Estimated audience of 700 million for WC final
on Jul 12, 2010

An estimated audience of 700 million watched the World Cup final in South Africa, however a representative of the sport’s governing body claimed that the figure could in fact be much higher and result in the match becoming the most watched event in TV history.

The largest confirmed viewing figures ever were for the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, which – thanks largely to the domestic Chinese market – attracted an audience of one billion for all or part of the show.

Speaking ahead of the match on Sunday, FIFA’s head of television Niclas Ericson highlighted the organisation’s efforts in securing TV access globally as one factor contributing the high numbers.

“We think [the final’s audience] will be bigger than the 2006 World Cup Final, which was I believe around 700 million,” said Ericson. “I think this is the first time anyone has succeeded in more or less placing the rights in every territory. The increase has been so much in so many territories that we feel confident saying it must be a bigger audience this time.”

The problem for FIFA could be measurement however, with Ericson pointing out that those watching in public venues or on new platforms such as online, are not counted. This year’s tournament is thought to be the first to have attracted a significant online audience.

“ESPN in the US has had record numbers in terms of broadband viewership. Many of the games have taken place in office hours so we have heard funny stories of entire companies’ networks collapsing because of the volume of traffic,” claimed Ericson.

Official viewing figures for the match, which saw Spain defeat the Netherlands 1-0 in extra time, are yet to be released.