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FIFA research says record audience watched ‘best World Cup ever’

A record audience of more than 3.5 billion people watched this year’s World Cup in Russia, with the final between France and Croatia attracting 1.12 billion viewers, world football’s governing body said on Friday.

A FIFA-commissioned review of World Cup viewing said 3.572 billion viewers — more than half of the global population aged four and over — watched some part of the official coverage, which was broadcast live in every territory worldwide from June 14 to July 15.

The global in-home TV audience watching at least one minute of the coverage accounted for almost 3.3 billion viewers, a 2.2 percent increase on the 2014 edition hosted in Brazil, according to FIFA’s audit of audience data published on Friday.

A further 309.7 million caught the action on digital platforms, public viewing areas or in bars and restaurants.

France’s 4-2 victory in the final, which gave them their second World Cup title following their triumph in 1998, was the most watched game of the competition.

It was followed by England’s semi-final defeat to Croatia and the other last-four clash between France and Belgium.

The final’s television audience was 516.6 million by the traditional measure of “global average in-home audience.” More watched on digital devices and out-of-home screenings in public spaces, bars, and restaurants.

Changing viewing habits and no South American team in the final help explain a drop from the 545-million average TV audience for the Germany-Argentina final in 2014.

In comparison, the 2016 European Championship final attracted a 284.4 million average audience for Portugal beating host France.

The most-watched Super Bowl in the United States was 114.4 million when the New England Patriots beat the Seattle Seahawks in 2015.

The global TV audience for the 64-game tournament in Russia averaged 191 million per game up from 187 million for the 2014 edition in Brazil.

“Each game was a global televisual event in its own right,” FIFA said, citing research by Publicis Media Sport & Entertainment.

FIFA’s research suggests most viewers also watched for longer than they did four years earlier.

The survey found that 3.04 billion viewers caught at least three minutes, a 10.9 percent increase on Brazil 2014, and 2.49 billion watched at least 30 minutes, or one-third of one match, upon 2014’s 1.95 billion.

“These figures really do support the claim that Russia 2018 was the best World Cup ever,” said FIFA’s chief commercial officer, Philippe Le Floc’h.

“The fact that half the world’s population watched the FIFA World Cup reflects not just the high quality of our award-winning live coverage, but also that fans everywhere are insatiable for world-class football.”

South Americans were the most avid viewers despite watching fewer hours overall of a tournament where Brazil exited in the quarter-finals, and Argentina in the round-of-16.

FIFA said 96.6 percent of South America’s population saw at least one minute of any game. However, their 5.52 billion hours of total viewing fell 26.9 percent from the 2014 tournament where hosts Brazil placed fourth.

In Europe which provided all four semi-finalists in Russia, the 2018 World Cup reached 86 percent of people watching an average of 14.6 hours.

The World Cup coverage reached around 1.6 billion individuals in Asia, with 655.7 million viewers (18.4 percent of the global total) in China, who failed to qualify for the tournament.

The 2022 edition of World Cup will be held in Qatar.

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