* Early figures suggest FIFA World Cup is as popular as ever
* France’s opening match attracts best audience of the year
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, FIFA has said in a statement.
For example, the opening game between Qatar and Ecuador on November 20 was watched by an average of 3.3mn viewers, with a peak audience of 3.6mn, in Ecuador. This represented a 109% increase in viewership of the opening game in the country compared to the highest rating in the last two editions of the FIFA World Cup.
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 (22.86mn viewers).
Meanwhile, in Colombia, the viewing audience of 5.5mn, with a peak of 6.3mn, 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 6.25mn 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 5.05mn was more than 30% up to the opening match in 2018 (3.83mn viewers). Live coverage of the opening ceremony was watched by an average of 4.18mn viewers, outperforming the rugby union international between France and Japan which was aired at the same time.
In Italy, the opening match attracted the highest TV audience of the day - an average of 4.66mn viewers (audience share 29.5%) and a significant increase on 2018 when 3.59mn viewers watched the opening match. In Spain, the audience was 13% higher than four years ago.
The broadcast of the Netherlands vs Senegal match on November 21 attracted a share of 74.5% for Dutch broadcaster NPO1, and the audience of 4.16mn 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 7.8mn, with a peak of 12.5mn, in the UK, whilst taking an audience share of 43% within Wales.
French broadcaster TF1 had the highest audience of the year, 12.53mn, with a peak of 14mn, and an audience share of 48.1%, watched the world champions begin the defence of their title with a 4-1 win over Australia.