Records tumble in France and UK in opening fixtures of Women's World Cup
By Tariq Saleh
The 2019 Fifa Women’s World Cup achieved huge television audience figures across major markets, with records set in France and the UK, on the opening weekend of the tournament.
TF1, the free-to-air commercial broadcaster in France, and Canal Plus, the pay-television broadcaster, attracted almost 11 million combined viewers for the tournament's opening match between France and South Korea.
An average audience of 9.8 million tuned in on TF1, a 44.3 per cent audience share, with a further 826,000 on Canal Plus (a 3.7 per cent share) as France, the host nation, kicked off the tournament with a 4-0 win at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris.
The match achieved peak viewership of 10.9 million on TF1, which was a record figure, according to the broadcaster.
The previous viewing record for a women’s soccer match in France was the nation’s 2015 World Cup quarter-final against Germany, which drew in an audience of 4.1 million (a 26.2 per cent share).
Gilles Pelisson, chief executive of TF1, said: “We’re happy to see the popularity of soccer growing year after year among a female audience. As passionate viewers, women have now become committed players in soccer. This is a high-level competition which is finally getting a strong and legitimate.”
France, which are aiming to become the first nation to simultaneously hold both the men’s and women’s World Cups, will play Norway in their second group stage match on Wednesday.
The BBC, the UK public service broadcaster, also broke a viewing record as a peak audience of 6.1 million (a 37.8 per cent share) tuned in for England’s opening World Cup match against Scotland yesterday on the main BBC One channel.
According to the BBC, England’s 2-1 win over their UK rivals was the most-watched women’s soccer match in the UK of all time.
The BBC's average audience was 4.6 million for the match.
The previous peak of 4 million was set in 2017 for the European Championship semi-final between England and the Netherlands.
In Australia, 570,000 people watched the women’s national team’s 2-1 defeat by Italy in their World Cup opener on SBS, the public-service broadcaster, with thousands more streaming the match via Optus, the Australian telecoms group.
The figure was significantly higher than the country’s Cricket World Cup (444,000 viewers) and National Rugby League (443,000) coverage on the same day.
In Italy, 2.8 million people tuned in for the match (an 18.5 per cent share) on Rai 2, a channel of the Italian public-service broadcaster.
An audience of 3.93 million (a 20.4 per cent share) watched the second half of Italy’s win.
Germany's 1-0 win over China was watched by 4.38 million viewers on ARD, the public service broadcaster in the country, with an audience share of 33.8 per cent. ARD is sharing free-to-air coverage of the tournament with ZDF.
Spain opened their World Cup campaign with a 3-1 win over South Africa, which was viewed by 859,000 (an 8.6 per cent share) in the country on Gol, the digital terrestrial television sports channel.
Fifa, world soccer’s governing body, said it is expecting an audience of at least one billion for the 2019 World Cup, which runs to 7 July.
To read Sportcal's Insight feature on the Fifa 2019 Women's World Cup, click here, and to purchase the recently-published Sportcal report analysing all sponsorship deals at the tournament, click here.