and an audience share of 73%. The next most watched game was the Germany vs. Brazil semifinal, which averaged 1.7 million viewers.


Peru did not have a team in the Cup and drew 2.3 million on two networks—C9 and C1—for the championship game. Its other top five most watched matches averaged a combined 1.2 million viewers, and each of them involved either other South American countries Argentina or Brazil.


Canada did not have a Cup team this year, although the country will host the women’s World Cup next summer. CBC data showed that nearly 89% of Canadians, or 30.7 million viewers, tuned in to at least some coverage of the English-language CBC or its broadcast partners across platforms. The Cup final was the most watched match in Canada, averaging about 5 million viewers. The Argentina vs. Netherlands semifinal drew 3.1 million and the U.S. vs. Portugal group stage matchup drew 2.7 million viewers.


With no team in the Cup, Bulgaria’s most-watched match of the Cup was the championship game, which averaged 1.2 million viewers. Its other top five matches averaged about 700,000 viewers per telecast.

The report points out that with the World Cup originating in the Western Hemisphere, many of the games were televised live during peak viewing hours, including primetime in Western Europe, as well as on weekends and weekday daytime in the Americas. So this helped boost viewership to record levels in many countries.

While the 2015 Women’s World Cup will again be in the Western Hemisphere in Canada, the 2018 men’s World Cup will be in Russia, where the start time differences will be more significant a factor in many countries.