The FIFA World Cup is proving as popular as ever around the world with preliminary figures for the opening match of the 2022 tournament in Qatar showing an increase in viewers compared to the corresponding match in Russia four years ago.
For example, the opening game between Qatar and Ecuador on Sunday, 20 November was watched by an average of 3.3 million viewers, with a peak audience of 3.6 million, in Ecuador. This represented a 109% increase in viewership of the opening game in the country compared to the highest rating in the last 2 editions of the FIFA World Cup.
Ecuador's Enner Valencia scores their first goal that was later disallowed. (REUTERS/Lars Baron)
In addition, in Brazil attracted an audience share - the percentage of people watching at the time - of 50% on TV Globo. The average audience for the game of 24.36 million was 6% higher than for the opening game of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, between hosts Russia and Saudi Arabia, which was aired on the same channel (22.86 million viewers).
Meanwhile, in Colombia, the viewing audience of 5.5 million, with a peak of 6.3 million, on Caracol TV was better than any of the six previous World Cup opening games and represented an audience share of 62.7%.
European audiences were also higher than for the opening game in Russia.
In the United Kingdom, BBC1's coverage of the game attracted an average audience of 6.25 million viewers, representing a 57.5% increase on the opening match of the previous World Cup, and an audience share of 47.1%.
In France, where TF1 broadcast the game, the audience of 5.05 million was more than 30% up to the opening match in 2018 (3.83 million viewers). Live coverage of the opening ceremony was watched by an average of 4.18 million viewers, outperforming the rugby union international between France and Japan which was aired at the same time.
France's Olivier Giroud celebrates scoring their fourth goal during FIFA World Cup Group D match against Australia at the Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah. (REUTERS/Issei Kato)
In Italy, the opening match attracted the highest TV audience of the day -- an average of 4.66 million viewers (audience share 29.5%) and a significant increase on 2018 when 3.59 million viewers watched the opening match. In Spain, the audience was 13% higher than four years ago.
The broadcast of the Netherlands v Senegal match on Monday 21 November attracted a share of 74.5% for Dutch broadcaster NPO1 and the audience of 4.16 million was higher than any programme for the month of October, and the highest of the day.
Wales’s first appearance in the FIFA World Cup since 1958 was broadcast in English on ITV across the UK and in Welsh on S4C in Wales. The match against the United States attracted strong audiences with an audience of 7.8 million, with a peak of 12.5 million, in the UK, whilst taking an audience share of 43% within Wales.
French broadcaster TF1 had the highest audience of the year, 12.53 million, with a peak of 14 million, and an audience share of 48.1 percent, watched the world champions begin the defence of their title with a 4-1 win over Australia.