AFC Champions League viewing figures soar

Louise Duffy ©RapidTVNews | 28-06-2012

Television audiences watching the AFC Champions League have continued to soar with the continental club championship notching up record figures during the group stages of the 2012 tournament.
Viewing figures across Australia, China, Japan, Korea and the Middle East have seen significant increases over the competition’s showing during 2011, with cumulative audiences rising by 46%.

Ratings across the four nations and the Middle East show almost 200 million viewers – with a combined reach of more than 671 million – tuned in to watch Asia’s leading clubs face off in the group stages of the annual continental club championship, which pits domestic league champions and cup winners against one another.

Such has been the popularity of Chinese Super League champions Guangzhou Evergrande that games featuring the club from southern China occupy the top five most-watched matches in the competition in China so far this season.

Guangzhou’s progress to the knockout rounds of the AFC Champions League has given the tournament a significant boost, with China contributing a combined viewership of almost 92 million for the group stages and a total of 105 million so far this season.

The cumulative TV audience in China for the 2012 AFC Champions League is already 47 million ahead of the 58 million total achieved for the whole competition in 2011.

The competition’s popularity among TV viewers is also reflected in Japan, where the AFC Champions League garnered 86.37 million viewers for the group stages, an increase of 43% over figures at the same stage in 2011.

The figure is just shy of the highest recorded figures for the tournament in Japan, when 86.87 million watched the group stages in 2009.

And the story is much the same in the Middle East where 19.46 million viewers watched the group stages of the competition, an increase of 6.56 million – or 51% – on those recorded in 2011.

Those figures are likely to increase when the latter stages of the competition kick off in late September, with three clubs from Saudi Arabia involved in the quarter finals.

AFC acting president Zhang Jilong said: “I am happy that the AFC Champions League viewership continues to increase and this is because of the well-planned and intense efforts of the AFC to raise the quality of play on the pitch as well as the all-round tournament standards.

“The rise in television audience numbers also underlines our belief that we are headed in the right direction as far as the continent’s premier club competition is concerned. This is good news for all our sponsors too as their brands get maximum visibility and exposure in Asia.”

In addition, Guangzhou’s Round of 16 victory over J.League side FC Tokyo garnered the biggest TV audience in the competition so far this year, attracting 13.5 million viewers on average in China with a combined reach close to 59 million.

That pushed the reach of Beijing Guoan’s meeting with FC Tokyo on Matchday Three – which was 50.2 million – into second position. It is also the most-watched football programme on CCTV-5 so far in 2012.

Nick Mould, president, East Asia, World Sport Group, said: “It’s very encouraging to witness the continued growth in popularity of the AFC Champions League as the profile of club football at continental level increases.

“Since its inception in 2002, the AFC Champions League has given clubs greater opportunities both on the field of play and commercially while the experience gained by players and officials alike has played a major role in improving the standard of football throughout Asia.

“With the emergence of teams such as Guangzhou Evergrande joining established clubs like Bunyodkor and Al Ittihad, who have enjoyed prolonged success at this level, we are confident the profile and quality of the competition will continue to grow further.”

Two-time winners Al Ittihad host Guangzhou Evergrande in Jeddah on 19 September before the return fixture is held in China on 2 October. Fellow Saudi sides Al Ahli and Al Hilal take on Iran’s Sepahan and Ulsan Hyundai from Korea respectively.

Adelaide United from Australia’s A-League, meanwhile, will face off against Bunyodkor of Uzbekistan in the remaining quarter final, with the semi finals due to be played on 24 and 30 October with the final to be played in November.