TV records smashed as favourites progress in Women's World Cup
There were more record-breaking television audiences at the Fifa Women’s World Cup at the weekend as France and England, two of the favourites for the trophy, progressed to the quarter-finals of the tournament.
Hosts France attracted an average of 10.6 million viewers, and an impressive audience share of 49 per cent, on free-to-air commercial broadcaster TF1 for their 2-1 defeat of Brazil in Le Havre on Sunday evening. The audience peaked at over 12 million.
Pay-television operator Canal Plus attracted an average of 1.25 million viewers, a 5.7-per-cent share, for the same game.
Both broadcasters beat the records they had set for the French women’s national team in the group phase when there was an average audience across the three games of 10.11 million.
In the UK, England’s incident-packed 3-0 defeat of Cameroon in Valenciennes on Sunday afternoon pulled in an average of just over 5 million viewers, a 36.2-per-cent share, to BBC One, the main channel of the public-service broadcaster.
The audience peaked at 6.9 million, a 40.5-per-cent share, for England’s victory, which was somewhat overshadowed by protests from the Cameroon players and delays over video assistant referee decisions. This is the first time that VAR has been used at the Women’s World Cup.
Despite the controversy, the BBC figures still surpassed the previous record average audience of 4.6 million and record peak of 6.1 million for the Lionesses, for their win over Scotland in their opening group match.
Figures issued by Fifa at the weekend showed that by the end of England and Scotland’s final group matches, 50 per cent of potential viewers in the UK (30.14 million people) had watched at least one minute of the tournament.
On Saturday afternoon, Germany became the first team to reach the quarter-finals with a 3-0 win over Nigeria, which was watched by an average of 6.49 million viewers, a 39.9-per-cent share, on German public-service broadcaster ZDF.
ZDF subsequently attracted 3.37 million viewers as Norway beat Australia on penalties after a 1-1 draw in the second last-16 tie.
Outright tournament favourites USA were set to be back in action in the Women’s World Cup today, taking on Spain at the same stage.
Like France, England and Germany, the holders ended the group stage with a 100-per-cent record, with their 2-0 win over Sweden on Thursday evening being watched by an average of 3.74 million viewers on the main Fox channel.
The figure increased to 3.88 million when the Fox digital audience was taken into account, with the 142,386 average making it the most-streamed Women’s World Cup match ever, and indeed the first time the 100,000 barrier had been passed.
Elsewhere, Telemundo, the NBC-owned Spanish-language network, averaged 422,000 viewers, and had a reach of 1.1 million, for the USA-Sweden match.
The interest in the USA-Spain match is demonstrated by the fact that Telemundo’s live coverage will be simulcast on cable channel NBC Sports Network, a process that will be repeated for the later Canada-Sweden game.
While some of Fox’s audiences have been down on the 2015 Women’s World Cup, which was held in Canada, in a more favourable time zone, it had still achieved an overall reach of 47.9 million for the group stage, up to and including 17 June.
The tournament in France is being seen as a watershed for viewership of women’s soccer, with Fifa expecting it to reach a total of 1 billion viewers across all platforms worldwide.
Other stand-out figures of the first round included: the record average audience of 22.49 million for Brazil’s three matches across the domestic Globo, Band and SporTV channels (including a record 24.83 million for the clash with Italy); the record average of 4.41 million viewers for Italy’s three matches across the Rai and Sky Sport channels (including 7.3 million for the Brazil match); and the highest audience in China for the Women’s World Cup - 12.03 million - since the 2007 tournament hosted by the country.
There have also been some impressive digital numbers, with Fifa attracting 433 million views for the official digital channels, of which 82 million were video views, while the number of followers for Fifa channels are up by 2 million.
Soccer’s international governing body added that the tournament has enjoyed a 20-per-cent share of conversation on Twitter, and 1.25 million new social followers focused on women’s football. There has also been a 25-per-cent increase in interactions with the ‘team reporters’ compared to the 2018 men’s World Cup in Russia, while viewers have watched 3,000 hours of the dedicated WWC Daily Show and there have been 6 million likes on Facebook.