More than 87 million Chinese people watched the final between France and Croatia live. The 64 games attracted 440 million TV audiences, accounting for 34.15% of all Chinese TV audiences.
The decline of live TV watching behavior has been a long-lasting trend in China. The previous FIFA World Cup was held in Brazil in 2014 summer. During the first half of that year, on average every Chinese TV audience would watch 160 minutes of TV every day.
Fast forward four years – in the first half of 2018, the number has further lost more than half an hour to 128 minutes. The challenge brought by digital video platforms has clearly squeezed people’s time in front of TV screens.
However, the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 was a different story. The favorable time difference – only five hours behind Beijing Time – enabled many games to be broadcast live during prime time in China, such as 8 pm, 10 pm, or 11 pm. The matches successfully regrouped big crowds in front of TV sets in early summer nights.
The final between France and Croatia kicked off at 11 pm on July 15 (Sunday) and attracted more than 87 million Chinese TV audiences to watch it live. Each viewer watched an average of 82 minutes – it means most people watched the whole game.
The national TV rating for the two China Central TV Station channels (CCTV-1 and CCTV-5) was 4.34%, with a staggeringly high share of viewing at 47.35% — it means that from 11 pm till 1 am the next day, almost one in every two TV-watching Chinese was watching this game.
If the viewership for the closing ceremony and the award ceremony were included, the audience number would jump to 90.60 million TV watchers, 2.08 times that of 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
In retrospect, the 64 live games had accumulated 440 million audiences, accounting for 34.15% of all Chinese TV audiences. The average live watching rating was 1.77%, much higher than even the most popular TV drama or entertainment shows in China.
The group stage games in total attracted 400 million TV audiences. Every World Cup watching audience spent at least one hour every day to watch live games. The Argentina vs Iceland match (June 16, 9 pm, Saturday) attracted the biggest audience during group stage as 90.91 million people watched it through CCTV channels live.
Among all groups, the competitive level of Group C was among the lowest because France and Denmark were clearly much stronger teams than Australia and Peru. However, Group C games happened to have the best kick-off times among all groups: except for France vs Peru (11 pm, June 21, Thursday) and Peru vs Denmark (12 am, June 17, Sunday), the other games all began in prime time in China (6 pm, 8 pm, 10 pm and 10 pm). This advantage handed Group C the title of “most watched group” in China – 176 million Chinese TV audiences watched the games on CCTV channels.
In the sports TV industry, we have a term of “bumper year” – apparently this Russia World Cup has perfectly explained what a “bumper year” is.
CSM has a 15-year research project CSM Sports Barometer Survey, which tracks sports watching behavior and attitude of sports audiences in 28 major Chinese cities between the age of 15 and 54. Our 2017 data showed that 63.6% of them still considered TV screen as their best choice for watch live sports programmes.
This post was originally published on Kantar.com.