The 2023 men’s Rugby World Cup in France recorded a viewing hours total of 1.33 billion, according to the governing body World Rugby, making it the most-viewed rugby event in history.

World Rugby has today posted data from linear and non-linear broadcasting of the event, which took place in France between September 8 and October 28. The figure of 1.33 billion represents a rise of 19% from the total at the 2019 RWC in Japan, and of 30% from the previous edition of the tournament, in England nine years ago.

Unsurprisingly, the market with the highest viewing figures was France, with 481 million viewing hours. In total, eight out of 11 markets analyzed – Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa, the UK, and the US – have seen strong RWC viewership growth since 2015.

The final, in which South Africa beat New Zealand 12-10, recorded a global viewing hour total of 94 million (the highest number for any single match), followed by the quarter-final between the hosts and the eventual winners.

All of the top 10 specific TV channels worldwide that covered the tournament – in terms of viewing numbers – were free-to-air (FTA), with France’s TF1 and ITV1 in the UK as the top two. These channels generated 322 million and 295 million viewing hours, respectively.

TF1 has already renewed its partnership with World Rugby to cover the Women’s Rugby World Cup from England between August and September next year.

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The country with the third-highest viewing hours figure, meanwhile, was Japan, accumulating 175.9 million.

Indeed, 85% of the total global viewership for the tournament came from FTA outlets.

There has also been growing RWC viewership (since the 2015 edition) in growth markets for rugby such as Germany, Italy, and the US.

Across markets where not all games were shown live, these games were covered by the RugbyPass TV over-the-top platform run by World Rugby. This service attracted 350,000 subscribers, 3.3 million total views, and 1.7 million users during the tournament.

World Rugby acquired RugbyPass as part of a media rights deal with pay-television broadcaster Sky New Zealand in 2022 as its first step to entering the streaming world.

Alan Gilpin, chief executive at World Rugby, has said: “Rugby World Cup 2023 has been a fantastic tournament on and off the field and we are delighted to see that the thrilling spectacle millions enjoyed in France captured the hearts of millions more worldwide.

“As our sport continues to grow and break new markets, we will continue to work with our broadcast partners to enhance the viewing experience, especially for new audiences, helping us achieve our vision of making rugby a global sport for all.”