Numbers talk: World Cup is as popular as ever

This comes despite the many campaigns calling to boycott the Middle East’s first-ever World Cup.

Preliminary data for the opening match of the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar shows an increase in spectators compared to the same match in Russia four years ago.

The opening match on Sunday between Qatar and Ecuador was watched by an average of 3.3 million people, reaching a peak audience of 3.6 million. Compared to the highest ratings in the previous two World Cups, the country’s opening game saw a 109% rise in viewers.

In fact, Brazil represented 50% of the global audience share. The average viewership for the match, 24,36 million, was 6% higher than for the match between Saudi Arabia and the hosts of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Russia, which was broadcast on the same channel with 22.86 million viewers.

Colombia’s 5.5 million viewers on Caracol TV, with a peak of 6.3 million, represented a 62.7% audience share, and was larger than any of the six previous World cups.

Additionally, more people watched Qatar’s opening game in Europe than Russia’s.

The average audience for BBC1’s coverage of the game in the UK was 6.25 million viewers, up 57.5% from the opening match of the last World Cup and with a 47.1% audience share.

The audience of 5.05 million in France, where TF1 televised the game, was up by more than 30% compared to 2018’s opening match, which had 3.83 million viewers. An average of 4.18 million people tuned in live to see the opening ceremony, surpassing the rugby union match between France and Japan that was broadcast at the same time.

The Netherlands v Senegal game was broadcast on Monday, November 21. Dutch broadcaster NPO1 received a share of 74.5%, and the 4.16 million viewers were the highest of the day and more than any programme in October.

Wales’ first FIFA World Cup debut since 1958 was televised in both English and Welsh on S4C in Wales and on ITV in the UK. It had an audience of 7.8 million, with a peak of 12.5 million, in the UK and 43% of the audience in Wales, the match against the United States drew large crowds.

When the world champions started their title defence with a 4-1 victory over Australia, French broadcaster TF1 had the highest audience of the year with 12.53 million viewers; with a peak of 14 million and an audience share of 48.1%.

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