Despite controversies surrounding the tournament, public interest surrounding the 2022 FIFA World Cup remains high, if England vs USA viewing figures are anything to go by.
ITV revealed that 18m people watched its broadcast of the group stage match on its ITV1 free-to-air channel, which ended in a 0-0 draw.
The outlet added that the 18m streams marked its ‘biggest day of the year’ for streaming and third biggest on record, whilst attracting the largest audience among 16-34 year-olds of any channel in 2022 so far at 2m, with 85% of this demographic watching the game.
Overall coverage of the game was viewed by an average audience of 11.9m, with an average of 15.1m watching the entire match from first to last minute.
“The audience figures, which encompass all viewers across television and non-TV devices, were higher than the launch of I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here, making it ITV1’s most watched programme this year. The huge audience also helped make it ITV1’s best Friday in more than a decade,” ITV explained.
Controversies surrounding the World Cup, particularly Qatar’s human rights record and reports of ill-treatment of migrant workers in the country, have been well-publicised, but have clearly not had an impact on the UK public’s interest in the sporting action of the tournament.
England’s 6-2 thriller victory over Iran last week was watched by 7.8m people on BBC One, whilst the Wales vs USA game later that day attracted 9.4m people, with the latter benefiting from a primetime spot, kicking off at 7pm GMT.
Meanwhile, in the USA, Fox News outlined that Friday night’s England/USA fixture marked a new high for soccer viewership in the country, which has traditionally been a more niche sport in comparison to the hugely popular NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB.
A total of 15.3m watched the match, the largest ever audience for a soccer match on a US English-language channel – a 14% increase on the 2-2 2018 World Cup group stage game between the USA and Portugal – whilst a further 4.6m watched on Telemundo Deportes, Peacock and other digital platforms.
In the case of these latter two platforms, however, Mexico proved to be the bigger draw, with NBC announcing that the Mexico vs Poland match last Tuesday had set daily World Cup streaming records.
A total of 1.3m watched the match via Telemundo and Peacock, making it the most-streamed World Cup match in US history, and boosting Peacock significantly, with the platform recording its biggest weekday ever in total consumption.
The opening match of the tournament, Ecuador vs Qatar, set the record for the most-streamed Spanish-language match at 832,000, although this was subsequently broken the following day by the USA vs Wales game at 1m.
US media has partly attributed the success of the game due to it taking place one day after the Thanksgiving public holiday, although interest in soccer in the USA is climbing.
The country is due to host the 2026 World Cup alongside Canada and Mexico in a pan-North American event.
“The FIFA World Cup on Telemundo is already delivering impact throughout the marketing funnel for NBCUniversal’s advertisers – beating norms across ad attention, brand recall, message breakthrough, search engagement and purchase intent,” NBC’s statement read.
“With some of the most highly anticipated games of the FIFA World Cup 2022 set for this weekend, Spanish-language viewers show huge excitement for both Thanksgiving matches and beyond.”