World Cup organizers predict audience of 700 million

Estimates have the soccer championship shattering television records

Published July 11, 2010 4:08PM (EDT)

A global television audience of more than 700 million is expected to watch the World Cup final Sunday.

FIFA signed deals allowing every country in the world to watch the Netherlands play Spain, head of television Niclas Ericson said.

"We think (Sunday's match) will be bigger than the 2006 World Cup final, which was I believe around 700 million," Ericson said.

Ericson said FIFA expects a record audience Sunday for any sports broadcast in Spain, and a market share of more than 90 percent of Dutch viewers.

If the World Cup final meets predictions, it will beat the estimated 600 million audience for the opening ceremony at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

"I think this is the first time anyone has succeeded in more or less placing the rights in every territory," Ericson said.

FIFA uses more accurate methods than four years ago to calculate audiences in nearly 100 countries, and estimates viewer numbers in more than 100 others.

"The increase has been so much in so many territories that we feel quite confident saying it must be a bigger audience this time," Ericson said.

FIFA reported that ratings in the United States rose 50 percent from the 2006 tournament, Canadian viewers more than doubled for some matches, and a German record of 32 million saw the semifinal match against Spain.

An estimated cumulative audience of 26 billion viewers watched the 64 matches at the 2006 tournament, but FIFA is calculating the current tournament by overnight market share reports when possible.

Audience ratings could be even higher if FIFA could track exactly how many people watched online and through mobile phones.

"Maybe the World Cup is even bigger than we can show," Ericson said. "We wanted to give access on as many platforms as possible to as many football fans as possible and I think the take up of these services has shown that it has worked."

FIFA also is seeking information on how the tournament was watched in North Korea, which had access through a deal with the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union.

"We have asked to get feedback both in terms of the number of matches shown and when they were shown," Ericson said.

FIFA is continuing to help Al-Jazeera work out who was responsible for jamming its transmissions in the opening days of the tournament.

Ericson said record ratings were expected in the Middle East after Al-Jazeera broadcast at least 25 matches.

FIFA earned at least $2 billion in television, radio and new media rights deals for the 2010 World Cup. Its total revenue will be published in its financial report due next March.

Ericson said broadcast right deals for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil are almost complete, though exceptions include Spain and some African countries.

Negotiations to sell rights for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments will begin after the host nations are chosen in December.

By Graham Dunbar

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