KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- FIFA’s official data for the worldwide viewing popularity of this year’s Women’s World Cup in France will provide welcome ammunition for campaigners seeking a sharp rise in the prize fund from the current $60m.
The statistics may also help change the conservative views of senior officials in countries which have been tardy in investing in the local development of women’s football.
A combined 1.12bn viewers tuned into official broadcast coverage of the tournament in France across all platforms, a competition record.
Standard TV broadcasting accounted for the majority of the global audience, with 993.5m viewers watching at least one minute of coverage on a set at home, an increase of 30pc the audience for the 2015 finals in Canada, which reached 764.0m.
The world football federation said that an estimated 481.5m accessed coverage of France 2019 on digital platforms, equivalent to 43pc of the total audience reach.
The digital audience, which overlaps with the linear TV audience, was up considerably on the estimated 86.0m in 2015.
The final between United States and the Netherlands was the most watched FIFA Women’s World Cup match ever, with an average live audience of 82.18 million (up by 56pc on the 2015 final audience: 52.56m) and reaching a total of 263.62m unique viewers (one-minute reach), which accounted for 22.9pc of the overall tournament reach.
Over the 52 matches played in nine host cities across France and broadcast in 205 territories around the world, the average live match audience was 17.27m viewers – more than double the 8.39m average of Canada 2015.
This can be attributed to the greater distribution of matches on higher profile broadcasters in many countries, where many participating teams’ matches drew record audiences in their home territories, such as Brazil, France, Italy and the UK.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino said: “More than a sporting event, the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 was a cultural phenomenon attracting more media attention than ever before and providing a platform for women’s football to flourish in the spotlight.
“The fact that we broke the 1 billion target just shows the pulling power of the women’s game and the fact that, if we promote and broadcast world-class football widely, whether it’s played by men or women, the fans will always want to watch.”
In August Infantino promised FIFA would increase the prize pot for the 2023 tournament, marking a second successive Women’s World Cup where the financial rewards have doubled.
He said: “We have until 2023 to discuss about the prize money. I think we need to market it as well in a certain way. I’m very confident, I’m sure we can go higher than doubling.”
Even during the finals in France FIFA faced criticism for the disparity in pay between the women’s and men’s World Cups, with the latter’s prize money way ahead at $440m for the 2022 competition in Qatar.
The US world champions have been locked in a dispute with US Soccer over equal pay since March.
** Publicis Sport & Entertainment (PSE) compiled the consolidated audience figures for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 based on audience data and scheduling gathered from official television auditing agencies in markets around the world, from FIFA’s Media Rights Licensees (MRLs), and from non-captured (out-of-home and digital) audience data provided by Nielsen.