Soccer is the world’s most international sport. As competitions are broadcast to hundreds of territories across the globe, soccer captivates fans from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe and everywhere in between. The FIFA World Cup is the tournament that receives the most attention, but soccer’s popularity is so great that regional tournaments such as the European Championships and Copa América are among the world’s most popular sporting events.
The 2014 World Cup attracted a total global in-home audience of 3.2 billion, making it second only to the 2012 Olympic Games (3.6 billion) in terms of the most-watched sporting events in history. These figures were driven by a 36% increase in total broadcast hours (98,087) in comparison to South Africa 2010 and the rise of online streaming via mobile. In fact, over 280 million people watched games on PC or mobile, making Brazil 2014 the most digitally connect Wold Cup of all time.
The 2014 World Cup Final saw just over one billion people watch at least one minute of the game, with the match sustaining an average audience of 570.1 million over the course of its 120 minutes. The final, which saw Germany defeat Argentina, attracted 34.6 million viewers in Germany alone (86.3% audience share), making it the most watched event in German TV history.
The audience for the European Championships may be relatively small compared to that of the World Cup, but the competition is still one of the planet’s most popular sporting events. Euro 2012 drew a cumulative audience of over 1.9 billion, a viewership 59.3% the size of the World Cup. Spain’s defeat of Italy in the 2012 final generated an average audience of 299 million, a 26.1% increase on Spain v Germany in 2008. The same increase again would see the 2016 final attract 377 million viewers and place it in the top five most-viewed single sports events ever broadcast.
The Copa América has also experienced audience growth in recent years and is now broadcast around the world. Even the 2007 tournament was televised in 185 countries and attracted 530 million viewers in Latin America alone. Such is the excitement surrounding the 2016 edition of the tournament that it is expected to match Brazilian domestic television ratings for the 2014 World Cup.
North America has been a major area of growth for the Copa América, with rising audience figures driven by the Latino population. beIN SPORTS attracted 14 million viewers in the United States during the group stages of the 2015 tournament and Major League Soccer expect this year’s competition to exceed the domestic television records set during the 2014 World Cup.
The regional nature of the European Championships and the Copa América means that they will never be able to match the universal appeal of the World Cup, but together they are expected to deliver audiences that rival those of FIFA’s marquee competition and are further proof of soccer’s ability to capture the imagination of fans around the globe.